Last Updated: May 14, 2020
Right now, you’re probably rightfully feeling unsure and possibly cheated. As the world grapples with the one-two punch of COVID-19 and global economic shrinkage, recent college graduates are staring down the barrel of overwhelming debt and limited opportunities for at least the next few years. The unfairness of it all can make you feel hopeless, but it illustrates the unfortunate (and often heard) truth that life isn’t fair.
I remember feeling similarly in the summer of 2008; I was two years out of college and trying to decide what my next move would be. That August, I quit my comfortable, fresh-out-of-school job to strike out on my own in search of what I felt I deserved. A month later, Lehman Brothers collapsed, and the entire world changed. Opportunities dried up like leaves in the sun, and I found myself adrift for a long time. However, this adversity taught me that the only way to overcome a hardship is to power through it.
When faced with these overwhelming challenges, it’s those who proactively seek opportunity who succeed. And it’s an excellent first step to look for advice to help you navigate the recession-pandemic hybrid reality we’re heading toward. You’re not alone, and there are strategies that yield results if you’re persistent and driven. So how should you job search through a crisis?
Find opportunities for growth
When the world crashes, there are clear losers and winners. Identifying which careers need the extra talent and support to manage an influx of new business can give you an idea of which companies may hire you. Health care, logistics, technology, and other fields are booming thanks to the current climate and need new staff to meet the demand. Applying for positions in these fields is a safe bet for at least securing an interview, as these companies are actively hiring as opposed to shutting down or shrinking because of the pandemic. Additionally, some companies may be restructuring or shifting focus and will need new talent to meet a changing market.
Have an open mind
For some recent grads, it may be near impossible to secure the job you’ve always dreamed of or one that pertains to your degree in the current climate—and that’s fine! Most of us don’t start directly in our field anyway, meaning most of us also don’t stay at our first jobs forever. Now is the perfect time to gain diverse experience by getting your foot in any door. Broadening your focus from your idealizations of where you’d like to work will go far in building you a brighter, more agile future.
Transferable skills and flexibility are increasingly attractive to hiring managers, as they signal the ability to synthesize new information quickly and apply innovative techniques to respond to unique problems. People recognize and reward attitude, effort, and overall focus with authority—it’s the easiest way to advance in any career.
Be your own CEO
Think of yourself and your life as a business that you’re the Chief Executive Officer of. As your CEO, it’s your job to open as many doors as you can and turn over all the rocks in the quarry. Job searching is a numbers game, so use numerous avenues to find the opportunity that’s right for you.
Online job search sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter are commonly used, but there are thousands of job boards and over 20,000 staffing agencies in the US. Check company websites and research lesser-known job boards for open positions that may not be posted on the popular sites. These tools can help to identify roles and companies you may have never considered that could be looking for you.
Compile a wish list of companies and roles and apply to them; then it’s time to go a step further. Remember that you’re one in a sea of over 30 million+ unemployed people who may have more experience than you, more connections, etc. However, you can shrink the odds in your favor by using something you’re already familiar with: social media.
Build and push your personal brand
I know a young woman from Australia who used LinkedIn as a branding tool that propelled her from being an 18-year-old pizza place worker to owning her own marketing firm at the young age of 22. Through the aggressive branding and marketing of herself, she made her own luck and secured opportunities that put her where she is today. Social media is a great way to get noticed, but it requires strategic development and continuous attention for it to pay off.
If you don’t have one already, create a comprehensive LinkedIn profile. It should include all of the following:
- A professional photo: Or at least one that looks professionally taken, with excellent lighting, a clean background, and a clear view of your face.
- Your prior work experiences: From walking the dog to working on the school newspaper; any of these experiences shows entrepreneurship and a willingness to work and pursue personal goals. Illustrating your drive and self-motivation will attract hiring managers even if you have a lack of formal work experience.
- Any accomplishments you’ve earned throughout schooling: Any research grants or competitions you’ve won, conferences you attended or presented at, or other accomplishments are all important distinguishers that say a lot about you and help you stand out in a sea of potential candidates.
Once your profile is created and your applications have been checked off your wish list, search for companies on LinkedIn and identify key senior leaders. Connect with these leaders by constructing personal messages introducing yourself and asking for help. Tell them that you saw their business is hiring and offer an example of something the company has done that appeals to you or aligns with your passions and why. Then ask if they have any advice—and be sure to thank them for their time.
Meaningful messages show interest and initiative and should be sent to as many people as possible. Connect with these individuals by commenting on their posts and engaging with their content. Doing the same by being active on your own profile can keep you in the know and make it easier to take advantage of opportunities when they appear.
Keep your head up
No one wanted to start the new decade with a life-altering pandemic. We’re still very unsure of how this all is going to pan out, but the best way to cope is to accept it and make the most of opportunities where you can find them since there’s very little we can do to change it. The time for letting this situation sink in has passed; now, you need to be proactive and think outside the box. Getting a job is a job in itself right now, so keep your head up, continue to show pride in yourself and your work, and eventually it’ll see you through to success. We make our own luck in this world, so work hard at it!