During a Pandemic: 5 Tips for Landing a Job After College Graduation

May 12, 2020
Author: Mara Zemicael

Looking for a job is rarely considered a fun activity, especially when you need a job for income or experience – or both. For many recent college graduates, job searching during the time of coronavirus presents special challenges. But even when life throws you curveballs, like the record unemployment and current labor market, there are steps you can take to land on your feet … and eventually land on the career path that you want.

The COVID-19 labor market presents challenges to recent college grads.

5 Steps You Can Take Now

1. Be flexible. Many companies are dealing with economic uncertainty, which influences their hiring decisions. Instead of landing your entry-level dream job right out of school, you may need to make a few detours. This could mean taking a job just to earn income, while using your free time to participate in activities that will help get your foot in the door of your desired field once it opens again.

2. Rely on transferable skills. If you majored in a field hit especially hard by the downturn, you may need to apply those acquired skills to another industry or occupation. For instance, if your original goal was to land an entry-level event management position, identify another position where organizational, multi-tasking and interpersonal skills are required.

Kamla Charles, coordinator of employer relations at Valencia College in Florida, told NPR that graduates must think of their current skills as a foundation to be built upon. "Be flexible in exploring other industries that are thriving right now, like technology and online platforms," she said. "How can you pivot in this time and use the skills you’ve learned, but just apply them in a new way?"

Related: Eight Ways Recruiters Can Improve Their Virtual Interviewing Skills

3. Keep improving your skills. Whether you are struggling to land a job in your chosen field or are ready to try something new, Michael Wong, a college career services director at Arizona State University, offers these suggestions when evaluating employment opportunities.

“Research the job and see what skills you’ll need to be successful,” Wong says. “Do an inventory of your transferable skills and review how you can best apply them in the new field. Think about going back to school to obtain more education and skill training.”

4. Present a professional image online and offline. Be mindful of what you post on social media, especially if your social profiles are viewable by the public. (LinkedIn and Facebook profiles often show up in Google searches.) Make sure your profiles present a professional image, including your profile image. A 2017 CareerBuilder survey found that 54% of employers decided not to hire a candidate based on social media posts.

This professional image also extends to your voicemail. Make sure to record a professional greeting that includes your name. In Wong’s experience, some companies will not leave a message if there isn’t a name in the greeting, which means you could miss out on an opportunity.

“You’ve obtained a degree and new skills,” Wong says. “Be professional in how you present yourself in person and online because a strong professional reputation will be invaluable throughout your career.”

5. Network! Who you know is often as important as what you know. Build your professional network through your career services department, classmates, professors, internships, clubs and other associations. You might be the most gifted individual on the planet, but you have to network to get more people to discover this. Professional relationships will create a foundation that you can rely on throughout your career, allowing you to find future opportunities and mentors, as well as encouragement and support.

Don’t be afraid to ask for informational interviews from people in positions or industries you’d like to learn more about. Instead of asking people — specifically those you don’t know well — if they are hiring, ask them something about their experience or their industry. Most people enjoy sharing their stories, especially when they can demonstrate their expertise.

Dave Evans, co-author of the book Designing Your Life, explains how this can work in your favor once the labor market begins to recover. “You're the one who people remember and get the callback to. So, what you're building now is the relationships and the connections that will turn into opportunities,” Evans told NPR.

Looking for that first job after college can be tough, even in a strong economy. Use these tips to give yourself an edge over your competition and present the best version of yourself to potential employers. With the right skills and preparation, even the current pandemic won’t be able to prevent you from landing the right employment opportunity.