Congratulations, new college graduates! You’ve already been through one of the most unique final semesters in history. Your job hunt might have been cut short when you had to move off campus, or perhaps your planned internship for the summer was cancelled. If you’re a recent graduate wondering what’s next, we have some ideas for you. Here’s how to make the most of your post-graduation time and find your next job.
Find Ways to Network Remotely
A good after-work bar meet-up used to be a great way to network your way into a few meetings and maybe even a job offer. But since we’re not congregating in groups anywhere these days, you’ll need to find ways to meet strangers remotely. This is where having a diverse set of interests and hobbies can really help you out.
- Work on your online profile. If you don’t have a public profile that’s also professional, you should start one. This would mean updating your LinkedIn account, adding work samples online, and making sure you keep your social media worthy of a new employee, not a college student at parties. Yes, this might mean sharing less about your personal life or changing your public persona a bit, but having a clean social media account is one way to get your foot in the door, should anyone search for you online (and believe me, they will).
- Add some professional takes on current events/trends. You might have thought your days of writing essays or answering thought-provoking questions were behind you, but they shouldn’t be. You can start a blog, add posts to public social accounts like LinkedIn or Medium, or even just offer up opinions in Letters to the Editor for your local paper. The more you make yourself known as an expert in your field, the further you spread your personal brand.
- Keep up with classmates. You may have graduated, but you can still stay in touch and even do remote gatherings while still social distancing. Try having a video chat party on your platform of choice with some friends from a past project or class. Talk to them about how their own job search is (or isn’t) going, and try to help each other out by offering up suggestions, resume reviews, or even just a sounding board.
- Use your alumni network. Now that you’re an alumnus of your school, you can join and use the school’s alumni network to find some help in networking. No, no one is obligated to hire you just because you went to the same school. But you might be able to connect with online mentors in your field, get a few minutes of an online informational interview, or even just connect with willing alumni who can give you some tips on breaking into the industry.
Get Better at Interviewing Remotely
Even with remote offices, you will still have to interview to get a job or internship offer. Of course, interviewing may look more different in 2020 than it ever did before. Unique problems include partially staffed offices, or a 100% remote team. You should make sure you’re up to date on everything you need to know about putting your best foot forward.
- Practice your video interviewing skills. Make sure that you have everything at hand to create a great video interview. This might include an interview outfit that makes you feel confident and look professional (no, it doesn’t have to be a suit, but it shouldn’t be overly casual, either). Ensure that you have a quiet, private space to conduct a video chat for an interview. Check the lighting, your microphone, and remove distracting or unprofessional background items (nobody wants to see your dirty laundry or dishes on a chat). Do a few test videos to see if you need to raise up your camera/laptop with a few books. Check the distance from your chair to the mic to ensure you can be heard. Overall, treat it like a shot at your 15 minutes of fame, and don’t waste an opportunity to prepare well in advance.
- Rehearse your “elevator pitch.” Interviews really aren’t too different from one another. You might get a few different specific questions, but in general they fall into a pattern. You will be asked to talk about yourself and your experience or expertise in a brief way that’s easy to understand. Make sure you have this “elevator pitch” ready so it doesn’t sound like you’re reading a script. Take a few minutes and think about answers to questions like “Why do you want to work here?” and “What do you think makes you the right person to hire for this position?”
- Make sure your tech is up to the challenge. If your computer is fussy or your internet connection has trouble, try to sort out those potential pitfalls in advance. You might want to troubleshoot any connectivity problems and have a backup plan in place in case Plan A goes wrong. If you can’t connect with your computer, for example, have the software downloaded on your phone. Make sure any apps or networking software is up to date, so you’re not late while you download an upgrade. If you aren’t familiar with a platform, download it well in advance and learn how to make adjustments to your microphone inputs and other common problems.
Learn a New Skill or Two
Yes, you’re done with school but learning should be a lifelong pursuit. Take this opportunity to brush up on skills you might forget after graduation, from technical skills to soft skills that employers look for. If you have student access still to certain programs, keep using them to stay familiar with the technology. If you’d like to learn something new, many companies offer opportunities to take short-term online courses. When you’re done, you’ll have a new item to not only add to your resume, but also to discuss with any new contacts when they ask you, “What’s new?” Instead of listing all the seasons of Lost you’ve re-watched, you can tell them all about a cool new computer program you’ve mastered, or a book you read and reviewed on your blog.
Again, congratulations graduate! You may have entered the job market during some pretty unprecedented times, but we know you have great things ahead of you.