Job Search Strategies for the COVID-Era Class of 2021

You didn’t foresee this when you started your degree did you?  No-one did, but here we are! Lately I’ve been fielding a lot of questions around job search strategies for people graduating in 2021.

Well, first of all it seems that while the COVID pandemic has annihilated some industries, it has created an unprecedented boom in others.

If you happen to be graduating in areas such as software engineering, data science, robotics, logistics, health, medicine, and ecommerce/online retail then you are well placed for success – providing you market yourself in the correct way.

If you’re graduating from a degree program focused on areas such as hospitality, tourism, leisure, or one of the other sectors most severely impacted by the effects of the COVID pandemic you may need to employee a different approach such as building your own service/business or taking a survival gig.

Either way, there are a few things you should consider doing.

  1. Document the New Skills Did You Gained During Lockdown

What did you do during lockdown? Were you productive or unproductive? That could be a critical question during your interview that could help differentiate you from most of your competition. If you used lockdown to your advantage, you could craft a compelling story around this. 

Showing all the ways you learned new skills, kept focused and determined, completed courses or certificates, or demonstrated ingenuity in identifying an opportunity to make money during the pandemic could help position you as an A+ candidate. It doesn’t even have to be work-related.

If you dedicated your time to learning a new skill such as playing guitar, and can demonstrate progress, that’s a productive use of your time.

2. Revamp Your Resume – Demonstrate Your Value

Whether you intend to target a high growth area or take a ‘survival gig’ to pay the bills until the jobs return in your target sector, you’ll need to be ready to market yourself effectively to your target audience. You must be ready to “sell” your skills and experience, and be ready to articulate the value you bring to the target company during your interview

Which skills will you be able to employ that could help the company grow and succeed? If you have little or zero work experience, which university projects did you work on that most closely resemble the type of work you will be performing? Talk about those. 

Do you have any volunteer experience or team sports experience you can use to demonstrate teamwork & collaboration, leadership, customer service, reliability, versatility, work ethic etc? Use this.

We need the target employer to focus almost exclusively on what you can do for their company and build out that messaging early in the resume. 

The main benefit here is that we present your value early on in the resume so we effectively ‘sell you in’ on your existing skills, accomplishments, and experience while making sure we do so in a high-impact yet accessible manner.

3. Search For Jobs

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great place to look for jobs.  Build out an impressive LinkedIn profile that mirrors your resume in showcasing your key skills, experience, and the value you could offer an employer.

LinkedIn have an option to add project work to your profile. This is a great place to showcase academic projects which could be used in lieu of actual work experience to showcase your technical skills and ability to collaborate effectively with others.

Then start building your network.  Once you have the resume and LinkedIn profile in place, you can start reaching out to make connections with people at companies you would like to work for.

You could request their “advice” or “guidance” in helping you build a fledgling career in the middle of a pandemic, or you could just make contact and ask the to keep you in mind for existing or upcoming opportunities.  Either way, when you start to make contact with people in influential positions in your target company, this will start to gently drive traffic to your profile – that’s why it should be as strong as possible.

Make sure that recruiters can find you, and use this as a tool to help establish your professional network.

Speculative Applications

It’s always worth making speculative applications.  Sit down and identify 25 companies you would LOVE to work for. And know the reason WHY you would love to work for them.  Then draft a letter that explains your current situation, educational background, the reason you’d LOVE to work for their company, and why you think you would be able to add value to their business.

Consider making a request for a virtual informational interview where you’ll engage someone at the target company and ask a lot of questions without any expectations on them or on you. A ‘no pressure’ discussion. You could use some of the information gleaned from this research in your letter. 

The important thing to remember is that you should never make someone feel they are receiving a generic letter that could have been sent out to anyone.  The content should be meaningful, you should really want to work there, and if you do it will show in your letter.

Get Ready for the Virtual World

 At the time of writing, very few companies are entertaining in-person interviews.  So, you’ll have to practice becoming proficient in delivering your pitch via webcam!

As with anything else, practice makes perfect! So make sure you have access to the equipment you need (computer/tablet, quality webcam, apps) and then practice your interview pitch or a mini mock interview with family and friends to get you used to answering questions under these circumstances.

Also, find a space in your home with adequate lighting and remember to test everything before you ‘go live’ in an actual interview.

Survival Gigs 

If you’re graduating in a field that has been decimated by the pandemic, you may need to get super creative and entrepreneurial to come up with a viable income or take a survival gig until you do – or your chosen sector starts to recover.

Taking a ‘survival gig’ may be a temporary option, but you must approach it with all the enthusiasm, energy, and respect you would have your #1 target job. It’s better to be gainfully employed than not when there are bills to pay, and the survival gig employer will probably be called on to give a reference for your time there.  Employers tend to favour driven, hard-working people over those who chose to sit at home and do nothing.

As with any job, a survival gig is an opportunity for you to build personal brand. It’s also an opportunity to tarnish your personal brand. How you approach that role will determine which way that goes.

Ken Docherty is provides professional resume writing services to clients in Calgary, AB. Ken is a Certified Master Resume Writer and Certified Executive Resume Master, in addition to being a multi international award-winning resume writer, experienced executive recruiter, and former employment agency owner.