With millions of Americans unemployed due to COVID-19, job insecurity is something more prevalent than ever. As someone about to graduate or who has recently graduated, you’re likely wondering when, or if, you’ll ever be able to find a job. This fear can be paralyzing, and the statistics might make you feel like there’s not even any real use in pursuing a career at the moment.
Although there are certain positions that may take longer to revive in a post-pandemic world, there is no reason why you shouldn’t still be pushing forward with your ambitions to secure full-time employment. More than just work, a career is your chance to put all your hard work and studying into action. You’ll transform the knowledge, skills, and experience you acquired in college and turn it into something valuable in the real world. This guide will walk you through the major milestones you’ll want to tackle as you prepare to enter the workforce.
Get Control of Student Debt Before It’s a Problem
The six-month student loan grace period goes by faster than you think; while you’ll have to complete exit loan counseling after graduation, you’ll still need to put together a repayment plan that suits your current work arrangement and budget. Paying back student debt can easily become an overwhelming source of anxiety, so you need to have it squared away before it’s even on your financial radar. Loan consolidation is one option to consider if you owe $40,000 or more in student debt.
There are two main ways you can consolidate student loans; direct consolidation for federal student loans is done through the U.S. Department of Education. If you find that this arrangement still isn’t cutting you enough slack, then there’s the option of private student loan refinancing and consolidation options from Earnest. Rate reduction, lower interest, and more manageable monthly installments are your goals. Even if you land a great full-time job fresh out of college, you need enough money left over after each paycheck to save and put toward other goals as well, like paying off your car or getting your own place.
Start Researching the Job Market
You need at least three industries to target before your job hunt begins. Even if you have a niche degree like creative writing or theater, you can drastically increase your odds of getting job callbacks by targeting more than one field. You may be thinking, “how is that possible? I only know how to do certain things for a specific job.” Well, you’re wrong.
Everyone who has completed a bachelor’s degree walks away with a variety of skills that carry over into different fields; you just need to know how to market yourself as a dynamic candidate for different positions. You can also look for sub-fields of broader disciplines; for example, if you want to work in IT, think about smaller branches in that field. You may look into health, business, or education. It’s okay to be flexible and repeatedly refine your search; in fact, being flexible and going with the flow of job openings is the best way to ensure you actually get noticed.
Get a Website
To become what recruiters, call a high-value candidate, you need more than just a black and white paper resume printed in 12-point, Times New Roman font. These flood hiring managers by the hundreds, and if you want to stand out, you need a website that showcases who you are and what you can do. Not every manager or recruiter will click on your website, but many companies allow you to actually insert a link with your application.
You can set up a free CV or portfolio site on WordPress or Wix. It’s best to buy a domain for cheap, which will give you a glossy .com finish instead of the typical .wordpress.com or.wix extension. This just looks more professional and is more likely to rank higher on Google. Keywords are important. If you are a freelancer, let that be known in your site’s title tag. Use action words to sell your skills to would-be clients or potential employers. These same verbs should carry over to your primary resume. You want people to know in a heartbeat what you do, what you’ve done, and how it can be of value to them.
Find Temp Work
The worst thing you can do for your bank account and mental health is to sit around all day waiting for a hiring manager to call you back. Get out there and work however you can, even if it’s part-time at your local Starbucks or delivering groceries. You can also look for gig work online via Upwork or job boards. Stay active and find ways to even generate passive income streams; whatever you can do to keep yourself learning, occupied, and in work mode is crucial to staying motivated during your job search.
There may be cases where you still can’t even find a part-time job, and you feel like COVID-19 has rendered the world a horrible, bleak place. It can definitely feel that way sometimes but know that the pandemic won’t last forever. Jobs will return eventually, and there is still opportunity out there. You may not get hired for the work you studied for right away, but that doesn’t mean everything you’ve acquired and accomplished so far isn’t valuable.
Start Connecting with Networks
Join groups on LinkedIn that can help you connect with potential mentors and hiring firms. A temp agency may also be able to set you up with a remote internship or part-time position that eventually leads you to your first post-college hire. It’s also valuable to learn from the professionals on LinkedIn who are considered experts at the top of their fields; they post valuable information that can help you improve your own knowledge and come in handy as you try to market yourself. Just make sure you don’t go overboard trying to connect with any and everyone on the platform; it’s better to build a small, real network than simply be that person on 1,000 feeds who doesn’t actually have a single connection to reach out to.