June 4, 2020
As many states begin their phased reopenings following COVID-19 closures, students are starting to wonder whether it might be the right time to start searching for a summer job. In many cases, the answer is a resounding "yes," but job hunting may look quite a bit different than it did in the past.
Under normal circumstances, you would start the job search process as early as possible, which includes researching available options, cultivating meaningful relationships and positioning yourself for success. Under the current circumstances, taking the above actions can also alleviate some of your anxiety and help you take care of yourself. Below, I've outlined steps you can take in the coming weeks to address the latter.
Despite the health crisis, hiring is still happening; in fact, many jobs are considered essential to keep us moving forward. As such, you can approach the job search the same way you would under normal circumstances: by starting where you are, conducting research and evaluating current workforce demands and needs. Research what's possible, what's available and what's grabbing your attention.
Consider first what your academic institution provides. Most already have online resources to help with job search and many are venturing into hosting virtual events, including employer information sessions. For example, my team and I have opted to explore the option of hosting a virtual career fair so that employers and talented candidates are able to connect without leaving the safety of their homes.
You may also want to check out virtual fairs offered through affinity organizations such as Prospanica. Consider registering for such events, and when you do, be sure to research confirmed employer attendees to determine which ones are looking for candidates like you. Evaluate employer products, services and culture and prepare to present yourself as someone who is a match.
Another way to research career opportunities is to follow employers who are hiring for roles in high demand during the current health crisis. Though many companies are staying away from committing to hiring decisions right now, others are increasing their openings. For example, if you're considering a summer job in the food delivery, grocery or health care space, you might find ample opportunities.
With the school year in your rear-view mirror and the summer ahead, it's a good time to reflect on what you have accomplished so far. Think about what has inspired you or made you curious. Reflect on what could lie ahead, despite the uncertainty. Think about your skills, motivators and interests and consider how you can contribute value to an employer in a world that's a bit out of whack right now. If you are not sure where to even start, you may want to take free online assessments to help you identify what makes you tick. Next, jot down thoughts and insights that come to mind as you review your results.
As you reflect and clarify what's of interest to you and where you'd like to go next, consider identifying target employers and keeping a spreadsheet of vital information: company mission, products and initiatives; ongoing projects you could contribute to; possible opportunities; any open positions; potential contacts; and social media accounts. An easy thing you can definitely do is "sign up for job alerts," advises certified HR generalist Vanya Kaloferova. Even if prospective employers aren't hiring right now, you want to be ready when they resume looking for qualified candidates.
Even if the opportunities available right now don't spark your curiosity, you can take advantage of staying inside by clarifying what does appeal to you. You could explore online learning, polishing your LinkedIn profile, or finally designing the personal website you've been thinking about but haven't had the time to work on.
Social distancing is very much needed to flatten the curve and save lives, but it doesn't mean completely disconnecting from the world. Staying home doesn't mean you can no longer cultivate relationships and grow your network. In fact, this is your chance to enhance your online presence and reconnect with classmates, friends, teachers, mentors and other personal and professional contacts you may not have spoken to in a while. The focus of your outreach is to show you care, to rebuild and strengthen meaningful connections, and to minimize feelings of isolation.
In addition, you can grow your network by reaching out to people you admire and who inspire you to explore a certain path. Initiate contact, all the while being respectful of their time as they are probably also experiencing stress and anxiety. Another way to boost your online network is by creating and sharing your own content. Be intentional and strategic so that your content reflects who you are and what motivates you without ignoring what's happening in the world. You could share your own situation and how you are handling it; you could share how you've been adaptable and made the most of the circumstances (perhaps by polishing and gaining skills employers value); and you could share what you are doing to improve the current situation.
During the next few months, it's likely that much of recruitment and hiring process will happen online, remotely. To prepare, spend time learning about virtual interviews and remote work. Though virtual interviews have been around for a few years, the recent health crisis has pushed businesses, institutions and organizations to go virtual out of necessity. As such, it'll be difficult to avoid being interviewed online, so you may want to become familiar both with platforms employers use (Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, Slack) and strategies to ace such interviews.
A few things to keep in mind during virtual interactions include maintaining eye contact by looking at your camera (not the computer screen), wearing an entire professional outfit (not just an appropriate top), eliminating distractions in the background, and using favorable lighting.
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