Whether you are explicitly aware of it or not, the main reason you choose to (or your parents made you) go to college was to make you a more attractive prospect to the job market when you left.
However, that job market now looks a lot different than it did 12 months, or even 12 weeks ago. Globally, the COVID-19 crisis has had a hugely adverse effect on unemployment rates and in the short term, that number is likely to stay relatively high.
Similarly to how the years that graduated immediately following the recession in 2008, you’ll be facing into an uncertain job market as you finish out your time in college and that can be a daunting prospect.
However, you should take some solace in the fact that everything going on in the wider environment is completely out of your control so there’s no point getting too worked up over it.
Additionally, there are some actions you can take now that will stand to you when things start to drift back towards some form of normality.
Use this time to network
Actively networking is crucial for the progression of your career. It not only focuses on establishing and building long-term relationships, it involves meeting and getting to know people who you can assist, and who can potentially help you in return.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals in your field to seek advice prior to graduating. It will help you develop and improve your skillset, stay on top of the latest trends in the industry that you’re interested in, keep a pulse on the job market, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your career development.
There are plenty of smart people out there. However, what most people don’t realise is that it isn’t always about what you know. It’s about who you know. And if you’re serious about making real progress in your career and achieving big goals, then it’s time to start knowing more people.
Not only can having a wide network enable you to get a referral into a company, but it can also allow you to potentially find out about job opportunities prior to them being advertised publicly. Find employers of interest and try and engage with them, irrespective of whether they are advertising a position or not at the time.
We found a really good article here that gives some excellent and, more importantly, actionable tips on how you can start looking at building out your network as you transition into the working world.
Be open to new opportunities
Some graduates may have had a clear vision of their future that has likely become a bit blurred due to the current circumstances. One of the key things to remember is that there are still many paths to your dream job or career.
It’s possible that you might not land your dream job straight out of the gate but are offered an opportunity within a company that you would love to work for.
This is an excellent chance for you to showcase your adaptability and willingness to learn. Do the job to the best of your ability while keeping your ear to the ground on potential opportunities you’ll have to move within the company. When something comes up that aligns closer with your career path, you should be in a prime position to get the role.*
By taking a position that you may not have initially set out to have, you’ll have an opportunity to acquire new skills that you weren’t aware you previously had or hadn’t given the time to nurture before. Even if you take it and it doesn’t go to plan, having this coachable attitude and growth mindset will have a significant impact on your success in the future.
*There are two schools of thought when it comes to hiring internally vs externally and it’ll vary from one company to the next. Full disclosure that I have absolutely zero recruitment experience but the argument for recruiters having a “think inside first” mentality makes a lot of sense to me.
Internal hires retain organizational knowledge and get up to speed in their new roles more quickly than external hires. Not only does could this likely keep employees more engaged, but they’ll also be more likely to refer in other people when their own career has grown inside a company.
Build your online presence
As a college student, it’s likely that you’re no stranger to social media. So, it’s a good idea to make use of the time you have now (or possibly after exams/final submissions) to focus on the type of posts and engagement that could grow your online brand and help your career.
Have an interest in a particular industry? Great! Create content on topics within that industry and share it on your LinkedIn network. See if you can get your classmates to engage with it and have open discussions in the comments. Engage with thought leaders in your industry by following companies or organisations that interest you. Reference their blogs/articles in your own posts or comment on theirs to try and build rapport and establish a relationship. Now it is more important than ever to utilize LinkedIn as a tool for your job search.
Also, it goes without saying don’t forget to clean up your digital presence by deleting any questionable posts. We’ve all been guilty of posting stupid stuff to some extent so unless you’re willing to explain it in an interview, it’s either got to go or you need to change your security settings to go on private.
Starting a career is hard. There will be a lot of rejection, you will be ghosted and sometimes it starts to feel personal.
Keep her lit. Times may be tough, but that just means you need to be tougher than the obstacles that get in your way. Be resilient and remember that this is a very unusual time.
There are opportunities out there. While many industries are facing job losses, others are seeing increased demand. Your chances of getting hired only fall to zero when you stop looking for work.
To learn more about what we can help you with when transitioning from college to company, reach out to the Gradguide team, we’d be happy to help!
Gradguide is a career guidance and mentorship program designed to help college students and recent graduates land their first job in tech.
We pair you with a mentor to help improve your CV, find the right roles to apply for, prepare for interviews and seek referrals to the best companies around.