Looking for a job after college graduation can be nerve-wracking. Today’s job market can be even harder to break into, with the pandemic leading to changes in how we present ourselves and reach out to employers.
How can we better navigate this uncharted territory of virtual job hunting?
For starters, consider the career path you want. The pandemic has caused damage to many industries but has emphasized the necessity of others. Hospitality and tourism jobs, for example, will likely take time to bounce back with many travelers deciding to stay home. On the other hand, the medical field has become more prominent than ever, along with jobs relating to technology, data science and media.
With everyone staying indoors or limiting face-to-face interaction at the very least, people have made virtual spaces the new norm. Businesses have been able to stay afloat by using digital media to their advantage, using online sales, social media marketing campaigns, and other digital methods to reach consumer bases.
The rising importance of digital media can be a plus for those seeking related careers, but it also means something else important for those searching for a job—media can provide a place to network.
“LinkedIn is a really good avenue for you to take,” said Ryan Colvin, Director of the Center for Career Education. He encourages students to develop their profiles and use the site to network and create meaningful relationships not only for potential recruitment, but for learning more about possible career paths. One approach he recommended is to connect with Millsaps alums involved in an industry or company related to your potential career and schedule a “virtual coffee chat” or phone call to learn more. He also mentioned that those interested in the fine arts and other creative careers can use media to create online profiles with original content to differentiate themselves in a digital space.
Morgan Moss, a Millsaps senior graduating in December, has already started her job search and had potential employers reach out to her through LinkedIn.
“When the first person reached out to me on LinkedIn, I thought it was a hoax because I did not know people did that. But I think that might be because of the pandemic, that there’s less networking events and stuff like that where you would usually meet undergraduate students or recent graduates, so I think there might be more interactions happening online,” said Moss. She also mentioned that profile settings can be adjusted according to what sort of job you might be interested in, allowing recruiters to see if you could be a potential candidate.
LinkedIn and similar websites also provide different educational resources for those looking to improve interview skills or polish up resumes.
Other media platforms like Instagram can also help you market yourself. While there are plenty of warnings about how social media can damage a professional reputation, it can also be used in a positive way. Webinars and virtual fairs are being held consistently for different companies and
even through Millsaps. It’s important now more than ever to remember that, despite physical isolation, we are always able to connect with others through media.
As a result, phone interviews and virtual interviews have become standard. The most important things to keep in mind? Prepare beforehand by not only researching the company interviewing you, but by making sure you have a quiet space with a good internet connection. The Center for Career Education also has interview rooms available for those who need a quiet space for job interviews.
Colvin also stated the importance of dressing professionally for virtual interviews and double-checking what the background will look like. Dressing the part for a phone interview can even help with creating the right mindset.
“If you do have a phone interview, the good thing is that you can have notes of the company in front of you,” he said. “It’s really good to understand the company, to be able to pinpoint things about the organization that drew you in, why you applied, the history of the company, to know certain things that are happening in the present day that are leading the industry or the company on.”
Beyond understanding the company, it is also important to understand how you can mentally prepare yourself.
“Although nobody can see you, you still want to engage in the same way you would as if you were face-to-face,” he said, stating that mock interviews can help students prepare for sounding professional and polished. Smiling when you’re speaking and dressing for the part—regardless of whether someone can see you—can help students better embody their more professional selves.
Despite some differences, however, avoid the same age-old mistakes: change up resumes and cover letters for different job applications to highlight relevant skill sets. Be sure to proofread emails, resumes, and cover letters and become familiar with the company you’re interviewing with beforehand.
“Get a resume fine-tuned that you feel really good about, so that when you’re sending that out you can feel confident. Have a LinkedIn profile that kind of does work for you, and then reach out to an advisor that knows an alumni—I would say that’s really beneficial. Use the Millsaps network that we have,” recommended Moss.
While it may seem the pandemic has caused a standstill, these long months can still be used productively.
“During this time of remote learning and work, assess where you are and the skills and experience you have gained,” encourages Colvin. “This is not the time to put your actions on hold, now is the time to make some plants to increase your chances of being employed in a job that relates to your career goals and your major. It’s better to be planning ahead now rather than waiting later to do your job searching.”
Keep an eye out for emails from the Center for Career Education — they contain helpful information about webinars, virtual career or graduate school fairs, and can connect you to other useful opportunities to help advance your career.
For more tips, updates on upcoming virtual events or useful digital platforms, log-on and visit Major Careers, the Center for Career Education’s information hub, or schedule a virtual meeting to explore your possibilities. You can also download Symplicity, an app made to help college students and recent graduates search for jobs and internships, make appointments, and keep up with application deadlines.