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How to Make Summer Meaningful in the Age of COVID — Advice from a Former Stanford InterviewerShari Bender
The road to your college senior's first job was sure to be arduous even without the mayhem caused by COVID-19. Now suddenly you and your student are both trying to navigate this strange (and we hope temporary) new normal.
Even though your soon-to-be grad’s job search might be put on hold as many companies slam the breaks on hiring for the time being, there are many ways for them to stay in the game. If they're struggling to find a way to start a career while in quarantine, here are helpful suggestions about how to get and stay on track.
Your student may not even know how to start their job search. If that's the case, suggest they learn more about some of the different professional fields that connect to their major or another area of academic interest. If they’re unsure what kind of job they might be qualified for, they can research entry-level positions available in certain industries and consider how they can grow in each position. Business-related websites like Forbes have lots of informational resources worth browsing.
Your student might also want to research different cities to look at rent, recreational activities, and general cost of living to figure out where they would be happiest. (Where their college friends are heading is also certain to be a factor.) Zillow and Trulia both provide insights into different neighborhoods and commute time. Job search platforms such as LinkedIn allow your student to search for jobs based on location, so they can also consider the job market while mulling over their options.
This is also a perfect time to remotely introduce your student to anyone in your own network who works in an area of professional interest. Even if your student isn’t looking to get directly involved in that industry, a conversation with your friend or contact can still provide helpful information. Your student might be wondering about how start-ups differ from big corporations, or debating a non-profit or government position. They'll be grateful for the extra perspective as well as a chance to broaden their network.
Quarantine is a surprisingly good time for your senior or recent grad to expand their network. Your student can put the internet to use and connect with alumni from their college or university as well as any companies, firms and organizations that might be good places to work after graduation.
LinkedIn is a good place to start. Encourage your student to link with alumni, and follow their favorite companies in order to stay up to date on news and job offers. They may even find an alum working at a company they have their eye on!
Next, they need to put their growing network to use. Reach out and ask questions. What is it like to work at a specific company? Will the company be hiring in the near future? What might your student expect during the interview process?
Finally, it’s important for your student to stay closely connected with career advisors and professors at their college or university. Most advisors and faculty have sizable networks of professional colleagues and friends, any one of whom could be the key to your student’s dream job. And of course, it’s always nice to have more people to turn to for advice.
There are many ways to craft and style a resume. Since your student will need to tailor their resume to each position they apply for, a good place to start is by creating a detailed CV (curriculum vitae).
In a CV, your student will outline in as much detail as possible every work experience from volunteering to internships. They should include all areas of academic focus, skill sets, certifications, honors and awards, extracurricular activities and leadership positions. It can be hard to remember every detail going back to freshman year! If they've updated their resume throughout college, they should be in good shape.
With this in hand, your student will be ready to pull the details they need to customize a resume and cover letter for future job applications.
In addition to resume, there are portfolios, personal websites, writing samples…the list goes on and on. With time at their disposal, your student can dive deep into different online resources to find the best way to present themselves. Campus career centers typically offer resume tips and templates on their website, and your student may be able to make a video appointment with a career advisor to go over their resume. They can also reach out to their professors to get an opinion on portfolio work or personal websites.
Forbes and Indeed have published helpful articles about using keywords to improve your resume's chances of being pulled up by prospective employers and about applicant tracking software (ATS), an algorithm many companies use to scan virtual resumes to identify candidates.
It’s not enough just to present themselves on paper. Your student should also keep their online profiles in mind. Online job search platforms such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Indeed are crucial job search resources.
Help your student make sure their profiles are up to date on their accomplishments and free of spelling or grammar errors. You might also offer to take a professional photo to use in their profiles if they don’t already have one.
They can use these platforms to set email notifications on specific jobs or companies they’re interested in so they’re the first to know when the company is accepting applications. Encourage your student to be active on these sites and use them to have meaningful interactions, being mindful of their professional online persona.
Your student's online profiles form the foundation of their personal brand which, when utilized to its full potential, will be monumental in differentiating them from other job candidates. Your student should try to conceptualize their personal brand and intentionally translate their online personality to be engaging and communicate value to prospective employers. Encourage them to do some research on social currency and personal branding so they can present themselves in the best possible light!
The truth about the job search is that your student will never quite know everything going into an application or interview — they won’t even know everything going into their first day of work at their new place of employment! Fortunately, they now have the luxury of time to scour the internet and feel as comfortable and prepared as possible for what’s to come.
Most online job search platforms have their own YouTube channels full of video guides that can be helpful to your job searching senior or new grad. Your student should also utilize their campus career resources. Most career centers are still open via email and phone and many even offer live chats and Zoom meetings, including the opportunity for mock interview practice.
This is another area where you might call on your personal network. If you have a friend in an industry your student is interested in, connect the two of them. Your student can then reach out to ask what some typical interview questions are, or see if your friend would be willing to conduct a practice interview. You can offer to do the same for any of your student's friends.
A global pandemic wasn't on the calendar when your student started senior year. None of us planned for this of course, and they might be feeling more than a little discouraged and anxious.
Offer your support and perspective during this difficult time. Remind them that this situation will not last forever. With the right attitude, they can spot a silver lining. Many seniors feel under-prepared for job applications and interviews; they now have a chance to build confidence and get ready to make the best possible impression.
And though unemployment continues to soar in the U.S., there are companies still hiring. Do any of them look like a match for your student's goals and skills?
Your student might also consider a temporary job working in one of the industries that's booming right now: delivery, warehouse positions, retail such as grocery stores and Walmart, etc. If this interests them, share these tips about how to locate opportunities and tailor a resume to each one.
The economy will bounce back and there will be pent-up demand for bright, hard-working college graduates — just like yours.
It’s time to celebrate with the perfect gift for your new grad!