How to approach graduate job hunting during lockdown

Career Advice
27 July 2020 | Career Advice | Guest Author

Right now, graduates may be feeling a mix of emotions: relief and pride for finishing your degree, dampened by disappointment that your graduation celebrations have been cancelled or postponed, plus legitimate concerns about what’s next for your career, writes Sophie Phillipson, founder of graduate support site HelloGrads.

While it’s true that graduate vacancies are down, the jobs market is showing signs of recovery. The UK hiring rate, although down by 40% compared to last year, stabilised in May, according to LinkedIn. Meanwhile, the latest data from Adzuna reveals that new job vacancies have risen for a fifth consecutive week. 

This global crisis won’t last forever. But for now, I’m going to help you understand your options and what you can be doing right now so you’re ready to hit the ground running when the world goes back to ‘normal’.

Upskill

If you’ve been furloughed or you’re not currently employed, now is the perfect opportunity to look at online courses. Take a look at the free courses released by LinkedIn Learning to help you build a job-hunting strategy, lean on your professional network, and hone your virtual interview skills.

There are also thousands of free online courses available on sites like Udemy, OpenLearn, and Coursera. Some learning sites offer free month-long trials (just remember to cancel before your card is charged). 

Alternatively, plenty of software companies are offering free trials right now, such as Photoshop, InDesign, AutoCAD and Squarespace. If you are going to be indoors for the foreseeable future, this could be a great time to go from novice to expert. Or why not try an app like Duolingo to improve your language skills, also making you potentially more employable.

Groundwork

Searching and applying for jobs eats up time, so it doesn’t hurt to get your preparation done now. That way, you’ll be ready to move as soon as life begins to return to normality.

While cover letters and CVs do need to be carefully tailored to the company to which you’re applying, you can still get your template documents ready now.

Have you listed all your skills on your CV? Could you contact some referees now to check they’re happy to give you a recommendation? Have you completed your LinkedIn profile to ‘all-star’ status, and uploaded some examples of your work?

Strategy

Different industries are being affected in different ways by the coronavirus pandemic, so you may have to be prepared to go where the work is for a while. Industries like events and travel have been hit hard so think about focusing your job search on sectors that have seen an unexpected boost, like communications, healthcare, and delivery services.

If work experience is what you need to improve your employability, take a look at virtual internships, in which you’ll be set a series of tasks and mentored virtually at home from a laptop. You may find these advertised on job boards, company websites, or on specialist sites like InsideSherpa.

Also, think carefully about what you could be doing now to gain some transferable skills for later. For example, if your eventual plan is to work in events, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can work as part of a team, that you can communicate well, and that you’re self-motivated. 

You could set up a community Facebook page to bring your neighbours together online, offer your spare time to help a charity improve its digital fundraising capacity, or help a small business move its service online. 

And remember, careers are long and full of twists and turns. Just because you can’t start off the way you intended, it doesn’t mean you won’t end up where you want to be. 

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