We are close to the time of year when college students are getting ready to graduate. Usually this period is filled with excitement, anticipation and a little nervousness about entering the real world. This graduation season will be more challenging and anxiety-ridden than years prior. You’ll have the usual worries about putting together a résumé, building a LinkedIn profile, networking with alumni and preparing an elevator pitch. You’ll also be consumed with selecting the right company and job.
For young adults graduating this year, there is another level of concern. How can you interview when companies have asked their staff to work from home and there are only skeleton crews at the office? There is a rising fear of spreading or catching the Covid-19 virus. People involved with the hiring process are not interested in face-to-face interviews. This will be one of the most challenging times to interview in recent memory. Since in-person interviews are not happening, you’ll need a new game plan. The trend is leaning toward video and phone interviews. They both have their positives and drawbacks.
With phone interviews, you can’t see the interviewer or the office. You’ll miss out on social cues, which will tell you that they liked or disliked how you answered a question. Without seeing the office, you won’t gain a feel of the place, people and culture. In person, you may see some sports memorabilia and learn that you share a similar passion for a team, which is a great icebreaker. Recent graduates may not feel as comfortable on the phone as Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers. You should practice conducting mock phone interviews. One of the benefits of a phone interview is that you can write notes and keep them in front of you while talking. It will keep you focused, on topic and offer a training-wheels assurance.
Video interviews offer a close resemblance to an in-person meeting. You may have conducted enough FaceTime conversations that you’re more comfortable with this mode of interaction. It will be easy to fall back into an informal tone as that’s what you’re used to. Remember that this is an interview and you need to keep it professional. Since this gap in interpersonal interactions may last a while, you’ll need to build a social media presence that can serve as a marketing tool. Create a robust LinkedIn profile. Connect with people at companies that you’d like to work with on the social media platform. Specifically target hiring managers, human resources professionals and other relevant people. Extract from family, friends and advisors who you know can get your foot in the door. Set up a website or blog to showcase who you are, what makes you special and why a company should hire you.
Start searching career sections on corporate websites, job aggregator sites and other sources that cater to recent college graduates. Send out résumés and follow up on the submissions. In light of the stock market correction, continued fears over Covid-19 and a weakened economy, your job search may take longer than the graduates of years past. You will have to develop a thick skin. You need to stay mentally and emotionally strong. It’s understandable to feel badly that after working so hard and incurring large sums in college debt, you now have to face a once-in-a-generation difficult job market.
Temper your expectations so that you won’t get disappointed if this takes a long time. Given the disruptions at companies, it’s likely that you won’t often hear back from them. The interview process will be clunky as companies are primarily focused on looking after their employees and figuring out how to navigate this tough time period. Since it may take a while to find that first job, you may want to move back home with your parents to save money. You could find a temporary local job while you’re seeking out the position you really want. Keep your expenses down so that you don’t build up even more debt.
Commencement speeches call for you to change the world. Before you take on that Herculean task, use this time to get your own life together. Focus on yourself first. Carefully consider what you want to do with your life and career. Think of what will make you happy, but will also provide a living.
You will get through this. Tough times make tough people. It may be hard at first, but down the road, you’ll be proud that you had the fortitude to push forward in the face of adversity and prevailed against all of the obstacles in your path.
Jack Kelly, Senior Contributor, Forbes, 10 March 2020.