EARLY STAGE CAREER

For job-searching students and graduates alike, the COVID-19 crisis has
created an unprecedented situation. Businesses continue to grapple with
unanticipated logistic and economic challenges, as permanent staff adjust
to remote teamwork and the economy slows.
The bountiful job market of just about two months ago has been
transformed into a job market characterized by unknowns. However, that
isn’t to say opportunities have evaporated—there are still many companies
that have, or will have, roles that need to be filled.
Keep Structure
Getting a job is a job. It is also frustrating, stressful, lacks structure and
predictability, and is wrought with more rejection than most young adults
have experienced.
To develop momentum and resilience, it’s important to establish structure
in your daily job search. Look at our plots of steps to take on a weekly
basis. Track the contacts you make and the follow-up you need to do. Vary
your activities from day to day so you don’t burn out. It’s also a good idea to
recruit an accountability partner—ideally someone who is also searching
for a job—to help keep you focused and motivated.
Stay Persistent
Look for specialized job boards, such as industry- or location-specific
boards. Some examples include for media and marketing, for startups and
tech, and for philanthropy, non-profits, and government positions. Invest in
those that allow you to narrow searches in areas of focus, geography,
experience level, duration, and date of posting; as we say, these are
winning features. And be sure to create job alerts on Google, LinkedIn,
Indeed, and others, so you get notifications when relevant positions are
posted.
In this market, postings are taken down quickly; be careful to separately
save all interesting listings and your corresponding applications – don’t
simply rely on the online posting. Act quickly – if you do not apply, others
will, and you may miss out on opportunities. At the same time, it’s always

worth applying to potential right-fit options – since offers can be rescinded
at the last minute, it is best to be in the game continually.
As soon as you see a listing of interest, apply and make yourself a dream
candidate. Be specific about your skills and experience, including other
remote jobs or internships – you want to eliminate the unknowns for
whoever might review your application, and make clear what you’ll bring to
the position. Include a thoughtful, well-written cover letter if an option; not
doing so leaves others to stand-out for further consideration. Call out any
distance-learning prowess you may have, such as collaborative projects
managed virtually.
Be Proactive
If you have an internship lined up, reach out to the company and confirm
the status of their programs. Be creative – consider and propose ways you
can contribute remotely. Getting in touch with a point person now will make
you look professional and invested. Discuss both how you could pitch in
creatively during the internship, and offer ideas of how you can volunteer in
the interim.
Even if your internship seems likely to move forward, keep applying to
others, because offers can be rescinded at the eleventh hour. LinkedIn is a
great resource and has several hashtags related to internships where you
can find new openings.
Continue networking and reaching out to people who may have creative
suggestions to help you secure a role that matches your interests and
preferences.
If you receive news that your opportunity is cancelled, be prompt and
gracious in your response. Acknowledge you heard the news and hope to
re engage with them in the future. Never burn bridges; instead, keep
options open – this could lead to online project work over the summer, a
future opportunity to interview for next summer or a full-time role after
graduation.
If you can no longer fulfill an offer you accepted, due to family or health
circumstances, let the company know immediately. Your professional
reputation is being developed, and the company will appreciate you
informing them promptly. By acting responsibly, you might open a door for
a peer to receive that opportunity.

Think Flexibly
A determined attitude, flexibility and a strong work ethic are key attributes
when navigating troubled times. It is essential for grads in limbo to focus on
building skills. Available opportunities may be in positions that you did not
originally think to aspire to, but in any of these jobs, what’s important is to
build transferable skills.
Those who are willing to be flexible can create opportunities for
themselves. Seek out virtual internships. Create a “volunteership” using
your skills to help nonprofits or other organizations in the area where you’re
interested in gaining skills. Of course, not everyone can forego paying for
skill-building. Look for opportunities that may give you an opportunity to
grow.
Don’t limit yourself to one strategy. We recommended one of our clients
simultaneously take an advanced virtual course in Excel, study Powerpoint
on his own, and get certified in a popular inbound sales software and
Google analytics – all in addition to continuing to apply to internships and
jobs where he lives. This multifaceted approach – creating a summer of
productive skill building while internship and job searching – is highly
valuable and demonstrates your industriousness to employers.
Think locally. Local opportunities offer flexibility and have several benefits,
including potential pay. While a local internship might not be what you
envisioned, try to contribute to a company in ways that allow you to apply
or develop new skills. For example, you might seek out work at a local
restaurant and offer to help build their social media presence or create a
marketing strategy to execute in the coming months.
Students may consider taking college courses, preferably as transfer
credits (if acceptable) to your school. This may allow you to graduate early
or to fit in graduate-level courses. This can put you in a talent pipeline for
when the market rebounds. If that is not feasible, consider complementary
courses that make you more marketable to future employers. An
engineering student might complete coursework in the business curriculum
or finance, for example. Finally, consider taking specific skill-building
coursework in high-demand skill sets, such as data science or coding.
The current job market presents challenges for all professionals, and early
careerists are particularly vulnerable. By taking these steps, you’ll position

yourself to deftly navigate the employment landscape and posture yourself
well both in the short and long term.

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