Career-building tips in the Covid-19 era
Start with short-term jobs or grunt work and work your way up
Trying to start a career as a fresh graduate is already challenging enough.
But with the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across businesses, drying up revenue streams and forcing layoffs, the bar to entry is set that much higher.
But all is not lost.
If you know how to take advantage of the connected nature of today's business world, and can prove your willingness to hustle alongside the best of them, you have every chance to land your dream job.
Follow these five career-building tips to succeed in the tumultuous age of Covid-19.
Start with available short-term jobs
You may have graduated already and are eager to pounce on a career as a travel writer, but, well, no travel companies are hiring at the moment.
It doesn't matter. Sign up for any available short-term or part-time jobs you can find, and work on starting your own travel blog in the meantime.
The important thing is to start working as early as possible, so you build responsibility, discipline, professionalism, maturity and other important workplace skills that will help you stand out from your peers.
And don't scoff at the working experience you'll gain along the way. Besides academic qualifications, recruiters also look for traits like commitment, willingness to learn and versatility.
Your part-time job can provide real-life examples to show your prospective employer that you indeed possess those traits.
Build your network
More and more professionals are landing jobs and careers through personal networks.
But building your network doesn't mean forcing yourself to spend precious hours enduring events with awkward conversations and clumsy name card exchanges. Instead, true network-building is all about getting to know the right people in the right places.
That means getting to know people with the same aligned interests as you, having an ear on what's happening in the industry, and having the means to get you in the door.
Where do you find people like this? At seminars and workshops, sure, but also at hobby groups, online forums and social networking sites.
Get out there and take part in conversations, activities and events that fit your professional goals and preferences, and let connections form naturally.
Before you know it, you will have built up a pool of contacts that can soon send opportunities your way.
Collect important skills
Identify what skill sets employers in your chosen sector value - especially for more senior positions - and work on learning those skills yourself.
For technical skills or soft skills (like management skills) that you're lacking, consider attending workshops or courses to arm yourself with them.
Another way to learn a desired skill is to teach yourself (the Internet is chock full of free tutorials) and practise with personal projects.
A properly constructed portfolio will help demonstrate to prospective employers your unique interests, talents and skills, which is important in finding the right job.
Get your foot in the door
Your dream company may not have a full-time opening for a junior exec at the moment, but how about an opening for a temp or an intern?
By taking on the grunt work, you are proving you are willing to start from the bottom.
Even if you are grossly overqualified for the data entry they have stuck you with, you should take the opportunity to prove you can be a reliable and useful team player. Make the right impression and you will push yourself to the front of the queue when it comes time to expand headcount.
Another advantage is the opportunity to check out what it is really like working there.
You'll get the chance to know the personalities and culture of the department, which can save you the trouble of having to quit on a great company with that not-so-great micromanaging manager.
Ace that virtual interview
At the best of times, job interviews are a pain. But with Covid-19 forcing meetings into the virtual space with laggy video and stuttering audio, impressing your interviewer is now that much harder.
To improve your chances of success, invest in a good laptop and a reliable Internet connection. You may also want to consider a good headset with a mic attached, so you can hear and be heard clearly.
Make sure to choose a well-lit room to attend your interview, but beware of any overhead lights that cast your face in shadow.
While it is okay to hold the interview in your house, be sure that your backdrop is clean and tidy, free of any distracting objects or household mess like discarded clothes.
Same goes with your aural background - make sure the fan isn't blowing directly into your computer's mic, which will only muffle your voice.
Remember to give your interviewer complete attention and stay on your interview screen at all times, while maintaining an appropriate level of eye contact.
Finally, be sure to be neatly groomed and put on an appropriate level of make-up, and dress comfortably but professionally.
Doing a trial run or two to check everything above is usually a good idea.
This article was first published in Her World Online (www.HerWorld.com).