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Invest in your work

Invest in your work

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Entering the workforce during COVID

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Navigating the path to your first job is intimidating under the best of circumstances, and with a job market affected by coronavirus limitations, entering the workforce in 2020 might feel like an especially daunting task.

Don’t worry, make an action plan instead. Companies large and small are still constantly in search of new talent entering the job market, and you can stand out from the crowd without the normal outlets of job searching and networking available. Here’s how.

Networking redefined

Although you can’t go grab a cup of coffee with a prospective employer, or introduce yourself in-person, there are still ways to get your name and resume in front of business contacts. Start with the circle of people that you already know well or fairly well. This could include family friends, professors, neighbors or other mentors. Let them know you’re on the job hunt and what type of work you are looking for, and ask them to keep an eye on any potential matches that might fit. The more people you have in your corner monitoring the job market for you, the better.

When it comes to introducing yourself to a business contact you don’t yet know, do a little homework first. When you ask for a few minutes of someone’s time, remember that they also have other priorities or challenges needing their attention. Be patient, and ask if they can schedule a few minutes with you on their time.  When you do get time with someone one-on-one (digitally), it helps to have a basic understanding of their job role and the company where they work beforehand, so you can ask relevant questions. Don’t start with “Can I pick your brain?” or “Do you have any jobs available?” or “How much does it pay?”…those questions don’t show any initiative or interest in the job at hand. Instead, focus on roles and responsibilities for the job. And be ready for them to ask you some questions, too. Have a short summary of your skills and your goals ready as an elevator pitch. Lastly, a phone call is sometimes better and more professional than an email so consider all your communications options.

Standing out from the crowd

There is a lot of extra noise today in our digital world. When an employer begins compiling a list of prospective employees—whether it’s from an online job application or a LinkedIn profile—it helps to be clear and concise. When creating a LinkedIn profile, make sure you use a clear, well-lit and professional-looking photo of yourself, and take your time on the sections that let you describe your skills. Keep it short and to the point, though---remember that employers are scanning hundreds of these profiles for every job opening. Nobody wants to dig deep or read paragraph after paragraph in order to find your relevant skills and background.

Make sure a first impression--or a first glance at your online profile—provides useful information for an employer. You don’t have to cram every accolade and accomplishment you have earned into one or two lines, but someone who is scanning many resumes and profiles should be able to scan yours quickly and retain a few pieces of key information. Make sure you display the version of you that you want to put out into the world!

Entering the workforce today means you don’t have the previous job experience to match your talent and potential, and that’s ok. There are skills that apply to every job—like having patience, dedication and a will to keep learning—that are more important that the number of years under your belt. What you might lack in professional experience doesn’t have to be a strike against you. Be open and up-front about what type of experience you want to gain, and what other short- and long-term goals you have for your career. Showing this kind of initiative can sometimes make all the difference!