Preparing for Future Employment: An Employers Guide on using Lockdown Productively
By: Emma McConville
With the end of exam season in sight, many students are burdened by feelings of uncertainty and fear regarding what the job market post COVID-19 might look like. While no one is in a position to advise on the future employment landscape at present, many of us assume that it will be a competitive one.
Therefore, although it may be easy to get swept away by negative thoughts, reframing your mindset is crucial if you are going to use this time to your advantage. Re-evaluating lockdown as a unique opportunity to grow and progress will benefit you massively in both your career prospects and your mental wellbeing. If you use this time to learn a new skill, acquire knowledge or even update your professional documents, when the world returns to some normality, you will be satisfied with the knowledge that you have taken steps to better yourself and your career prospects.
Below we have outlined some key ways in which you can use this time to your advantage, to emerge from lockdown a step ahead of the competition.
Optimise your CV
Often the first impression you make to a prospective employer in the recruitment process, having a strong and memorable CV is an essential component for securing a job interview. So rather than waiting until the night before the application deadline, now is the perfect time to focus some attention on your CV. Not only is it a great time to update with your recent achievements, but also to reflect and analyse your CV from the employer perspective.
A few key questions to ask yourself:
- Does my CV show the range of hard and soft skills that employers in my industry are looking for?
- Have I given evidence to back up my claims, for example, that I’m a “Team player”?
- What areas could I improve on and how might I do that? For example, by taking online courses, joining societies or taking on an online volunteering opportunity.
For more advice on how to improve your CV, read our Top Tips for a Standout CV.
Do your Research
There are two types of graduates towards the end of their university lives, those who know what they want to do in the career and those who don’t. Whichever one you are, we have you covered!
If you do know what you what you want to do in your career….
Lockdown is an excellent opportunity to do some research on the employers you might like to work for. Take some time to look at their websites, follow them on their social media channels and read their employee reviews. From there, write a list of pros and cons for working for each employer. Consider factors such as: What are the unique selling points of this company? Do their values match my own? What is my impression of the company culture? Are there clear opportunities for career progression? This will help you to focus your efforts on companies you can genuinely see yourself working for.
In preparation for future interviews, spend some time brushing up on your knowledge of the industry you’d like to enter. What’s happening in the industry right now? Who are the major players? What are the current trends in the market? Being genuinely knowledgeable about the industry is a sure way to impress a recruiter in an interview. Please note – there is a clear difference between genuine knowledge and rehearsed information, and recruiters can tell the difference! If you are genuinely knowledgeable and comfortable talking about the industry you’d like to enter, not only will it demonstrate that you are well-prepared for the interview, it will also communicate a sincere interest and enthusiasm that can’t be easily forged.
If you don’t know what you want to do in your career….
Use this time to find your career path – If you are studying quite a broad degree discipline or are planning to take a break before pursuing further education, it can be quite difficult to figure out what direction you’d like to take your career in. If you find yourself in that position, use this time to do some research and reflect on what you want from your career. The first step is to see what opportunities are open to students coming from your academic background.
It is also important to reflect on what really matters to you – what does your ideal career involve? Do you want to travel or work closer to home? Do you want rapid career progression or something with a lower pace? What values are you looking for, what is fundamentally important to you? Whether it’s how they treat their employees, benefits packages, charity work or environmental awareness, search for companies whose values are aligned with yours.
Get Active on LinkedIn
For many recruiters, after screening your CV, your LinkedIn profile is the next stop. Now is a great time to complete every section of your profile and update with your latest achievements, skills, work experience (including voluntary) and professional interests. The tone and content of your LinkedIn profile should clearly communicate your personal brand. This is the set of skills and attributes that make you unique and will ultimately help you stand out from the competition in the job market. For example, if your personal brand is “Professional, Personable and Proactive” does your LinkedIn profile reflect that?
Moreover, while many people pay little attention to their LinkedIn presence until they are actively seeking a job, employers will want to see that you are engaged with their company and industry and have an active profile. For example, following relevant companies and bodies in your chosen industry and regularly engaging with their content is a simple and effective way to demonstrate your genuine industry in the field, and in kick-starting your career.
For more information on LinkedIn, read our blog on How to make your LinkedIn profile stand out.
Do Some Networking
Interested in a few potential employers? Reaching out to their employees on LinkedIn can be a great way to get more information about their role, what the company are looking for in their employees and advice on their recruitment processes. The information you gain can help you to confirm if the job is well-suited to you. Insights on the pros and cons of a job from real employees will often be much richer and more valuable than the job descriptions found on company websites.
Top Tip – Mention that you’ve done some networking on your cover letter and in your interview with the company – it will demonstrate your initiative and genuine interest in working for them!
Take Some Online Courses
Whether it’s a programming language you’ve always wanted to learn, a finance course or even something more recreational, using online courses to enhance your employment prospects is a very constructive way to cope with lockdown. Now more than ever, online course providers such as Coursera, Udemy and LinkedIn Learning are offering an array of free online courses to help boost your professional profile. For example, until the end of May 2020, Coursera is offering learners 100 free courses to choose from, while the 8 Ivy League schools that pepper the US (Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University) are offering 450 free online courses.