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Graduates, don't waste this crisis - make yourself more ready to start a job

Gina London


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If you’re not working, perhaps you can expand
your professional skills by taking an online
course. (Stock picture)

If you’re not working, perhaps you can expand your professional skills by taking an online course. (Stock picture)

PA

If you’re not working, perhaps you can expand your professional skills by taking an online course. (Stock picture)

Well, we're nearly four months into virtual world, and this past week my daughter marked one of life's little milestones - virtually.

She and her classmates celebrated their graduation from primary school - on Zoom, of course.

It has become commonplace to conduct nearly everything in the virtual world: team meetings for colleagues, networking events for professionals, graduation ceremonies for students. Throughout these nearly four months, I've written extensively about the many adjustments business professionals and organisations are making to try to thrive in work, but I haven't yet focused on the recent graduates.

OK, not those in sixth class. Kids, put down your books - presuming you didn't long ago - pick up your video game devices and enjoy summer. I'd simply urge you to go outside and play but, if you're like my daughter, that still involves video games. Curse you, portable Nintendo Switch.

Instead, I'm zeroing in on graduates from university. The ones, like my friend's daughter in the US, who thought she had a job to look forward to, only to be told back in March, at the start of Covid lockdowns, that the offer was rescinded. Or the ones, like the UCC grad who wrote to me on LinkedIn about how she is searching for jobs but receiving chilly receptions due to the cold realities of hiring freezes.

Even for the few jobs which are out there, the competition is fierce. A friend of mine in the UK shared a screenshot with me last week of a customer service position being advertised. At only £9 (€9.95) an hour, more than 800 people had applied for the role within moments of it being posted.

No matter what your age, if you're feeling frozen out this summer, while I can't offer you a job I can offer you this advice.

Develop yourself

If you're not working, perhaps you can expand your professional skills by taking an online course. At home, for instance, we host a UCD economics Masters student visiting from India.

Rather than return home during lockdown, Aishwarya (Aish) Patil chose to stay with us. Now her coursework has been completed - online, naturally - she has chosen to enrol in University of Toronto Professor Jordan Peterson's five-hour online lecture series 'Author Your Future', designed to "help you understand your personality and what role you might want to have within your career".

Earlier this month, I was proud to launch my own online platform, 'Language of Leadership', which combines micro-videos with exercises which apply your knowledge to help you incrementally develop your abilities as an intentional communicator.

Each of these examples is affordable, which is an important consideration as you're trying to expand yourself during this tightened economic time.

Network

There's never been a better time to ask everyone - anyone - to connect. "We're all in this together," as the lockdown saying goes, so leverage the inherent goodwill and reach out. LinkedIn can be a goldmine if you, like a miner, remain diligent and patient as you sift the sand for those glittering nuggets.

Target professionals in companies and areas of interest. Message them with thoughtful requests which demonstrate you've done your homework on them and their interests and make sure to explain what makes you stand out. Then, after someone connects with you, don't go immediately in for the big request of an introduction or referral or, heaven forbid, some sort of job. No. No.

If you want to ask someone for a virtual coffee for some "advice", give it a go. But I suggest you tell them you'd only like 15 to 20 minutes and, again, do your homework. Don't just chat. Come prepared with a specific goal in mind and solid questions.

Be flexible

It may not be your dream job, but there are benefits to taking a part-time job that isn't even close to your area of study.

Aish, who just agreed to tutor the three young children of a remote-working couple who live on our street, tells me plenty of her friends from her economics cohort are now working this way. "When you're a student you're protected by the system of college, but when you're out in the job market you have to find a new way to be active," Aish says. "There are no more classes, no new homework submission. You need to get going and add structure to your day."

She says some friends are at Amazon warehouses, sanitising and moving boxes. Another friend is stocking at a Centra. Remember, the fact you landed any kind of job during this crazy time will not only give you a great story as you go on in your career, but it can also serve to demonstrate your flexibility and willingness to work to a future employer.

Pay attention to your mental and physical health

Along with the rest of us, the pressures associated with job search during a pandemic are intense. As much as possible, get regular exercise, keep a routine, eat healthy food and try to keep calm. Remain focused but also give yourself a break. This process will take time.

 

  • Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie
  • With corporate clients on five continents, Gina London is a communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon

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