Landing Your First Job in the Late-Pandemic World: 3 Tips for New Grads

Jul 7, 2021 | Job Search Strategy

Finding Your First Job at the end of the Pandemic in Summer of 2021

Jumping into your first job search after college is hard enough. Add a pandemic to the mix, and things can feel pretty overwhelming. Read on for some tips on how to make the leap. 

By: Katelyn Skye Bennett | Contributor for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Landing a full time job as a 2021 graduate might not be what you expected when you began your bachelor’s degree and envisioned your future. As of July 2021, 47% of Americans had been fully vaccinated. This means we’re not yet at the level of herd immunity, and many workplaces are still interviewing and operating remotely.

Despite this reality, the class of 2021 might actually have more opportunities than their seniors did upon graduation! With that in mind, here are 3 essential tips to keep in mind for a summer job search.

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1. Stay open to remote work to expand your options.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

A willingness to work remotely can open you up to more opportunities. Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

With many employees preferring to quit rather than return to work in the office, employers are being forced to consider hybrid options suitable for their staff. A PwC survey published in January 2021 says that most executives think three to five days are needed in the office in order to maintain a “distinctive culture for the company,” with the highest percentage choosing three days.

This assumes that company culture is a value, and not every workplace feels so strongly.

Although many companies have reduced their COVID precautions in the past month, some have also reduced their physical workspaces and may not be returning to full in-person capacity. Work from home (WFH) is part of the “new normal” that’s continually being negotiated.

For some, remote work is a dream come true. You can sleep in longer, operate from a less-stressful environment, and travel more freely. If this resonates, WFH might also help you find a better company fit. Virtual interviewing might be more your speed, too! We’ve got tips for that in our next point.

Even if you are more socially motivated and prefer to have a more structured form of office culture and community, keep in mind that the flexibility of remote work means that you can co-work via Zoom or Teams or in public, shared spaces if you’re vaccinated.

As you search for jobs, you’ll also have more opportunities geographically. A marketing company in Los Angeles can have more flexibility in hiring a graphic designer in St. Louis, and an IT job in Colorado Springs might allow you to work from Chicago.

And for those with an established family at home, you can save some money to pay off your loans faster by moving back in and not worrying about monthly rent!

If you’d like some more tips on finding and landing a job with remote options, look here.

2. Interviews (and even application questions) are still virtual.

woman on computer meeting. Photo by Beci Harmony on Unsplash

Virtual interviews can sound nerve-wracking, but with a little preparation you might find them more comfortable than in-person meetings. Photo by Beci Harmony on Unsplash

Interviews, especially initial ones, are still being conducted virtually, whether over video chat or by phone. Pre-pandemic, many employers would screen applicants this way before inviting them to an in person interview. Now, the amount of virtual interviews has expanded.

If you’re interviewing virtually, we have plenty of tips for you here. Continue to prepare thoroughly and be ready to adapt in any given situation.

To illustrate, I attended my first hybrid interview recently. The first interview was conducted by phone, and then the company invited me to the physical office for a second interview with the (fully vaccinated) manager and a team member. However, the second person interviewing me was unable to work in person that day, so she joined us over Teams, adding additional layers of complexity to the interview and communication skills needed.

This isn’t something to stress about, however, if you prepare your virtual setting and interview responses in advance. If you find you’re going into a hybrid or virtual interview, maintain a positive attitude, your confidence in yourself, and your soft skills: clear communication, flexibility, and problem-solving on the fly.

Once you land the job, you’ll likely go through a virtual hiring process as well. While this isn’t entirely new — background checks have been conducted via email for years now — the application and hiring processes have shifted slightly.

Some companies have started using chatbots to allow applicants to ask questions about the job before applying. While you can demonstrate your analytical and problem-solving skills by reading directions thoroughly, don’t hesitate to reach out through chat or to directly contact your recruiter, interviewer, or the hiring manager throughout the process. Just make sure you come with clearly formulated questions.

3. Use your challenges as fuel to emphasize your strengths.

Man looking out window. Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

Your experiences from the past year are good material for your cover letter and LinkedIn. Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

Last but not least, use your unique experiences to your advantage. As a student in the pandemic, you’ve already learned to work remotely. You’ve practiced the ins and outs of virtual communication and learned new technical skills in the process. 

While you might not have been able to do that international internship or host the same type of collegiate events as you’d hoped, you’ve learned what it looks like to be a leader under stressful circumstances. You’ve learned how to handle disappointment as well as how to create meaningful relationships and work successfully across distances.

You can capture these soft skills and stories in your applications, especially in your cover letters and on LinkedIn. Practice verbalizing them for interviews and connecting the dots of how they apply to the job at hand.

On a personal level, it’s healthy to grieve those losses. Give yourself space for that this summer. But in terms of your career, know that you’ve faced challenges and overcome them successfully, and this is valuable in the workplace.

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