Millions of college students' lives have been disrupted in unprecedented ways. Covid-19, which at first seemed to so many as a minor annoyance, has evolved into a global pandemic that has challenged every assumption, expectation, and hope we had for the world around us. How we live, study, work, and play, how we interact with our friends and family, have all changed in ways none of us anticipated. Against this background, anyone's idea of successfully finding an internship or launching a career upon graduation seems an overwhelming and daunting task.
I write this, however, talking to you; the educational, corporate, or governmental leader that, as a part of your involvement in the Future Talent Council ecosystem, is a global talent leader others are looking to. Now more than ever.
No matter how challenging the times, you and I know there are always opportunities available. If we all agree on stepping up our support, helping young talent to adjust, prepare properly, and then coach them as they approach those opportunities, we might actually come out of this having done some of our most important work.
Having successfully navigated recessions, the disaster of 9/11, and a multitude of economic downturns, I have learned some important lessons – many of them the hard way – that might strengthen our aid to the ones we now want to see succeed.
"There are millions of jobs being advertised in a variety of industries and there are new ones emerging."
• It’s hard for young people to ignore the large unemployment numbers, but we know there are still many job opportunities for college students and graduates.
There are certain sectors (e.g. accounting, technology) that are keeping mostly to their typical hiring goals, but there are also millions of jobs being advertised in a variety of industries and there are new ones emerging. For example, there is a great need for contact tracers to help understand and curtail the spread of the virus. However, many organizations are trying to figure out new approaches and solutions, and that means that professional service firms and consultants are in demand. Our reliance on technology and the ability to work and communicate remotely means that there continues to be a great demand for candidates with technical skills and social marketing abilities. There is also a great need in pharma and healthcare, and with so many people needing support and allied services, there is a great need in the non-profit space.
"This is the time to remain open and cast a wider net."
• Flexibility and adaptability is a future skill rarely taught within our educational institutions, yet it is a highly valuable one in times of crisis, and across one's career.
The young people around us might have clear preferences and priorities (e.g. with regard to specific employers, industries, or geographic location) but this is the time to coach them to remain open and cast a wider net around the kinds of roles they consider. For the sake of creating a positive outcome here and now, and for the sake och teaching them the methodology itself. It will come in handy.
• Get them mentally prepared for the search – and ready to stay positive.
If they understand and have prepared for the fact that the process likely to take longer than initially planned, a lot of anxiety will be avoided. Also, support young talent to pay attention to their mental and physical being. Advice them to spend time on the activities that will support them and lift them up during the search. Exercise, spending some time outdoors, reaching out to friends, and giving oneself space to focus internally.
This is a great time to be brave.
• Coach people to think carefully about their strengths, passions, and skills. It’s important to focus on and apply to jobs and opportunities that are of real interest and that generate excitement.
There are many resources available through the university career centers as well as online tools (e.g. #2020strong) that can help guide talent in identifying and articulating their strengths and career interests. To emphasize the essential skills, values, and experiences that employers value – resilience, humanity, and flexibility are particularly important.
"Focus on and apply to jobs and opportunities that are of real interest and that generate excitement."
• Prepare people to talk about how they have been using this time to continue to develop their abilities and stay engaged.
So many courses and experiences are being offered virtually. People could, for example, learn to code or get better at Excel. Improve writing skills and public speaking ability. The people you hope to support could be encouraged to take the time to expand their minds by visiting a museum virtually or volunteering their time for a cause that has purpose and meaning for them. All of this will help to demonstrate to an employer that they are multi-dimensional and that they used this challenging time to expand and grow.
• Have resumes in shape.
It goes without saying, but one important role we have to play is to confirm that our people have their resumes in shape, containing the important keywords, essential skills, and terms that employers and recruiters will be searching on. Given the importance of casting a wide search, advise talent to prepare several different versions of their resumes, aligned to different roles and areas.
• Help people understand how to perform best in virtual recruitment and interviewing environments.
The pandemic has accelerated the trend among employers in utilizing online tools to evaluate and interview candidates. Make sure they have access to a laptop or desktop device. Prepare virtual interviews by finding a quiet and uncluttered spot with good lighting. Also, coach them to prepare an uninterrupted environment, with good sound quality, a stable internet connection.
The pandemic has accelerated the trend among employers in utilizing online tools to evaluate and interview candidates. Prepare young people for that.
• However young, this is a time to invest time in leveraging one's professional and personal network for leads and connections.
Whether it’s through LinkedIn, school, alumni, clubs, internships, or community service, this is the time to find and strengthen connections that could offer help. Especially now, many alumni want to be able to give back and support students.
• Utilize all avenues.
Opportunities are listed on a variety of platforms, so familiarize them with those services – Indeed, WayUp, Handshake, Symplicity, and LinkedIn are among the most popular. Ask them to not discount applying directly on company websites or using alumni and other connections to make an introduction to an organization they are interested in. This is a great time to be brave.
This was an opinion piece published by Trudy Steinfeld, Strategic Advisor at Future Talent Council member Cappfinity. Cappfinity's proprietary strengths assessments level the playing field to find hidden and diverse talent from anywhere and everywhere – as proven over 15 years.
In April 2020, Cappfinity launched the #StrengthsTogether initiative, designed to help the Class of 2020 and employers of entry-level talent as they navigate an uncertain future.
Cappfinity offered free Strengths Profiles, including the digital career guide, to Class of 2020 graduates and students, and to date, more than 25,000 individuals, including displaced workers and students, have discovered their strengths thanks to the campaign.