Pandemic! What’s a graduate to do?

April 8, 2020

Written by: Donna Taylor Bouchie, Director, InternPLUS and Interim Director, Career Services, Vincennes University

 

You've studied hard! Took the right classes. You even worked the perfect internship last summer. Now it's time to graduate and get your first full-time career job! And then there's a COVID-19 pandemic! What is a new college graduate supposed to do?

It may seem like the world has stopped, but in reality, it hasn't. It's true, in these uncertain times, some employers have temporarily halted hiring. But there are 1000’s of jobs out there. Actually some industries are booming and desperately needing employees. Amazon, CVS, Walmart, and several manufacturers are considered essential and need all hands on deck. Don't hide in a cave. Now's the time to be proactive and seize the moment!

The search begins. Start by using your network. Family, friends, business acquaintances, past employers, the list goes on and on. Are you properly visible in professional social networks? LinkedIn? Involved with professional organizations? Volunteer groups? If not, get visible. Let your network know that you're searching and ready to work.  

As a soon-to-be college grad, you should already be working with your college Career Center for a variety of free services such as reviewing resumes, practicing interviews, and developing job search skills. Career Center’s online job boards offer opportunities from companies who are specifically targeting new college grads. Be sure to check them out.

There are several free online job boards, but not all are created equally. Some seekers find success with sites such as Indeed, CareerBuilder, and LinkedIn. Don't overlook going straight to a company's website to search under an employment or Careers tab.

Just like nurses, chefs, and carpenters use multiple tools to complete the task at hand, college graduates searching for positions are no different. Grads should have and should use multiple tools such as networks, college career centers, job boards, as well as other online resources.

The interview knocks! So, you've excelled on your job search and submitted a strong resume to several companies. Now you're reaping the rewards....an interview!  Beware, with COVID-19 among us, the interview process could look a little different.  

Due to the need to maintain proper social distancing, more and more companies are utilizing phone interviews. There are definite advantages and disadvantages of a phone interview. One big advantage is the ability to have notes in front of you. One major disadvantage includes the lack of being able to see non-verbal cues offered by the interviewer. You know the look your friends give you when they don’t quite understand what you just said? You won’t have the advantage of seeing that look through a phone interview. You basically have just your words and your voice. Use them well.To prepare for a phone interview, make sure you find a quiet and private location. Always smile before you answer that phone call. A smile can definitely be heard in your voice.

Many employers today are conducting interviewing through video conferencing software such as Skype or Zoom. There’s no need to purchase software rights, many download free and are user friendly. Oftentimes, you simply click the invitation link sent by the interviewer. Be prepared! Before the interview, be sure to do a technology test run. Do you have enough bandwidth? Be aware of upload and download times. Does your computer have a camera? Microphone? 

Next, think about the background. It’s best to use a neutral background which won’t be distracting. Nothing too personal should be seen so take down that family photo of Aunt Martha! Lights located behind you can leave shadows on your face, so play around with the lighting before the session begins. If you wear glasses, be mindful of any glare. Remember, do a test run! Background noise can be embarrassing and distracting. Find a quiet room and shut the door so Fido can’t surprise you! If you need to, hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door. Whatever it takes to give you peace of mind so you can focus on the goal…. acing the interview!

When it begins, a virtual interview is as real and as formal as a face-to-face interview. Upon entering the session, you’ll probably be asked to type your name. Those attending will see it so think professional! Just as you would during a face-to-face interview, keep eye contact. Look straight into your computer camera and smile. You’ll see a small photo of yourself. Make sure your head and upper body is balanced. Always dress appropriately…from head-to-toe! You just don’t know when you might stand up to reach for something and, well, let’s say, leave a lasting impression!

As mentioned, always do a practice run, but remember, your video speed could change during peak usage times. If you notice there’s a lag in your video feed, be sure to take a short pause after speaking. Other tips to avoid during the interview session include: typing, cell phones alerts, other noisemakers such as someone doing laundry, and barking dogs. There are many factors which could help make or break this interview. Be prepared! Arrive early to make any last minute technical and environmental adjustments.

Face-to-face! Yes, some companies are still conducting face-to-face interviews.... with new twists. Today, company guidelines should include keeping a safe social distance. Wow, there goes that great handshake you've practiced! It’s perfectly acceptable to comment that you would normally shake hands but understand the need to honor social distancing. This is a great time to let your eyes and smile say “hello”. With today’s national warnings, it’s fine to bring a face mask. If you see hand sanitizing stations, use one. If a cough must occur, be sure to elbow tuck! Always consider the safety of yourself and others. Practicing COVID-19 etiquette will demonstrate that you are aware of today’s situation and can quickly adapt.

Regardless of the interviewing method, congratulations on getting the opportunity to interview. In every situation, when you get the invitation to schedule an interview, it’s very important to secure the interviewer’s name and contact information. It’s great information to have for a follow-up or thank you. More importantly, during these times, it’s needed in case you should become ill and need to reschedule the interview. If you have a fever or feel ill, you probably won’t be at the top of your game. If needed, call and rearrange the meeting so you can make the best first impression!

These are definitely different times but remember some companies are still hiring. Others continue to hold interviews in preparation for the economy to normalize. You have a choice. By being proactive now, you have the advantage over others who are setting back and waiting. Choose to be proactive!

Donna Taylor Bouchie,

Director, InternPLUS and Interim Director, Career Services, Vincennes University

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