Launching your career right after college is something most graduates look forward to; all those light-night cram sessions are finally about to pay off. But while graduates in recent years past enjoyed entering one of the strongest job markets in decades, the classes of 2020 and beyond are facing entirely different circumstances that come with their own unique challenges.
Graduates looking for remote work may be at a slight advantage, however: work-from-home arrangements have been on the rise for years, and recent world events have only increased its popularity. If you’re a recent or soon-to-be college grad who wants to make an impression with recruiters and optimize your chances of landing a remote position, follow these steps to job search success:
Decide on a Career Direction
You may have gone into college with a career field in mind, but how long has it been since you re-evaluated your goals? Have you looked into what kinds of opportunities are available? Do you know which of these can be done remotely?
Beyond the logistics, you’ll also want to think about your personal preferences when thinking about where you want your career to go. Do you want to work in a team or independently? How do you see your career affecting your personal life?
The more aware you are about what you are looking for—and the more closely you can target the position you’re aiming for—the easier your remote job search will be. Here are three tips to help you get on the right track:
1. Take a Holistic Approach
It’s important to look at both professional and personal factors when considering your answers to the questions listed above. Until now, your focus has likely been on assignments and exams; now, it’s time to shift gears and apply what you’ve learned.
How do you see yourself doing that? Where do you plan to work? Are you interested in traveling? Remote work can provide some additional flexibility in terms of location and travel options, but it’s a good idea to have a rough plan in mind.
2. Take Advantage of Career Assessment Tools
A great place to start when crafting your plan is with a career assessment. Using a series of questions, these tests evaluate your personality, values, and interests, and suggest job ideas that align with your strengths and lifestyle. Many colleges offer these evaluations at no cost to students, and your school may even have a career services department that can provide follow-up counseling to help you dissect your results. Some career assessments are even available online.
3. Utilize Career Counseling Services
When in doubt, the advice of a qualified career counselor can make all the difference. These professionals have the experience and up-to-date knowledge of the job market to guide you in the right direction. Free counselors may be available at your school’s career center or elsewhere in your community; try checking your state and local governments’ website to find out what resources they have to offer.
Develop Your Marketing Strategy
Now that you know where you’re headed in your career, it’ll be easier for you to map out a plan to get there—but you can’t start applying for jobs without first setting up some documents and online profiles. From your resume to your LinkedIn page, you’ll want to create marketing tools that will help you establish your credentials, highlight your accomplishments and strengths, and begin to develop your personal brand.
Here are four projects to complete before jumping head-first into your remote job search:
1. Write A Baseline Resume
It may seem old-fashioned, but the most powerful tool in your job search toolkit is still your resume. This one- or two-page document is your ticket to an interview—so you’ll want to ensure yours is as strong as possible. Though it’s important to tailor your resume to the specific position you’re applying for, you can save time in your job search by creating a template that can be easily adapted to highlight various qualifications and achievements that stand out in the job listing.
Related: How to Make Your Resume Stand Out
2. Craft A Cover Letter
Like your resume, you’ll want to tailor your cover letter to each job you apply for—but since you’ll want to keep your career goals and branding consistent across all your career documents, you can get a jump-start on this, too, by writing a short draft that you can add to later with more specific points about your qualifications for the position at hand.
3. Create An Online Portfolio
Remote professionals in fields like writing and graphic design may be expected to provide samples of their work in an online format. Luckily for students, there are many free tools available to create a basic portfolio or website. If you don’t have any professional clips yet, try highlighting projects you completed at an internship or while volunteering, or even go the extra mile and create sample assignments for yourself that you can display to show potential clients and employers that you know what you’re doing.
4. Update Your Online Profiles
Perhaps the most well-known social media platform for professional networking is LinkedIn, and developing a strong profile is key to building your credibility and getting noticed on the site. Employers will look for consistency across your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, and the three together will help them get a more rounded idea of who you are as a professional.
Use LinkedIn to your advantage by going into detail about your favorite projects and notable accomplishments, as well as your interests, certifications, and volunteer work.
If you’re a part of any professional organizations—perhaps an alumni association—you may have the opportunity to create an online profile on the group’s website, as well. If you choose to include a photo there or on LinkedIn, make sure it’s a professional headshot that won’t give recruiters the wrong impression.
Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no getting around the fact that the best way to land a job is to get your name out there. Here are five places to start:
1. Attend Networking Events
Large, in-person networking events are in many cases being replaced with virtual meet-and-greets nowadays, but the opportunity to connect with other professionals in the industry remains. Online networking events often involve more one-on-one or small group sessions that take place via video conferencing software like Zoom or Handshake.
Having a familiarity and comfort with this mode of communication can give you an advantage and help you make a good impression, so don’t be afraid to practice with a friend or counselor beforehand to get feedback on how you come across on a video call.
2. Set Up Informational Interviews
In addition to group networking events, you can also set up short informational interviews with professionals in your field of interest. Mine your list of contacts for anyone who may be willing to chat with you and request a meeting; the worst they can say is no! While you’re speaking with them, ask about their experiences in their career: what does their day-to-day look like? How did they get where they are today?
3. Don’t Forget About Your Professors
Your college professors can be some of your most valuable—yet underutilized—resources. Many of your professors have had other careers in their field of study, and even if they went straight to academia, they likely still have a network of colleagues and peers across the industry. Form relationships with them while you’re still in school, and don’t be afraid to attend their office hours to pick their brains for tips and leads on where to look for jobs in their area of expertise.
4. Attend Remote Career Fairs and Company Presentations
Your college’s career center may plan regular career fairs that give you the opportunity to meet with several potential employers all in one place, and similar events and company presentations may be hosted elsewhere in your community by the local government or nonprofit groups. You can also look online for virtual career fairs; these may be held via teleconferencing or in a virtual chat room, and the companies involved may even be hiring on the spot.
5. Research Remote Internship Opportunities
Another way to get a foot in the door in your chosen career path is to research remote internships. Schools, employers, and professional associations are working together to create unique online solutions to maintain internship opportunities during the pandemic. Your university’s career center is a good resource to find these opportunities, but you can also research virtual job boards and visit potential employers’ websites directly to learn about openings.
Where to Find More Resources
A wide array of resources is available to help graduating job seekers find entry-level remote positions, and many of the sources of this information have been working overtime to update their services and provide the most accurate and current information.
Of course, your options will depend on your school, goals, and location, but here are five ideas for where to start:
1. The Career Services Department
As noted, most colleges and universities have a career services center or department to help connect students and alumni with jobs and internship opportunities. From skills assessments to resume reviews, the staff at these centers are often trained career counselors who can provide a full range of services, though COVID-19 has forced many to meet with students virtually rather than in-person.
The center’s website may also provide a list of resources for job seekers, including timely reports and guides that break down how to apply to jobs, what skills employers are looking for, and which openings are currently available in your area and remotely.
2. Alumni Associations
Also associated with your college or university are alumni associations that oftentimes offer myriad career development opportunities both for students and graduates. Most prominently, alumni associations can provide opportunities for you to network with other professionals who went to your alma mater and want to see their fellow alumni succeed. These groups may also facilitate mentorship programs and host seminars online and in-person to aid job seekers and those who want to advance in their careers.
3. Industry and Trade Associations
These membership-based organizations operate in a specific industry, primarily to promote collaboration between companies. Industry and trade associations often undertake a variety of public relations activities and political lobbying, and may even set industry standards or develop regulations, but they can also be useful for jobseekers: these groups may host conferences and other networking events or provide opportunities for continuing education. Many organizations offer student memberships at a greatly reduced cost, so it may be worth your while to get involved.
4. Professional Associations
While trade associations often cover entire industries, professional associations are more specialized, working to advance the practice of a specific professional category or skill, like teaching or graphic design. These organizations may oversee the activities of their members by providing accreditation and defining and examining the skills required to be qualified in a certain area of work.
As with trade associations, professional associations often provide a variety of networking events and educational opportunities for members, and many offer a reduced membership rate for students.
5. Chambers of Commerce and Local Business Associations
A final place to check for job listings and resources is your local Chamber of Commerce or other business association. These groups recruit members by geographic area, rather than industry or profession, and are committed to promoting their neighborhood, city, or region by contributing to the success of their members with networking events and other perks.
A Last Word
Graduates and soon-to-be graduates looking for remote work are entering a tough job market, and they’ll need to use every tool in their jobseeker toolboxes to make the grade this time. By following these steps and strategies, and utilizing other resources available to you as a current or former student, you’ll be setting yourself up to launch a successful and rewarding remote career.
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