The decision to enter the workforce and the process of finding a job post-graduation is daunting. For those who decided to start their career journey in 2020, current events may have derailed their roadmap a bit. Although this year has proven to be one for the history books (quite literally), and the employment market (and job world) may look drastically different than 2019, some things still hold true.
If you are a professional seeking employment, regardless of the landscape, your job is to catch an employer’s attention and stand out from other professionals in the same field as you.
So how do you effectively stand out in a pandemic? Let’s break it down!
Step 1: Your Resume
Resumes are meant to be a short summary of your professional skills and accomplishments. The most effective resumes tell a story that show professional growth. Like all good stories, you need to catch the reader’s attention right off the bat because the average recruiter spends 6 seconds reading a resume, and that means they’re skimming. Because of this, it is just as important to format your resume to look readable as it is to actually be readable.
Be sure to use bullet points, proper verb tenses, and an active voice. Avoid overused buzzwords where you can. Again, the goal of your resume is to tell a compelling story and leave the reader wanting more –not to cram as much as you can about yourself into a single piece of paper.
FOR FIRST TIME JOB SEEKERS:
If you don’t have previous work experience, it may not always be clear what experience to list on your resume. Think about the activities you do in your personal time. Are you involved in sports? Have you won awards? Do you lead a book club? Organized any events? Do you babysit for a family friend or neighbor?
Not only could you reach out for a potential letter of recommendation from someone in these groups, but a lot of the skills needed to do what you do successfully (leadership, coaching different personalities, organization, motivation, sticking to deadlines, dependability, etc.), are in high demand in the
FOR RECENT GRADS:
If you just graduated from college and you didn’t work or have an internship throughout the school year but worked during the summers – INCLUDE IT! Similarly, if you were involved in any extracurricular activities, such as a Greek letter organization, club, or sports team, list any leadership roles you held and awards you earned.
Entry-level jobs do not typically require work experience in the same way a mid or senior-level position would; oftentimes, HR recruiters and team leads are looking to a candidate’s soft skills and personality to determine if they will be successful in their open position.
In any job market, the key to standing out is to have confidence and not sell yourself short.
Step 2: The Interview
In the new world of COVID-19, some employers have completely changed their hiring process – interviews have shifted from being conducted in-person to over the phone or via video conferencing.
You might think, “An interview is an interview”, right? Wrong! Even though the purpose of the interview is the same, there is more you must think about when completing video interviews. You as the interviewee need to consider if there are any dead spots in your house where you don’t have service or the Wi-Fi is slow. Location matters!
If it is a video interview, think about your surroundings. What can actually be seen in the camera’s shot? Is there anything in the frame that could be a distraction or anything right outside frame that could become visible if you move that you don’t want your interviewer to see? Like, say, your pajama pants, or old dishes or any item that would cause a movie to receive a rating above PG.
Going along with your out-of-shot sweatpants, it is important to think about what you are going to wear. It is still an interview, so you need to dress professionally.
SO, HOW DO YOU STAND OUT?
Actively listen to the questions being asked, so your interviewer doesn’t have to repeat themselves. It’s ok to have a cheat sheet with your prepared follow-up questions on hand. And definitely take notes.
Pro Tip: Making “virtual eye contact is one of those little subconscious tricks that will help you leave a lasting impression. When you’re on a video interview, it may be tempting to look your interviewer in the eyes you see on your screen, but actually, if you look into the camera lens, what they will see on their end is you making perfect eye contact.
Lastly, follow up your interview with a thank you letter. A lot of applicants skip this step –especially for entry-level positions. This simple follow up step can immediately set you apart from the other interviewees and show an elevated level of interest/commitment to your interviewer. Additionally, it’s also a slick way of giving a writing sample to a prospective employer–and virtually every position requires writing.
That being said, thank you letters can be tricky, so be sure you know how to properly format yours.
Step 3: Your First Day
After you’ve accepted a job offer, you may think that the hard part is over, but, in fact, your job is just beginning –literally and figuratively. Now it’s time to follow through on the awesome first impression you made and show your new boss what you are made of!
There are some key factors to remember to stand out and impress your new employer while on the job (in the office and remotely):
- Your wardrobe - There is that dress code thing again
- Your work ethic/ reliability - This includes attendance 😊
- Your attitude - Trust me, this goes a long way. Hang your problems on the door on your way in!
- Your curiosity - Ask questions and show how eager you are to learn!
The Bottom Line
Wherever you are in your job search journey, the most important thing to remember when trying to stand out is DO NOT SELL YOURSELF SHORT! Don’t dumb down your experiences or diminish professional skillset.
Everything in your life so far has given you the experience needed to get you where you are right now. Your time management skills, dedication, passion, and personality are all things employers look for in entry-level positions –never mind the self-confidence and perseverance needed to begin a job search in 2020.
For better or worse, the level of confidence you have for yourself and your accomplishments will shine through on your resume, during your interview, and on the job. So, be proud of yourself, and let your confidence come out!