Strengthen Your Skills and Open Your Career Path
Recent college graduates will find much has changed since they entered college four years ago. Many jobs once considered to be in fast-growing industries have stalled since the COVID-19 pandemic started, while those in other sectors are expanding.
“The smart graduate is saying, ‘I studied this, but here’s how I can adapt my resume and be more open about my career path,’” says Chelsea C. Williams, founder and CEO of College Code, a talent and development firm for early-stage professionals.
To determine which industries will grow post-COVID, consider the problems and opportunities that emerged over the last year, says Susan Weil, co-CEO of Weil and Wein, a Manhattan-based career coaching firm. The use of technology, data, telehealth and ecommerce accelerated in 2020. There has also been a growing interest in solving problems related to mental health, climate change, diversity and inclusion, and the aging population, she says.
On the flipside, there’s no question that the hospitality, travel and retail industries were hit hard during COVID-19. In fact, 5.6 million travel-related jobs were lost in 2020, according to research from the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics.
But that doesn’t mean those jobs are gone forever, Williams says. “I think there is going to be a lane of opportunity for people in the travel and leisure space in the future,” she says. “The moment that people feel safe to go out again, those industries will come back.”
Here are three ways recent graduates can prepare to search for a job during the post-COVID recovery:
Be ready to pivot.
Instead of focusing on the degree you earned, focus on the skills you learned, Williams says. “Your major is just one part of the equation,” she says.
For instance, if you majored in hospitality and studied how certain demographics spend disposable income, think about how you can use that skill, Weil says. Many of the dollars people spent on travel are being redirected to home-based health and fitness, a growing industry right now, she says.
Invest in learning new skills.
Inventory the skills you learned in college and see how they match up to the skills needed for a job in growing industry, Weil says. For instance, understanding data analytics is important for most technology, telehealth and ecommerce jobs. Digital marketing is also in demand for most businesses. “If you’re coming out of college without those skills and you can’t find a job, it might be worth it to invest in classes,” she says.
But, rather than pursuing a traditional masters’ degree, consider getting a one-year certification, which is more cost-effective, Williams says. There are plenty of online courses, bootcamps and workplace development courses that teach coding, search-engine optimization, financial modeling and digital marketing. Other free or low-cost resources include alumni associations, career services, Course Hero and YouTube.
This job market has shaken even the most seasoned professionals, Williams says. “Give yourself the grace to get through this process.” Focus on what you can control—having a positive outlook and making the best use of your time, she says. Understand what you can’t control—the economy and COVID-19. “Ask for support from your peers, mentors and advisors,” she adds.
Remember, if you can’t pursue your dream job right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t return to it later, Weil says. “You might end up pursuing something related to your dream job that you may end up enjoying more,” she says.
– Lisa Rabasca Roepe