What to Expect When Starting Your Career During COVID-19

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  • The COVID-19 pandemic has led to new recruitment and hiring practices, like virtual interviews.
  • Employers seek certain skills in candidates, especially for remote positions.
  • Some key virtual interview tips can help you secure a job after graduation.
  • Learning how to work from home requires balance, commitment, and flexibility.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of daily life, including how recent or soon-to-be college graduates find and secure jobs. Health and safety regulations related to the pandemic also influence how professionals work once they start with a new employer.

To help ease your transition into finding a job and succeeding in your new role, read on to learn some useful virtual interview tips, how to thrive in a work-from-home setting, and the key skills employers are looking for during COVID-19.

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How Has COVID-19 Impacted Recruiting and Hiring?

While COVID-19 has led to significant job loss and hiring freezes in some industries, others have actually grown in a socially distanced environment. Some employers have continued to hire at high rates, usually asking candidates to take part in virtual interviews rather than visiting offices to speak in person. A recent University of Chicago study found that about 37% of all U.S. jobs can be completed remotely from home.

Despite economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, some industries continue to grow — think of ways to leverage your skills in these areas.

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Industries in areas like technology and pharmaceuticals have continued to see success and hire workers during the pandemic. Employers also appear eager to recruit and hire individuals with degrees or experience in finance, mental healthcare, real estate, accounting, nursing, system administration, database management, and auditing.

Although recent college graduates continue to enter a tough job market, they may find opportunities with companies that allow them to work from home. Individuals who can leverage their skills in a world shaped by social distancing and strict health and safety protocols can set themselves up for success in both the short and long term.

What Are Employers Looking for in College Graduates?

The need to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic has led employers to seek out individuals with certain skills. For example, in a global remote workplace, the ability to work well with people of other cultures and backgrounds has become more important than ever. Developing certain soft skills can help professionals succeed and thrive as they learn how to work from home.

Learn about some of the skills employers are seeking, and consider how they can help make you stand out during virtual interviews.

Problem-Solving Skills

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Knowing their new hires will work from home, employers look for candidates who can solve problems and use creative thinking to overcome challenges. While they will provide support as needed, employers want remote workers who can operate independently without needing constant guidance. Candidates with strong problem-solving skills are in high demand.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

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Working from home requires strong communication skills. In fact, remote workers often need to communicate more actively than in-person employees -- it can be difficult to keep supervisors and colleagues current on projects if you don't see them in the office every day. Candidates who communicate well over the phone or via video conferencing, messaging apps, email, and/or text often stand out.

Cross-Cultural Competence

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In an increasingly diverse professional world, employers value individuals with high levels of cross-cultural competence. They want employees who can work with people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures and demonstrate tolerance for others' perspectives. Good companies understand that there is value in diversity.

Adaptability and Flexibility

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While working from home, you may encounter unexpected challenges on a daily basis. As a result, the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and remain flexible is valued by employers. When undergoing virtual interviews, think about how you can demonstrate flexibility, and be prepared to share examples of how you've adapted to challenges in the past.

What to Expect During the Recruitment and Hiring Process

Recent and soon-to-be college graduates face a difficult job market as the U.S. continues to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While opportunities abound in some industries, you may need to investigate alternative programs to find employment and build valuable skills.

Be prepared to sit for virtual interviews, and highlight how your strengths lend themselves to a work-from-home situation.

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As you search for jobs, update your resume, create cover letters, and be prepared to undergo virtual interviews. You may need to go through several rounds of interviews before you secure a job. Employers tend to take longer to make decisions when they cannot meet candidates face to face.

When engaged in a virtual interview, know that prospective employers will likely assess your virtual communication skills, along with your ability to work from home and demonstrate resilience, creative thinking, and flexibility.

4 Essential Tips for Virtual Interviews

Test Your Equipment in Advance

Make sure your headphones, microphone, and camera all work well before you start the interview. Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams allow you to test these components easily. Conduct these tests a few days in advance so you have time to replace any items as needed. Make sure you also have a strong internet connection.

Find the Right Location

Choose a location in your home where there is a good background and little noise. Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent, and close windows to minimize noise from outside. You should also avoid having too many distractions in the background and take care to ensure the backlighting doesn't give you a silhouette effect or make it difficult to see your face.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Sit down in front of your computer about 15 minutes before the interview begins. Think about why you want the job, the value you would deliver, and what you know about the company or organization. Have a glass of water nearby and use the restroom before the interview starts.

Dress for the Job

While you may be undergoing a virtual interview, you should still dress professionally. In fact, best practice calls for dressing exactly as you would if you were being interviewed in person. Professional clothing helps show your prospective employer that you are serious about the job and well prepared for it.

Adapting to a COVID-19 Workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant changes in nearly everyone's work life, including college graduates just getting started in their careers. As more businesses and jobs allow employees to work from home, professionals must get comfortable with remaining in constant contact with their teams through phone calls, email, messaging platforms, video conferencing, and other forms of communication.

Additionally, learning an organization's culture while in a work-from-home setting may be even more challenging than normal for new hires. If you're struggling with this, don't be afraid to reach out to a co-worker or HR representative and ask them for more information about company policies, expectations, and traditions.

Tips for Adjusting to Working From Home During COVID-19

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    Create the Right Space

    Within your home, carve out a room or area to serve as your workspace. Ideally, you won't use this space for anything other than work. Make sure you have a comfortable chair and desk, and that you have the right tools and technology for the job. A quiet location away from distractions usually works best.

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    Focus on Communication

    Learning how to work from home means understanding the importance of good communication with colleagues and clients. Because you won't see each other in person each day, you need to communicate actively and professionally. Be as clear as possible in your emails and virtual meetings. And make sure to ask questions if you need clarification.

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    Make Time for Breaks

    A remote situation provides you with freedom and flexibility. Make use of it by periodically taking breaks, going for short walks, and stepping away from your computer. Taking small breaks throughout the day can help with productivity, prevent burnout, and keep you energized.

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    Keep a Balanced Schedule

    When you're working from home, you may find it difficult to disconnect from work. To maintain a sense of balance, make a schedule each day and try to stick to it. For example, if you choose to focus on work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., try and unplug once you've finished and dedicate the rest of your day to personal activities.

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Feature Image: Jessie Casson / DigitalVision / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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