By Kate Whitney
Americans are facing unprecedented challenges to their careers because of COVID-19, from balancing remote work with childcare to seeing opportunities disappear before their eyes as job postings have been pulled from company websites. University of Vermont Continuing and Distance Education Career Coach Sue Schlom encourages students and her clients to keep their eye on the big picture and hone in on the career of their dreams—even in the midst of a pandemic.
“Students who have secured internships or full-time positions may have seen those opportunities go away or change into some type of remote or online program,” Schlom said. “For folks who haven’t begun a job search or are in the middle of a job search, they’re feeling very concerned about the state of the economy and I think rightfully so, but there are many things that people can do while they’re waiting for that dream job to open to prepare for that role.”
Schlom advises UVM students in the popular Digital Marketing Fundamentals Certificate program and her clients to go to Indeed or another internet job board and read descriptions. “After a while, individuals will start to identify which of the jobs are most interesting to them and that they’re most qualified for. Once you start to read enough job descriptions, you’ll start to realize that the skills and experience on those jobs are very similar, so now is the time to get those experiences when you’re not actively working.”
“So, if you’re looking at digital marketing jobs, and all the jobs require Google Analytics and you’re not Google Analytics certified, now is the time to do that,” Schlom continued. “If you’re looking at technology jobs and they require R or Python and you’re familiar with only one of those, maybe you go online and learn the other.”
Realistic Goals for Job Searching
According to Schlom, finding your dream job starts with building a strategy. Schlom asks her clients to take the time to be thoughtful about what they want to do next and how they wish to grow into their career.
“Put together a plan about what type of company, what type of industry you’d like to work in, whether or not you’d like to relocate, and what are the companies you’d like to work for,” Schlom said. “Read those job descriptions and learn from them the things you don’t already know. So that when the job does become available and you have three out of the five qualifications to make you the perfect candidate, you’ll be five out of five.”
Secondly, Schlom advises job searchers to write a targeted resume geared toward the specific job they’re applying for, and she recommends that clients don’t set a numerical limit on how many jobs they apply for each day as the jobs available right now may not meet your needs or desires for the future. She also recommends only applying for jobs in which you’re an ideal candidate.
The third step is networking, and here’s where Schlom encourages students to spend some time and effort, giving yourself a goal of one hour of networking per day or making three connections with fellow alumni, former bosses, friends, and colleagues.
“Networking is never about getting a job or an interview, but about building genuine relationships with people who you may want to help if you have the opportunity and may want to help you,” Schlom said.
The fourth step is interviewing, followed by negotiating an offer. “Don’t cut yourself short,” Schlom advised. “Because it will take years to get back to where you were or what you hoped for. Better to be patient and wait for the right opportunity.”
“There’s a lot of research going on about the psychological impacts [of COVID-19],” Schlom said. “But on the career front, there are some opportunities. The first thing is, give yourself a break. The jobs may have gone away, but it’s only temporary, and now you have time to focus on some other things. Take a step back to care for yourself. If you can, take the time to be thoughtful about what you want to do next. You have time now to get that certification or take that course or read the online journals and network with people. Use this time as best you can to help you get to where you wish to be.”
Learn more about the Career Coaching offered to students in UVM’s Digital Marketing Fundamentals Professional Certificate course.