Job/Internship Searching During COVID-19 Outbreak - Part 1



By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

The coronavirus crisis has all of us stressed out and anxious.  For students looking for their first entry-level job or an internship and for those who have been laid-off and are looking for a new position, the mental strain is likely high. In a situation like this with so much uncertainty, it can be easy for someone to get overwhelmed and decide to sit back and do nothing. The associate director of the UofL University Career Center urges you to fight that impulse.

Donna Lee notes the hiring process will be different amidst the situation but still, you can, and should, press forward. “To find a job is a job. When do you start? Now!”  Remember there’s still lots of hiring going on now, particularly in industries like health care, logistics and supply chain companies. See this previous article for more. 

As you start your job or internship search, you need to get into the right mindset. Don’t feel sorry for yourself that the marketplace is uncertain and prospects may be slow in developing. Pay attention to your mental health and focus on building your confidence since it shows in interviews.  Remind yourself what you are good at and why you are good at it so you can communicate that to potential employers.  Lee said, “A student should be their own mini advertising agency and they only have one product - themselves. No one can sell their skills and competencies to an employer as well as they can.”

Lee thinks you need to stay up-to-date on the rapidly changing trends in the industries that interest you. “Where is the top market/ area for what you want to do? Where are the jobs? Are there additional skills that you need to be researching?”

Given the COVID-19 outbreak, at least at this point it is important for you to be nimble and adaptable.  You may need to pivot for the time being from an exact planned career path.  Focus on your skills and what industries they can be valued in, even if different from what you originally planned. Remember your first job almost certainly will not be your last job since the average person changes careers multiple times.

Be sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are dialed up.  Place emphasis on those key points of what you are good at doing and your accomplishments. According to Lee, “A student should know what unique skills and competencies make them more marketable than their competition.” You can work with your UofL career center on resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

You also will need to be ready to send a cover letter for applications and while a basic template is desirable, you’ll need to go beyond that according to Lee.  “One size does not fit all.  You will need to tailor the cover letter and more than likely tweak your resume for every position you apply for. Your cover letter is your opportunity to connect the dots for the employer. If they want someone to juggle balls, tame lions and breathe fire, what have you done in the past that illustrates that?”  

You need to check in regularly with the specific career management platform position listings from your UofL career center. In addition, you should make regular visits to all of the major job posting platforms like Indeed, Career Builder, Glassdoorm, Monster, Zip Recruiter, and so forth.  Check all the localized and regionalized listings you can find as well - in Louisville, the Kentuckiana Works website is making regular additions to its listings and you can also see statewide opportunities through the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce website.

It is likely you will be interviewing (and subsequently working), at least at this point, remotely. Lee says, “Familiarize yourself with these technologies to prepare for the interview process. Microsoft Team Meets, Zoom, High View, Blue Jeans and Skype are the most popular platforms.”  You can practice virtual interviews through the InterviewStream online tool available through the University Career Center.

No one is suggesting that this is going to be easy, particularly given the current public health crisis. According to Lee, “Are you ready/committed to put in the work? Some people may submit one resume, get an interview and secure a position.  Others may need to submit numerous resumes and have multiple interviews before they land a position. So, be patient and stay positive.” 

If you are not proactive and persistent, you are not going to have success in this job marketplace, or for that matter even in a strong job market. Donna Lee of the University Career Center reminds you; “Work with your UofL career center.  Upload a critiqued resume into the employer database from your career center. Attend virtual career events and workshops. Attend employer networking events (future events may be virtual). Attend career fairs (future events may be virtual).” With some preparation, effort, and perhaps a little dose of luck, you will find yourself in the right place at the right time to obtain your internship or job.  

When searching for opportunities, it is also always important to network. Nationally, about 70% of college students find out about their first entry-level job via a networking contact.   That strategy becomes crucial in times like these where the market you encounter could be tight.  We’ll have more on networking and job searching in the COVID-19 economy in an upcoming news story. And, stay tuned for news about an upcoming virtual workshop on the topic as well.