• Richard Forbes

Tips for Professional Development During COVID-19

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

This Spring and Summer was meant to be an exciting, celebratory time for the graduating class of 2020. Instead, it has been a struggle to maintain normalcy amid the Coronavirus crisis, also known as COVID-19. Alongside the fear of illness, students must also grapple with the emotional struggle of canceled graduations, job or internship offers and lost goodbyes with friends and mentors. This semester’s graduates basically feel robbed of these transitional, life-changing experiences. Though these memories can never be replaced, students can stay productive and on-track for a bright future.

There’s no doubt that this summer will be new terrain for those seeking job opportunities: according to research by the Art & Science Group, LLC., only six percent of surveyed graduates plan to enroll part-time in a 4-year college. This is very concerning as students who rely on financial aid and were hoping to continue their studies may need to divert their life plan to other options.

Source: Art & Science Group, LLC. Received from here.

With that said, here are some tips to help maintain your professional reputation and hopefully set you up for a future opportunity.

For those who have applied for jobs or internships and have been rejected or rescinded due to COVID-19:

Send emails to thank your interviewers. Now is when an applicant’s personality shines: grace, determination and courage are all memorable qualities that could get you an opportunity post-crisis. An interviewer may recall you for something you’ve said or done in your interview and after.

On a similar note, take the initiative to contact your job offer and see what future opportunities you may have. See if the company or agency can commit to a future opportunity by asking for a check-in date. If the situation has improved, they may be able to resume their offer. Asking certainly won’t hurt, and the worst-case scenario is “no”, but you still proved your interest in the opportunity, which can go a long way in the future.

Another last-resort effort to maintain professional growth from a rejected or rescinded job offer is to ask if they would be open to unpaid work, which could turn into a paying position at a later date. Everyone’s situation is different, so I certainly don’t recommend this for everyone, but something is better than nothing. If you can afford it, see if you can “work” 10-15 hours a week on a proposed project. If anything, you may gain more experience, add another resource to your resume and call upon another letter of recommendation. At this time, companies are seeking to reduce their workforces, especially small local businesses, so they may appreciate some free help.

For those who are still searching for opportunities:

Under the current conditions of stay-at-home orders, the best options are remote job and internships. Even if these positions aren’t within your interests, it is an opportunity that can benefit you by teaching you essential skills and offering a method of financial security. Some good options are with healthcare and emergency services as they are vital needs at the moment!

If you don’t plan to leave your college town, see if your school has opportunities. Professors may be looking for research assistants, departments might take this time for SEO and social media optimization, even local businesses may be searching for online business options. If company assignments are possible, create your own. Find a company of interest that you can resolve a problem for and create a portfolio of materials that can be delivered. Not only do you get to practice your skills, you can also introduce yourself with a sample of your work - hopefully something the company finds helpful.

Finally, another great option to set yourself apart from other future applicants is to take this time to improve yourself and your image. Take free online courses to strengthen your abilities and learn new skills! Students have free access to Khan Academy, LinkedIn Learning and more! Give your social media profiles a makeover by changing cover pictures and descriptions. Create a website to consolidate your projects and experiences into a single space. Design a business card that represents yourself and your projected brand.

In conclusion, take this time to show your skills and courage in a declining job market. How you spend your time in isolation will tell employers a lot about your work ethic and passion for your career and personal success. Still, we are human. All yourself to grieve this loss of normalcy and these rites of passage. Take time to celebrate your years of hard work and accomplishments. No matter what you are doing, know you are doing your best and that this sense of dread will pass. Be productive, but also joyful in your endeavors moving forward. Trust in your abilities as an industry professional and keep shooting for the stars, your professional journey is only beginning!

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