Tips for College Students and Recent Grads: How to Find a Job During the Pandemic

Becca Cornell
Mar 17, 2021

As if the end of the 2020 academic year wasn't enough of a reality check that the pandemic was in control, trying to step into the job market was probably the icing on the cake.   Whether you’ve just graduated or are still in school, finding a job might already seem hard enough, nevermind finding a job during a pandemic. You're not alone, and though that probably doesn't make you feel better, we're here to help.    If you’re struggling to find a job right now, these tips may help increase your chances of securing employment.   

Consider your urgency needs and adjust accordingly

How urgently you need a job will change your approach to your job search. It’s important to adjust your expectations and efforts based on your immediate needs.   If you were laid-off because of the coronavirus, for example, you may have some savings. This slightly decreases the urgency of finding immediate employment. It doesn’t mean you don’t need a job, of course. But it does mean you have more time to wait for the right job to come along.   At the other end of the spectrum is the recent college graduate with no savings and with student loan repayments looming. Their urgency is much higher. And while they would prefer a position they spent the last four years studying for, they may need to settle for any job that presents itself.   

Use your network – virtually

Reach out to everyone on every social network you have. Use LinkedIn, your college’s alumni association, and Facebook or other social platforms to connect with as many people as possible. Referrals can be from friends and family members as well as former professors and other professional connections you’ve made, even if you’re just loosely associated with them.   Ask if they or their companies are hiring and if they can help you spread the word that you’re looking for a job. Many companies prefer to hire via referrals rather than from job boards, so it’s actually a strategy that can make your efforts worthwhile.   Networking isn’t a new concept, of course, and you’ve probably attended some networking events in person already. Hopefully, the contacts you made at those events are now connections on your LinkedIn page. Certainly networking virtually is much less time consuming and strenuous than attending events in person, which are other benefits of following this strategy.   Networking is not just something to check off the box that you've tried to secure a job, keep in mind that building lasting connections with people takes time and effort just as your personal relationships do. Consider learning more about how to network properly so you can open yourself to more opportunities down the line.   recent grad talking on the phone and checking laptop Photo by @InLightOut via Twenty20

Do some research and gather intel

Do some research on the industries and companies you think you’d like to work for, making sure to target those that are still doing well and seem to be hiring during the pandemic.    Gathering this type of information will allow you to make the most of your time spent applying. You want to make sure you’re applying to businesses that are actively hiring instead of to a position that was left up on a job board, but the company is now unable to hire anyone for the foreseeable future.   Pro tip: For any company that is not diligent about updating job boards, perhaps consider that company again. That attention to detail is important in this case, maybe that company doesn't have their act together and you should look for other options.  

Practice your interview skills

Your interview skills are always ones you should practice when job searching. There are plenty of videos on YouTube you can watch for interview tips, like this one from Indeed and this one from’s Richard McMunn that targets Zoom interviews specifically.   Instead of simply rehearsing questions in your head, get a friend or colleague to give you a mock Zoom interview.   Phone interviews and virtual interviews, whether on Zoom or FaceTime, should be practiced so you’re comfortable with the format. One complaint about online meetings is that body language is largely lost; another is that eye contact can seem like staring contests. It's better to overcome those issues during practice sessions than in actual interview situations.   person writing resume on a laptop sitting on the couch  

Update, upgrade, and customize your resume

Update your resume so that it includes every recent job, and make sure to select the format that is best for your situation. For example, a functional resume emphasizes skills, instead of work experience. This is good for recent graduates and students, who likely haven’t worked at many jobs yet.   You should customize your resume for each job you apply to. It’s easy to do this by moving your most relevant qualifications and skills to the top of the related section in your resume. This way you make sure they’re the first things a recruiter or hiring manager sees.   More >> This is a great time to add indispensable transferrable skills to your resume for recruiters to see. Who knows, they might be the differentiator between you and other candidates.  

Customize your applications and cover letters too

Do the same thing in your cover letters and in the applications themselves, if you’re able. This means you curate your resume/cover letter to match the job you're trying to go after.  So, your cover letters for a graphic design job and for a job as an account representative will be very different.   This can be extremely helpful if you're trying to shorten your resume from multiple pages to just one. Pick the most relevant experience and skills required for the specific job you're after and leave the rest off.   This doesn’t mean fabricating experience. It means that you apply your past experience in different ways, highlighting the skills you’ve acquired that are important to the job you’re applying for.  

Following up is more important than ever

Following up post-interview is a common practice. And you can touch base more than once during the process.   For instance, you can confirm whether your application has been received. You can send a thank you email after an initial phone call with a recruiter. Certainly, a call or email after an interview is expected by recruiters and hiring managers, and in this communication  you can confirm what was said and the date and time of the next interview, if applicable. The last follow-up would be once an offer is extended; in this email, you’ll confirm your understanding of the terms of employment and whether or not you accept.    Following up throughout the entire hiring process shows how engaged you are in the process, how interested you are in the company and the position, and keeps you top of mind with the hiring manager and HR.   black woman working on her iPad in an office Photo by Christina @

Consider freelance, contract, and part-time work

If you're still not finding jobs that align with your experience, consider part-time, contract or freelance work. While these might not always be an ideal or long-term solution, they can buy you more time to find the right full-time, permanent position. This goes back to knowing your own urgency.   When you need cash quickly, you can use your car to drive people around or deliver packages. Companies including Amazon, UPS, and Grubhub are always looking for drivers. Helping people out, by walking their dogs or organizing their closets, can bring in money too. Tutoring is another service you may be able to offer, and it's something you can do online.  

Upgrade your skills

In addition to helping you to make ends meet, freelance, contract, or part-time work can help you increase your skill sets. Not only will this make you better at whatever interim job you’ve taken, it will make you a more attractive candidate for hire.   There are other ways you can upgrade your skills. You can earn valuable certificates through online courses, for example. Make sure you add them to your resume and LinkedIn page under “Licenses and Certifications.”   

Stay current with industry news and trends

Staying on top of industry news and trends gives you intelligent talking points you can use during your interviews. Being up-to-date and able to discuss industry trends, advancements, and news will show your expertise within your field and your interest in your work as well.   The coronavirus has shifted the way we learn, work, and live, but humans are adaptable. While the job market looks different than it once did, there are still industries that are thriving and still jobs to be found. 

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