Without a doubt, the pandemic has affected the career plans of many people including students. But you shouldn’t let it sideline you altogether.
If you are in college or university right now, yes, you should have some fun and make friends. But it’s never too early to start thinking about how to prepare yourself for the job market when you graduate.
Here are a few steps you should take now:
Think about how you present yourself to others
Some call this “branding” – a term normally reserved for businesses or products. But the concept applies equally to individuals. Personal branding is the image or impression you form in the eyes of others. Some say it is “what people say about you when you leave the room.”
Your personal brand is influenced by many things including your actions, how you dress, and your social media presence. Here is a great article on the subject from Forbes magazine called 10 Golden Rules of Personal Branding. You might also want to check out www.DorieClark.com who is considered the personal branding expert and has published several good books on the topic.
Complete online assessment tests
Assessment testing is a worthwhile process to go through as it can be a great way to discover interests or skills you didn’t know you have. It can also be useful in helping with course selection and directing you toward a career path.
There are many tests available online and your school’s career services area might have some available to you. One popular test is Clifton Strengths 34. (It was previously called StrengthsFinder.) There is a cost associated with completing it, but it is very good.
The Personal Values Assessment test is also a great tool. It’s free and I am sure you will find your results informative.
Take advantage of public speaking opportunities
This is becoming harder to do as so many classes are delivered online now. But without a doubt, public speaking is one of the most important skills for the workplace. If you are good at public speaking you will project confidence and this is an effective way to differentiate yourself from your peers.
The only way to get better at public speaking is through practice. You should take advantage of every opportunity to practise such as making presentations, volunteering to introduce guest speakers, and offering to be the spokesperson for your team.
You might want to check out Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie programs. Both are well-established organizations that help people improve their public speaking. You can also visit www.TED.com to watch great speakers in action.
Visit the career centre on campus
Every university and community college has a career centre. You may not be able to visit in-person now but you should still take advantage of the resources available to you. The career counsellors are there to help you learn about different career options, tell you about permanent and summer-time job opportunities, and help prepare your resume and cover letter. You should be on a first-name basis with the staff in your career center.
Start building your resume
You should start thinking about activities that will strengthen your resume. Clearly, the best strategy is to gain practical work experience—related to your career interests—through part-time, summer-time, or co-op work
But you should also think about how you might use your university years to diversify your skills. Perhaps you might learn a new language or study a new technology. Not only will these new skills make you a more interesting person, they might be the deciding factor for an employer when it comes down to deciding between two otherwise equally-qualified candidates.