04.30.2020

Dear College Graduates…

Some Advice For Entering a Post-COVID Workforce

In the last week, I’ve received a half-dozen emails from concerned college students looking down the barrel of starting their careers during a pandemic. It’s been scary for all of us, but can you imagine leaving the comforts of a college campus and stepping foot into this dystopian nightmare? Yikes.

As I’ve been thoughtfully responding to each email, a few key themes stand out, and I wanted to put them down on paper for new college graduates looking for a little career advice on how to find employment against frightening odds.

1. Embrace what makes you desirable

So, here’s the thing: New grads are kinda perfect for this new world order.

They’re hungry. They’re cheap. They bring new ideas to the table (and we desperately need new ideas). They’re already accustomed to remote working. They’ve grown up on the internet. They all already have incredible websites and resumes. And outstanding video production is second nature to them. (Seriously, how is all the TikTok content so good?) Best of all, the smart ones are already reaching out and forming connections with people like me.

In other words, smart young professionals have the opportunity to position themselves as pandemic-proof labor that will give your business a leg up for whatever the future holds. I actually think that message sells.

2. Position yourself against peers

Why you, specifically?

I always ask this during interviews, and I can count the number of memorable responses on one hand. Young professionals must have a persuasive answer to this question, and it can’t be because you’re a hard worker. Work ethic and desire are table stakes. What specifically distinguishes you from the next interviewee? Why are you any better than your peers?

This obviously isn’t an easy question, but that’s why the answer is so valuable. It’s your own personal brand distinction.

If after thinking about this for a while, you can’t identify a good answer, then that should inspire you to take action. Start a blog. Get certified. Read industry news. Make and create and publish. Do something—anything—that makes you stand out.

3. Grind, hustle, get gritty— and whatever the next buzzword for “work hard” is

I graduated with a journalism degree in May 2008, so I know a thing or two about plans falling apart.

When my local paper laid off 80% of its staff just weeks before my graduation, I remember Googling “public relations internships Denver” and spending hours crafting custom emails to anyone that might hire someone like me. I managed to land an internship at a great PR shop in Denver, and I legitimately worked my ass off to get hired full-time. Then, after thinking I had somehow successfully pivoted, within six months the economy collapsed and my agency—the oldest and largest agency in Denver at the time—suddenly shuttered. For the next 10 months, I learned the true meaning of “hustle” while I collected unemployment checks, before finally getting rehired.

That period of my life radically changed who I am and how I work, and I hope it lights a fire under the asses of new graduates, too.

The smart ones are already grinding—I’ve got the emails to prove it.

Note: This piece was originally published on our CJ Powell’s LinkedIn page. 

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