The job and internship search continues:Tips for navigating your search during the COVID-19 pandemic
Updated: May 18
There is a lot of uncertainty with the current job market, but this should not cause you to abandon your job or internship search. Some companies may pause or cancel hiring processes, don’t panic, instead adjust your job search steps to make the most of your time and online efforts. Things are changing quickly, here is how you can adjust as well.
Deploy multiple job and internship search strategies
While we suggest every student start a job or internship search using Handshake because the employers there are specifically targeting Lehigh students, it should not be the only resource you use. Unique job boards connected to industries can be helpful such as government jobs on usajobs.gov or non-profit organizations on idealist.org. You also may gather leads based on the feedback from your network, participate in virtual career fairs or conferences, and explore remote jobs. Don’t rely on just one application method, but deploy multiple action steps.
Update your resume
Your resume is typically your first introduction and key opportunity to convince employers that they should interview you. Yet, you have a limited amount of time to make an impression, with employers spending only about 6-10 seconds reviewing a resume before deciding if a candidate is a good fit or not. Many companies also use Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software to screen resumes, passing off only the top candidates to actual human recruiters.
For all of these reasons, it is essential that you make your resume the best it can be—and now is a great time to do it. Identify your personal brand and strongest selling points. Highlight your unique accomplishments and transferable skills. Optimize your resume with keywords and customize it each time you apply to a different position or company. Check out all our resume development advice on the Handshake resource page, resume tile.
Cultivate your professional network
Social distancing doesn’t mean that you have to put networking on hold. In fact, this might be an ideal time to cultivate professional relationships, with most people having extra time at home and a need to interact with others.
Modern technology makes this easy too. Use Lehigh Connects to browse thousands of Lehigh alumni profiles, all of whom have volunteered to assist you with career prep and exploration. You can schedule a virtual meeting or phone call to learn more about their experiences and get advice for your job or internship search steps. The Lehigh alumni tool on LinkedIn also provides access to alumni profiles, which you can filter to identify someone in a position, company or industry of interest. Ask to connect and use the messaging tool to start a conversation. Gather information and advice that apply to your job or internship search.
What does work look like for you right now?
Do you know if your company's hiring or interviewing plans will be impacted by COVID -19?
Could you refer me to someone that might be able to answer questions about your summer hiring schedule?
What online interview tools does your company expect to deploy during social distancing?
Are there options for remote work in your field?
What skills can I work on from home that will build my competitiveness in the field?
What job boards would you suggest I focus my attention on?
If hiring is frozen for the next few weeks, what steps do you suggest I take in the meantime to be ready for future applications and interviews?
It’s also important to lean on your established network. Identify individuals you already know, even if they are not connected to the jobs and industries of interest. Share via text or email your interests and next career goals to see where you can make connections. “Did you know I am studying marketing? I am looking for a summer internship in the field, do you have recommendations of individuals who I can speak with?” Don’t forget to post to social media as well. “Home early for the semester and making the most of my time with online applications! Does anyone know of full-time graphic design openings in NYC?”
Your existing network includes:
Co-workers of your parents
Embrace the sense of community by participating in an online forum or joining in the chat during a webinar. COVID-19 is a shared global experience, building relationships virtually that can impact your job or internship options and next steps now and in the future.
Improve and update your online profiles
As part of the hiring process today, many employers check a candidate’s online presence to learn more about them. This may be even more prevalent in the COVID-19 climate with employers having limited access to candidates in person. Take this opportunity to establish a professional online brand that you would be proud for prospective employers to see. Google yourself and clean up any inappropriate or questionable content on your social media pages. Create a LinkedIn profile, if you don’t already have one and be sure it includes the updated information listed on your resume and a professional headshot. Depending on your industry, you might also consider developing a digital portfolio or a website to showcase your work (media, graphics, presentations, research, publications, etc.). You should also complete your handshake profile and make sure you have it visible to employers.
Build new skills
Use your time at home to build new skills or improve skills that can get you ahead in your career. Study a foreign language, learn a new technical skill, read journals or research studies, or listen to a podcast related to your industry of interest. You may be able to complete an online certificate program or join a professional organization.
Need ideas of what skills would be most valuable? Browse the Handshake job board and use the filters (key word, academic major, industry, etc.) to identify positions that you would like to apply to. Do you meet all the requirements? What skills does the employer list as desired or needed for the position? Look for gaps between your resume and the listed skills employers include in job postings, then identify ways you could improve your knowledge or experience with those areas.
Practice virtual interviewing
In the wake of COVID-19, many companies have changed recruiting strategies to reduce or eliminate in-person interactions. For jobseekers, this means virtual interviews—so be prepared to take your next interview digitally. Begin practicing today by using Big Interview. Choose an at-home interview space with a neutral background and be sure to check and practice with new technology. Before the interview its important to spend time researching the company, practice responding to commonly asked questions by webcam, and become comfortable using the digital tools in an interview format. You may find it helpful to review the “Digital Interviewing: Pants option blog post”.
Follow up on completed applications
Start by connecting to a recruiter or employee in the same department/company on LinkedIn, which you can do by requesting to connect and including a short note with an introduction. It also may be helpful to reach out to someone in HR directly. Visit the company website and look up contact information for Human Resources. Make a call or send an email but be cautious to ask only general information about their hiring process and not your status (which is often not shared).
I recently applied for the _________ position and I was inquiring to learn about the hiring timeline. Can you share information about when they expect to extend interview offers or an anticipated start date for the role? I would be happy to reach out to the hiring manager directly if you are able to refer me.
Get help from the Career Center
You don’t have to do this alone! Although not physically on campus, the career center staff is available to support you remotely in several ways including remote career lab and 1-on-1 virtual meetings. Take advantage of online resources, virtual appointments, workshops, and even walk in help during remote career labs. Whether you’re looking for an internship, or getting ready for life after graduation—the career center is here to help and can provide guidance specific to your goals as well as the current situation. Learn details about all our services here.
Through all of this, try to be patient if it takes employers longer than usual to get back to you after applications or interviews. With the move to remote work and unexpected organizational changes, there may be delays in the hiring or communication process. With the uncertain economic state, it is important that you use your time to maximize your career readiness and make yourself as marketable as possible. While it is true that some industries have slowed down hiring, others have not and many even have an increased demand for talent in the wake of COVID-19. So stay hopeful, wash your hands, and adjust your job search steps so that you can continue to make progress toward your career goals.
Thank you to guest bloggers Katharine Marianacci, Career Coach for the College of Engineering and Andrea Reger, Career Coach for the College of Arts & Sciences.