Nine Tips for Building Marketable Skills (and Best Positioning Yourself for a Job) During a Quarantine
CCPD is actively curating online resources to help students and alumni learn about remote/virtual opportunities, organizations still hiring, job boards, and financial resources related to COVID-19. Find them at: Career Development Resources During COVID-19.
Below are nine tips for maximizing your time during COVID-19 to help you find a job or internship and/or enhance your professional development. We hope these will help you think through ways to build your skills, grow your network, and gain experiences that will ultimately help you land a great job. CCPD continues to support students and alumni virtually through one-on-one appointments, targeted programming, and group sessions. Contact CCPD at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to schedule an appointment.
1) Self-assess to articulate your skills and strengths
All of this social distancing may give more time for reflection. Self-assessment tools like TypeFocus Careers and the CliftonStrengths inventory can help you identify and articulate your values, skills, interests, and personality preferences. You can discover what kind of occupations people similar to you are often engaged in, learn how to engage more effectively with others and capitalize on your strengths, and talk more persuasively about yourself to prospective employers. Students and alumni can access TypeFocus by contacting CCPD at email@example.com. Students can learn more about the CliftonStrengths assessment by contacting Lisa Dela Cruz, Director of Mosaic and the Residential Experience, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) Update your resume and make sure it matches your goal
You know how you’re always putting off tackling your resume? Well, now may be a great time to dust it off. A professional resume is not the same as the high school resume you likely used to apply to college. A professional resume must be targeted toward each specific opportunity to which you’re applying. Make sure you focus on skills and experiences that best align with your goal. If your goal is to become a data scientist, then include experience from class projects, internships, research, student involvement, etc. that best highlights your quantitative skills. If your goal is to get a job in public relations, then make sure you are showcasing experiences that highlight your communication and writing skills.
The CCPD website provides a variety of resources to help you write self-marketing materials, including templates and samples of resumes and cover letters.
3) Build and organize your online brand
As everyone spends even more time online, capitalize on tools to create and advertise your personal brand. Get your LinkedIn and PirateConnect profiles up-to-date using content from your resume. Consider creating an e-portfolio and/or blog where you can organize your accomplishments. Free website providers such as WordPress or Wix will allow you to make your own site. Increase your social media presence by following brands, organizations, and people that interest you. Document your success stories and proclaim your passions (for example, a post about your Research and Creative Works Symposium project could highlight your skills in research, content or data analysis, and writing). “If it’s not online, it didn’t happen,” one employer told us!
4) Volunteer virtually: Make a difference while gaining valuable experience
We’re all in this global crisis together. Even if you’re not on the front lines, you can contribute. And while you do so, you can develop marketable skills and career insights. Volunteer virtually by transcribing documents for museums, being a crisis text line responder, or helping as a resource navigator for immigrant families. DoSomething provides another list of organizations that have virtual volunteer opportunities, including well-known entities such as the United Nations and the Smithsonian.
5) Think entrepreneurially: Create your own opportunity
Organizations are swamped right now trying to pivot and contingency-plan. They could benefit from your expertise and time, but don’t have the bandwidth to even figure out how. Just because an organization doesn’t have an internship to apply to listed on its website doesn’t mean you couldn’t create an amazing opportunity for yourself. Rather than approaching the employer by asking for an internship, do a little research on the organization, think about where your skills could help, and reach out expressing interest in their work and asking how you can help right now. Follow this eight-step guide about writing an email pitching an internship.
6) Learn new technical skills and improve existing ones
Technical skills are essential career-readiness skills in all industries. You don’t necessarily have to be a programmer, but you’ll need basic (and evolving) proficiency in many technical platforms throughout your career. Good news: Now you have time to grow those skills! From Excel to coding, you can find online tutorials on YouTube, LinkedInLearning or other apps.
7) Earn free online certifications
In some industries, certifications give you even more leverage – or may be essential – for getting hired. Signal you are knowledgeable (and serious) about entering a specific occupation or industry by adding relevant certifications to your resume. Take this time to earn free certifications such as Hubspot, Salesforce, and/or Google Analytics that will add both skills and value to your resume. Harvard University offers a variety of free short-term courses on numerous topics.
8) Enhance your language skills
Intercultural fluency is another essential career-readiness skill. Learning other languages and understanding their associated cultures increases your reach with current and prospective employers, clients, and customers. Apps like Duolingo or virtual meet-ups with partner learners across the globe can help you grow your language and cultural proficiency. And while you’re stuck at home and can’t travel, language learning can give you excitement and hope for the future.
9) Network, network, network (Wait, let’s say it again: Network!)
If you’re a Southwestern University liberal arts student or graduate you’re probably curious and possess strong research skills. Put those strengths to use by holding “curious conversations.” Maybe you’ve heard the more common term “informational interviews,” but we love this more descriptive label describing the simple process that is networking – or talking to people about what they do, how they got there, and what advice they can offer you. Not only do you learn more about different professions and organizations, but you also create advocates for yourself and your own personal job or internship search. The more people in the world who know who you are, know what you are trying to achieve, and have a positive impression of you, the more opportunities will come your way.
Who should you talk to? And how should you do so? Start with SU’s own exclusive PirateConnect community as well as leveraging LinkedIn’s 575+ million global users. Reach out to CCPD – we can recommend and help you connect with Southwestern alumni and community members working in fields that interest you. They are out there and ready and willing to help! What should you say when you connect? This article has helpful networking templates to follow.