Updated: Nov 8
Who would’ve thought, only a year ago, that a year from now, the world would be in the state that it’s in today. Who would’ve thought, that amidst the speculation of a third World War, a financial crisis bubble crash and the ending of the world, that a virus would be the one wreaking havoc across the globe. One that has become synonymous with our daily greetings, habits and conversations. One that will always remain linked with the year that is 2020: Covid-19.
There have been over 43 million confirmed cases of Coronavirus, with over 1 million deaths globally. Although the virus itself is not considered fatal to cause death, it has been severely fatal to the world economy. In Australia alone, a total of 67% of working Australians have experienced a significant change in employment conditions, including the likes of work hours, salaries, work-from-home requirements, or clear job loss.
Fresh university graduates who stepped into this Covid-19 fighting environment don't have it easy either. Nearly 10% of individuals in Australia aged between 20 and 30 years old lost their job between March and May 2020. Because of this, many of the current final year university students are considering deferring their semesters, taking a gap year and returning to uni when the job market is more attractive. After all, what’s worse than that feeling of not having a job once you graduate, or not knowing what to do? It’s intimidating, it’s something most of us probably haven’t dealt with head on before.
So what better time to talk about it?
The Post-Covid job market is essentially the corporate world in the state in which it's in today, after the effects of Covid-19. Needless to say, I, like many others did not expect the world economy to take a complete 360 because of a virus. So what does this mean for us who are meant to enter the job market once we graduate? For most of us, the next step after university is to secure a job, one that aligns with our area of interest. What industries have been affected the most and what areas should we look towards? Is it worth taking a gap year and waiting for the situation to settle down a bit? Or will we be unemployed? Forced to enrol in a Masters’ degree, an honours program or just, more study in general?
To help expand on this topic, I’m joined by a special guest: Zak Slayback. Zak is a career and communications’ expert who studied philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania, and worked with a startup apprenticeship company Praxis where he was responsible for recruiting new business partners. He currently works as a principal at 1517 fund, a venture capital fund. His latest book, published with McGraw Hill discusses a 6 step technique to build a strong, personal brand by establishing a network of mentors and teachers, to get ahead and land more opportunities. His content typically involves tech, careers and education, and has featured in acclaimed news publications such as The Business Insider, The Muse and The New York Observer.
Approaching the Job Market
Every day the news channels make it a point to showcase a new statistic, about how the unemployment rate, GDP and level of wealth have changed as a result of Coronavirus. In the United States of America (USA), employers have had to cut over 20 million positions in the first few months, making up 15% of the American labour force. As for Australia, the unemployment rate went up to nearly 7% this quarter; resulting in a surge of unemployed workers in the market hunting for jobs.
Finding a job in today’s highly competent world is hard as it is, but even more so now because of Covid-19. A lot of employers are reconsidering the number of job openings they offer to students, especially with grad programs.
A lot of the job losses we've seen in Western, developed countries, have been service jobs. With white-collar jobs, what concerns employers is volatility, i.e. not knowing what the next 6-12 months holds. Private companies like startups may pull back on hiring to conserve some of their funding, which they may need in the future. When it comes to smaller-scaled companies, direct and simple outreach works best. Taking a systematic approach by using spreadsheet helps with this.
Identify the companies you want to work for
Research about them, find out about the work they've done
Get a hold of their contact information off their website or social media channels
Reach out to them, the old fashioned way
With big companies, a good starting point is getting in touch with individuals who've recently been hired there. Who to talk to, here's what they're looking for, and so on.
"Last year the job market was one of the best for students to graduate into. A lot has changed since then. For those interested in working for companies, regardless of whether or not they have job openings listed, you need to get started on applying weeks, maybe even months in advance. You're going to have to show the employer why they should be hiring you. Figure out the tasks they want you to do, draw out a plan and address them.
Think of it like sales. You're selling something to an organisation that doesn't know yet that it needs to buy that thing. It's a $50,000 to $100,000 product that is you. A product that expensive, usually requires some work before the company goes ahead with it."
Know that it is entirely possible for you to find companies that don't have job openings listed on their website. Companies are not too different from customers; they also may not know whether or not they need to hire you. Reaching out is a start, see how you go from there.
Industries to look out for
Among the various industries that have been severely hit by the pandemic, tourism, hospitality and retail were the big ones. Social isolation rules, customer limits and contact minimisation restrictions made it hard for companies in these areas to prosper. Alternatively, IT jobs, software solutions and online trading have experienced a surge in recruitment, 17% to be precise here in Australia. People's shopping habits on e-commerce websites have significantly changed since the pandemic started, leading to this increase in demand for online and virtual service deliveries. Chances are, these habits aren't going anywhere for the forseeable future, even after the pandemic ends.
"When businesses lay people off, they lay off the cost centres first. They don't lay off the parts of the businesses that make money, i.e. the revenue centres. E-commerce infrastructure and software companies aren't going anywhere, and are good options. Sales is an area where most people can do well fairly quickly; so positioning yourself in any kind of revenue centre for a business, such as sales, is really important.
If I were starting a company right now, I'd do so in one of the 'down' industries like hospitality, travel, even office support. All the competitors in this area are either going out of business, or going somewhere else."
Applying for a job you're not qualified for
If there's one thing this pandemic has shown our society, it's the power of uncertainty. Whilst Covid-19 has resulted in a number of job losses for some, it has also instilled a sense of resilience within others. Hospitality and retail sectors, that were hit pretty badly have also been experiencing increased job demand over the past 6 months. Students who weren't planning on doing these jobs pre-Covid, are trying their hand at these cafe work, sales assistance and customer management roles to obtain some experience before applying in their area of interest.
Not only are these jobs useful starting points for us into the workforce, they help us gather valuable experience, network connections and even a source of income that can help manage our expenditure better. It's never too late to start. Once you have substantial experience, you can proceed to looking at the higher level corporate positions most suited to your degree.
"The vast majority of job posts are not written by the people who will be actually managing the applicant; they're written by HR people. Fast growing companies that are doing well often struggle with not being able to hire good people fast enough. So in a small company, if you can convey to the hiring manager (who is usually the CEO) that you're a good, skilled applicant so they can hire you fast enough; you're solving a problem for them."
Job descriptions themselves, often don't mean as much to the person actually accountable for the hiring. If you see a position that you feel you're not qualified enough for, chances are you're more qualified than you think. When you reach out to these companies, be forthcoming and transparent if you don't possess work experience. Tell them if you don't have it, but also state what you do have that can make up for it. Show examples: a project, a personal portfolio, anything that proves why you have what it takes.
Include a Cover Letter!
While a lot of people think cover letters are irrelevant now, it's essentially the opposite. For a hiring manager who potentially receives thousands of applications for a job, majority of them will have just a resume, and not a cover letter. These are typically the ones that get thrown into the bin, because the first step in the hiring process for the recruiters is to filter out the good applications from the bad ones.
"Just because the description states it as 'optional', it's not really optional, especially if you want the job. The cover letter shows the hiring manager that you want that job. So after eliminating the 'trash' applications, they're going to see who actually put in the work. Next, they might throw out the stock cover letters, the one that doesn't reference their company. Then they come down to the select few that talk about relevant work experience, reference the company and give examples. Hiring someone is a big deal for a company, so put in the work."
While having a well structured resume is important with your job application, supporting it with a cover letter is what really sets you apart from the other candidates. A cover letter that specifically talks about the company you're applying for, will show the hiring managers why they should be hiring you. Simply building a strong LinkedIn profile and obtaining work experience just for the sake of having an additional point to have in your resume, won't matter if you are unable to convey that directly to the company. As tempting as it may seem, avoid copy pasting one cover letter for every job. Tailor it to the company, mention some of their work, case studies and clientele, give examples and sell yourself.
Learn and Brush up relevant skills
Over the past few years, online course platforms such as Skillshare, Udemy, Khan Academy and even YouTube have grown significantly, providing students with access to hundreds of classes for a price much lower than university. Universities are also speculating the potential threat these platforms have on the total intake of students wanting to pursue higher education. On these sites, students can learn skills about pretty much any subject area, ranging from business, marketing SEO, graphic design, IT management, online trading, investments, photography, music and so on. One would think that why bother coming to university when you can learn whatever you need for a fraction of the price?
For example, take a Marketing student is looking to apply for a job in Digital Marketing, Advertising or Marketing Strategy. For this student, learning photoshop, video editing, graphic designing and SEO would be more beneficial and relevant versus learning about some Marketing theory taught in class once upon a time. These are the skills employers are looking for, and these are the skills they would have to teach a student as part of the job requirements. So if you're able to learn these in your own time, you'd make their job that much easier, increasing your chances of getting hired. Remember that everyone uploads a resume, but not everyone has what the company really needs, on that resume.
"Nobody goes to university to learn, they go for a credential. Students absolutely need to be focusing on the relevant, tangible skills that they'll use in the real world. The degree works as a hiring tool, telling the employer that you can be trained well enough for 3-5 years. Another sign of this is you being able to go out and learn whatever you need by yourself."
By highlighting relevant skills in your cover letter, you're essentially telling the employer that they would be saving precious time and energy associated with training someone on using social media analytics, photoshop, graphic design, etc.; by hiring you, who already knows and has used those before. Show them your personal portfolio, a website, a blog, a financial report you worked on for a client, a team-based project similar to what you can expect in the workplace. With all the talk about productivity during Covid-19 right now, learning and brushing up these relevant skills is right up at the top.
A recruiter for a job would be receiving tons of applications. Each of those would have a resume, and each resume would likely have a degree. Having these tangible skills would separate yourself from the other candidates. Similarly, direct outrach through a cold email or a cold call allows you to pitch yourself personally, which isn't as feasible through traditional application. It's useful to have alternate ways of accomplishing what you want. Legal ones of course.
Getting a job isn't easy. Then again, neither is anything else in life worth having.
For a brief video about this topic, visit YouTube
For a brief summary of this blog post, visit Medium
We offer our sincere gratitude to today's guest- Zak Slayback, check out:
Zak's website- https://zakslayback.com/