6 ways to find an internship or entry-level job despite COVID-19

Posted October 22, 2020 by

Let’s acknowledge that the unemployment rate was pretty low until the COVID pandemic hit, but let’s also acknowledge that the bulk of new jobs were low wage, required few skills, offered only part-time hours, or some combination of these. In other words, although the vast majority of people who wanted to work were working, few were in jobs they liked and which paid well.

Then…COVID hit. Within weeks, tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs and, for many, also their healthcare insurance. The worst hit were those at the beginning of their careers as they were the most likely to be employed by restaurants, brick-and-mortar retailers, hotels, and other service industries. Those with jobs in offices and outdoors were largely spared from the unemployment ranks, although no one has been entirely spared the disastrous effects of this pandemic.

If you’re a student seeking an internship or recent graduate seeking an entry-level job during this pandemic, it is very likely that you’re struggling. The job market this fall is far, far worse than last fall, the fall before it, or the fall before it. There are some strategies you can use, however, to increase the likelihood of landing that great internship or entry-level job:

  1. Network. Many think of networking as asking friends and family for a job or at least job leads. That can be a part of it, but the most successful networkers don’t ask for help. They offer it. Do you know of a small businessperson who is likely struggling to keep their doors open and might want help with their accounting or even tidying their shelves? Do you know of a parent with school-aged kids who could really, really use a tutor? Offer to help. Inevitably, most of the people you help will want to reciprocate. When they ask how, ask them for the names of two people you can talk with who might know of an internship or entry-level job that lines up with your competencies, interests, and values. Keep repeating that process. Eventually, one of those people will refuse to give you two names not because they’re a jerk but because they will want to hire you.
  2. Practice makes perfect. I’ve never met a candidate who thinks they interview poorly, yet few actually interview well. Due to COVID, almost all interviews are by phone or video. No one is born knowing how to use a phone or video conferencing software, let alone know how to use it well. I’m not talking about your technical aptitude for knowing how to start the call and be familiar with the controls. I’m talking about what you should say, when, and how. Do you speak too quickly? Not quickly enough? Too loudly? Not loudly enough? Do you make eye contact in video calls? Is your eye contact too intense? Learn how to ace your phone interview and how to be great at video interviewing and then practice with your friends or family until it is second nature.
  3. Pursue temp-to-perm opportunities. Few think of internships as temporary jobs, but they are. Fewer even think of them as temporary positions designed to lead to permanent jobs, but internships are temp-to-perm jobs. If you’re struggling to find an internship, turn your attention to other temp-to-perm jobs. Look for seasonal jobs, many of which are being advertised now with the holidays right around the corner. Some of the employers offering these temporary jobs will keep their best temporary employees by converting them into permanent employees. Be one of those.
  4. Market your transferrable skills. A lot of job seekers read a job posting ad and don’t apply because the employer has listed preferences or even requirements that the candidate doesn’t think they have. That’s sometimes true, but often times it isn’t. For example, an employer might advertise for someone who has been a swimming instructor. You haven’t been, but you were a lifeguard. Your skills as a lifeguard are likely to transfer to the job even though you weren’t a swimming instructor. You may have skills that aren’t quite what the employer specified but which the employer would consider to be equivalent. Should they do a better job of writing their job posting ads? Sure. But are you more interested in withholding your services from an employer that failed to do a great job of writing the posting or being hired? Consider their preferences and requirements. If you can make a case that you satisfy most of them then apply.
  5. Customize your resume every time you apply to a job. One of the biggest mistakes made by students searching for internships and recent graduates hunting for entry-level jobs is applying to too many jobs. We sometimes hear of candidates who literally have applied to hundreds of jobs. The problem with that approach is that they likely haven’t done a good job of applying to any. Yes, job hunting is a numbers game, but the likelihood of being hired is not driven solely by the number of jobs you apply to. It is mostly driven by how well you apply to those jobs. Studies show that the optimal number of jobs to apply to is five. Yes. Five. Only five. If you’re only applying to five jobs, you can afford the time to really research the organization, people who are connected to the organization you should network with, and customize your resume so that the keywords in it perfectly match with the relevant keywords in their job posting ad. If they say that they want someone who has experience as a swim instructor, then update your resume to indicate in your description of your work as a lifeguard that much of what you did was similar to the work done by a swim instructor. That way, your resume will come up when the employer keyword searches the resumes to look only at those from candidates who indicated they had experience as swim instructors.
  6. Stay up-to-date with your job search. Our job match alert emails will send you only jobs that match your interests as they’re posted to our site and you can unsubscribe whenever you want. We also post new career-related blog articles virtually every week and often several times a week and share those on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Finding a part-time, seasonal, internship, or entry-level job during this COVID pandemic is hard, but I hope that these six tips made it a little easier for you.

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