I’ve always envisioned my graduation ceremony to be something grand and exciting. I pictured myself walking onto the stage, in my graduation gown with my family cheering me on. I imagined myself snapping pictures with my friends, bouquets of flowers in hand, tossing our mortar boards in the air – but alas COVID-19 happened and that image quickly became a distant dream.
I’m sure for many of us fresh graduates, the last few months leading up to the last official day of school was totally a blur. I remembered my classes being cancelled and all the events I had planned for my Final Year Project (FYP), being cancelled without warning. What started as so-called #lastsembestsem became a total rollercoaster of fear and uncertainty. But of course, time waits for no one (not even a global pandemic) and just like that, we were graduates. No final hurrahs, no graduation ceremonies, nada.
I felt totally confused being thrust into the adulting world without any form of closure from my 16 years of formal education. All of a sudden, we were expected to look for jobs and somehow have it all together, despite the world literally crumbling before our very eyes.
I had applied for multiple jobs before the outbreak of COVID-19, and while I had received some job offers, over time they started getting fewer and farther between. I had heard horror stories of friends who had secured job offers way beforehand having their job offers rescinded, or others who had almost secured jobs but were suddenly rejected at the final hurdle because companies were freezing their hiring positions. Personally, I had secured a position at Nimble but feared every day that I would also be among one of those who would have their job offers rescinded. Thankfully that didn’t happen and I’m truly grateful to be even given the opportunity to work during this pandemic.
With all that being said, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, during the first few weeks of Circuit Breaker (CB), my mind was all over the place. Fast forward a few months, I think I have now found a routine that I wanted to share that got me through this period. Here are some tips that got me through CB and I think would really help any fresh grads out there feeling defeated or stuck.
TIP 1: UPDATE YOUR RESUME
Yes, I’m sure you are all internally groaning right now, because let’s face it, updating one’s resume is definitely A CHORE. All that aside, there’s really no better time than right now. If you’re starting to apply for jobs, make sure to update your resume to present your latest achievements – don’t shortchange yourself! Even if you have been applying for jobs and are getting rejected, take this time to sit down and relook at what could be improved on.
Is your resume too long? Is it too outdated? Is it not visually appealing? Start by asking yourself these questions. Furthermore, there are so many free resume assessment softwares out there that can help you rate your resume and pick out which specific areas to improve on.
In that same vein, learn to brush up on your cover letter writing skills as well. Quick show of hands if you are guilty of copying and pasting the same text for your cover letter and only changing the company name? Not only is that lazy, there is also a high chance of you forgetting to change the company name before submitting your application (MAJOR NO-NO!).
Plus, you also miss the chance to sincerely point out what attracted you to applying for the role in the first place. Employers are looking for people who will be the best fit for their company, sending a generic cover letter is just not going to cut it. Doing your research and crafting a cover letter unique to that company will definitely make you STAND OUT!
TIP 2: TRAIN YOUR INTERVIEW SKILLS
While resumes and cover letters may get your foot through the door, interviews will get you the JOB! With COVID-19, most interviews are being held online which is a bonus. There’s less worry about meeting your potential employers face to face, or risk turning up late for your interview because you got lost. That being said, don’t be complacent. Learn to familiarise yourself with the video software you are using so that you won’t be fumbling during the actual interview.
Also, make use of the virtual interview setting to your advantage. You can prepare talking points on a document on your screen and refer to those as you speak so that you don’t end up rambling or going off tangent. Think of questions to ask your potential employers at the end of the interview session and prepare answers to commonly asked interview questions.
Another hack is to make use of interview coaches that most schools provide. Even after I’ve graduated, my school still sends us links to book interview sessions with career coaches for free. YES, FREE! Take advantage of all these resources at your fingertips to help you prepare for that job interview.
TIP 3: IT’S OK TAKE A BREAK
While finding a job is important as a fresh graduate, it is also important for you to reward yourself! You’ve just completed 3 or 4 years of university or polytechnic life and that’s something worth celebrating. With the ample amount of free time we have now, take the chance to pick up a new skill you’ve been wanting to try out or simply sleep in a little bit longer. In the 2 months of free time I had before I started work, I managed to cross a lot of the things off my to-do list and it honestly felt really rewarding. Don’t stress yourself out too much with trying to secure a job and end up neglecting your own well-being.
Once you feel recharged and well rested, you can go ahead and resume your job search journey. There is no rush.
With that being said, I hope these tips have been helpful in some way or another. Graduating during a pandemic is definitely no easy feat, but to the Class of 2020, we got this!