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As someone with one child in college and another enrolling soon, the concept of how new college graduates can best find employment is of paramount concern to me. As we enter the post-pandemic era it’s no surprise that the rules have changed, the old methods may no longer remain viable and graduates need to be nimble and informed to make their college educations pay off.

SEE: Juggling remote work with kids’ education is a mammoth task. Here’s how employers can help (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

I spoke to six experts in the field to get their input on what graduates should focus upon in 2021 and moving forward.

How the current landscape looks for graduates

Career coach Kyle Elliott of Caffeinated Kyle, said, “The job market is taking a turn for the better. Job prospects are even stronger for recent graduates as many companies are now opening entry-level roles that require zero to a few years of experience. In fact, many of my clients in Silicon Valley, Seattle, Austin, New York and other large metropolitan areas have experienced increased inbound outreach on LinkedIn from recruiters.

“Increased vaccine distribution, an improved economy and rebound hiring are making it easier for recent graduates to find jobs. Employers plan to hire more graduates from the class of 2021 than they did from last year’s graduating class.

“The hospitality and tourism industries have taken hits throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic. While these industries are now making a comeback as more people receive vaccines and stimulus checks, they still face uncertainty as the economy continues to recover and employers slowly begin hiring again.”

SEE: The Great Resignation of 2021: Are 30% of workers really going to quit? (TechRepublic)

The workforce is changing, too.

“The class of 2021 is entering the workforce at a time when the traditional aspects of the workplace experience are being called into question,” said Jewell Parkinson, chief people officer at iCIMS, an enterprise recruiting platform provider. “On one hand, there are established communities for whom flexibility is paramount, but on the other is this up-and-coming generation who want and need the experience of social connection and ingraining themselves within a culture and learning in a physical environment. As businesses consider their next steps, they cannot ignore the impact of how and where they work will have on their ability to attract, engage, hire and advance talent and be successful.”

Ed Barrientos, CEO of Brazen, an HR software solutions provider, pointed out the impact that the pandemic had on these new graduates.

“The graduating class of 2021 began distanced learning as juniors in college, and are now gearing up to graduate in the next month or so,” he said. “In this time, they learned remotely and many missed out on internships, networking opportunities and connections that new grads typically lean on upon graduating to enter the workforce.”

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Graduates can use the skills they gained from remote learning in the workplace.

“Universities and companies have partnered to host virtual career fairs across the country with virtual event solutions championing every step of the ‘new graduate’ journey: from online classes to virtual graduation, virtual career events and ultimately virtual interviewing and hiring,” Barrientos said. “With a full year of leveraging the scale of virtual solutions, students, universities and employers have hit their stride and can enjoy the full potential of the virtual shift with one common goal—getting new grads hired.”

With remote work, employers have learned that they don’t need to look over workers’ shoulders to ensure the work gets done. “As this universal experiment unfolded over the past year, employers learned that entry-level employees are adding value even if the manager isn’t there to oversee them,” he said. “This will give new grads entering the workforce more flexibility, as well as more responsibility than ever before.”

SEE: Burned out on burnout: Companies may be trying too hard to ease employee stress (TechRepublic)

And their experience with remote learning and job-seeking can help others in the workplace, Barrientos said: “Further, employers developing plans for return to office can tap their entry-level talent who finished their higher education, navigated the job market and secured a job remotely for insight—a unique perspective only the class of 2021 can offer. The virtual classroom prepared the class of 2021 for the virtual workforce and in doing so framed up their professional futures.”

Your resume still matters

Maura Quinn, AVP Campus Recruiting Programs at Liberty Mutual Insurance, offered some advice on how to make your resume stand out.

“Quantify your resume. Bring your story to life through numbers and performance to demonstrate your value. Even if it’s a school fundraiser, you can add the funds raised. If you exceeded at something, make sure to detail it. Don’t make your resume look like a job description.

“We encourage students to ensure the resume fits on one full page, that it doesn’t have large blank spaces, and that the information they share is meaningful for the job they’re applying for. As a recruiter, we prefer to see an extra bullet point detailing an internship or project vs. a ‘special interests’ section where someone uses it to discuss information that isn’t relevant. Some examples I’ve seen—a love of everything bagels and blow-drying their hair!”

Make sure your objective is updated, she added. “We often see objectives that list an industry or job title that they want to obtain that is complete opposite of the role they are applying to. Ensuring your resume is up to date and organized is critical. Prioritizing information that is pertinent to the role the candidate is interested in/applying for and having a nice, clean presentation goes a long way.”

Network with alumni and people at your dream jobs

“LinkedIn is a powerful tool when navigating the job search” said Elliott, the career coach. “Harness the power of virtual networking to arrange informational interviews with people at your target companies. Learn how they got to where they are as well as the nuances of the company’s application and interview processes.”

He added: “As a recent college graduate, be sure to leverage your university’s career center. This includes reaching out to people in your alumni network who work at your target companies.”

Quinn added that your network is important: “Share your goals with your network. Peers, professors and your network are eager to support you, but it is easier to do so if you share your goals. Think about crafting an intentional LinkedIn post or sharing your ambitions openly (about a job, working at a specific company, etc.) as your network may be able to connect you or support you on your journey. Use the virtual world to your advantage. Use Handshake and LinkedIn to reach out or get connected to people in roles or industries of interest. If you do reach out, be sure to take the initiative in leading the meeting and knowing what you are going to ask.”

Learn from the leaders

Hassan Sultan, CTO of Cedar, a healthcare platform provider, said, “Seek out great mentors who are willing to coach you in your career and ask for help when you need it. You’ll be surprised at what you can get if you ask. I’ve personally had the privilege of working with students and graduates looking to enter the field, helping review their resumes and even doing mock interviews to help them gain confidence in the interviewing process and highlight skills that are valuable to companies reviewing candidates.”

Just because you’ve graduated, doesn’t mean the learning ends, he added: “I also highly recommend reading content from great technologists and industry leaders. If you can get access to books or online articles, read everything you can find in your work domain. Lastly, my biggest piece of advice is don’t give up. You are just starting on a new path and will learn many lessons along the way, but never give up, and remember to keep moving forward.”

Look for opportunities to move laterally within the business

Gil Vega, CISO of Veeam, a data management provider, said: “Current students and recent college graduates should look for work and internship opportunities that give them the ability to move laterally within a company. Leverage any university internship program that works directly with companies, and choose a company that is determined to stay innovative with their interns. Companies that provide multiple job function opportunities based on your interests, as opposed to pigeon-holing you into one job function, will help you receive a more diverse experience and gain a better understanding of your desired career path.”

Follow up on your job application

“Recruiters and hiring managers are receiving increased messages, emails and phone calls due to remote work,” Elliott said. “Do not be afraid to follow up on your job application if you have not heard back on the status of your candidacy. Employers are looking for candidates who are adaptable to ambiguity and uncertainty. They are also looking for candidates who can build relationships and gain trust in remote environments.”

Resiliency is a characteristic that employers are looking for these days: “As a candidate, you want to show your ability to navigate change while staying resilient. Consider sharing examples of how you demonstrated resiliency during the pandemic on your resume, LinkedIn profile and other career documents.”

We’ve learned a lot of lessons—good and bad—from the pandemic.

“The pandemic has taught candidates that companies can be forward-thinking and adaptable. Subsequently, candidates expect companies to be flexible and accommodating when it comes to telecommuting and flexible schedules,” Elliott said. “As more companies allow staff to telecommute, geography is no longer a requirement of employment. Subsequently, companies now have more talent to choose from and can be more selective when recruiting.”