Expert reveals how to stand out in the current job market

Job hunting on a regular day isn’t easy — but during a global pandemic? Girl, please.

Tiana Kara, the executive director of Built By Girls, tells In The Know that coronavirus has only amplified the typical uncertainty and stress that comes with searching for a new career, “whether you’re recently unemployed, looking to transition to a new job, or you’re preparing to graduate college and step out into the workforce.”

“The job hunt is a beast,” says Kara, whose organization strives to prepare female and non-binary students to “step boldly” into tech-oriented careers.

Thankfully, the networking professional shared some creative ways to stand out while searching for a job during this “wacky” pandemic. 

Tap into your network

Before checking out job listings on Indeed or LinkedIn, Kara advises leveraging your personal contacts, as they know you and your skills “better than any hiring recruiter could” and have your “best interests at heart.”

“I’ve actually gotten some of the best jobs from my personal and professional contacts,” she tells In The Know. “Open up an email, craft something that expresses your background and expertise, the types of jobs that you’re looking for and how your expertise aligns with those roles — and hit send.”

Bring your A-game to video interviews

Let’s say you end up scoring that big virtual interview you’ve been gunning for in quarantine. Wohoo!

Now, Kara advises doing your due diligence to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible, keeping in mind any and all potential technical difficulties — particularly those unique to video calls.

“Make sure you have a reliable internet connection,” she explains. “Work out all technical kinks well in advance, not just five minutes in advance.”

She also says to be aware of your surroundings — including others who may occupy your space in isolation.

“Have a quiet environment and a clean background,” she adds. “No pile of dirty laundry or your baby cousin running through. Oh, and don’t forget it’s still important to dress to impress at least from the waist up.”

Sharpen up new skill sets

Although this current lockdown climate might not seem conducive to self-improvement, Kara suggests putting in the time to learn some new skills to include on your resume.

“Many communities, organizations and companies are offering free online training and courses,” she says. “Take advantage! Because there’s no better way to stand out than to have skill sets that no one else is bringing to the table.”

If you’re looking for a place to start, check out these 500 free Ivy-league courses — all available online.

Take your portfolio from paper to the world wide web

It’s easier for potential employers to discover you when you’ve gone digital. If you’re new to web creation, Kara advises taking things slowly and focusing on the basics as you think of information to put on your site.

“Creating a website is pretty simple nowadays,” Kara says. “Your portfolio should showcase the expertise you have in the fields your applying for. So consider that internship, side project, school assignment, previous job you had and make sure to add it there. And don’t forget those new online courses that you’ve been taking.” 

Master the art of the follow-up

Your follow-up message may very well be the last impression you make on a hiring manager before they make the final call — let’s have it be a memorable one.

“Instead of hitting them with the standard ‘looking forward to next steps’ or ‘checking in on the status of my candidacy,’ try leaving a lasting impression,” Kara says. “Think back to the conversation that you had with the hiring manager and any goals that they mentioned having for the business. Then send them an article or your point of view that discusses that very thing you talked about. That gives them a glimpse into how you think, shows them that you were paying attention, and that also shows them the type of employee and asset you’ll be for the team.”

Ultimately, Kara urges those searching for a job in this particularly grim market to not become discouraged or daunted by the task at hand.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve ever gone through an economic crisis as a country,” she sooths. “We’ve bounced back before and we will again so be prepared for that comeback.”

If you enjoyed this article, read Kara’s advice on supporting the women in your life amid quarantine.

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