How to survive a COVID-19 related layoff as a recent grad

Many recent graduates, interns and entry-level workers have suddenly found themselves out of work, laid off or furloughed as a direct result of the coronavirus.

Fighting for an early foothold in your chosen career can be difficult enough without a global pandemic (and resulting economic fallout) thrown into the mix. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, know first of all that you’re not alone, and your disappointment or frustration is understandable.

In fact, this is probably the most difficult time you’ll endure in your career, and maybe your life – so take heart in knowing that if you can make it out of this, you can face anything.

At Freeman+Leonard, though this environment is new and unusual in many ways, this isn’t our first experience with a recession, and we’ve coached many junior creatives and marketers on how to recover from job losses.

Following are four action steps you can take now to regain your professional footing and get back to work: 

Treat your search like a full-time job.

You may have heard this one before – but treating your search like it actually is your job doesn’t necessarily mean devoting 40 hours a week to sifting through job listings and submitting endless applications.

What it actually refers to is creating structure and routines, and holding yourself accountable to daily action.

Tap your inner project manager (even if you’re creative, you’ve got one!) and use tools like to-do apps to track daily progress against your goals. Though your ultimate goal is to land a new role, be sure to celebrate mini-milestones like reaching out to a certain number of people in your professional network each day.

“Stay organized, and keep a spreadsheet of the companies you have applied to and the companies recruiters have presented you to,” says Ashley Allen, Sr. Manager, Talent Solutions at Freeman+Leonard. “Take the extra step and follow up directly with the hiring manager or recruiter who posted the opening by sending them a LinkedIn message.”

If you haven’t already, prep your digital and analog workspaces, keeping your computer files organized with various résumé versions for different role types.

Pour your productive energy and focus into finding the right next move and commit wholeheartedly to the job at hand.

Focus on thriving industries and markets.

Some industries are more impacted by COVID-19 than others, like travel and hospitality. Meanwhile, some are thriving.

“Many industries are still in high demand and are hiring, like Mortgage, Banking, Healthcare and Food Manufacturing,” says Allen.

Just like many brick-and-mortar small businesses are pivoting to serve their customers in new ways, it’s just as important that job seekers stay flexible and open to new opportunities – and new markets.

“Many junior candidates we’ve spoken with are accepting internships outside of the industry verticals they were once targeting, and being more open to widening their breadth of skills post-graduation,” says Rachel Runnels, Director of Talent Solutions at Freeman+Leonard.

Pay attention to verticals and even specific companies that seem to be doing well despite (or even because of) the pandemic. Nearly every type of business needs marketing, creative, communications and technology experts. That means rich opportunities for those who are willing to be flexible.

Position and market yourself for the job you want.

As a marketer, how you communicate your talents and the value you bring to a company is your proof of concept. Even if you have little experience, you have qualities and talents to showcase.

Not sure where to start? Use LinkedIn to research the work histories of people currently in roles you find interesting. Where did they start, and what were their own stepping stones? What skills did they strengthen? What professional organizations did they join?

Use this as inspiration for your own LinkedIn profile and résumé refresh. How do they describe themselves? What industry keywords are important to include?

And once you land an interview, “Be prepared to speak confidently about your specialty and what sets you apart from other applicants,” suggests Allen. “Make sure to do your homework on the company and have good questions prepared for the hiring manager.”

Take your career into your own hands instead of waiting for the right opportunity.

Think like an entrepreneur and design the projects you’d like to lead. If your portfolio is slim, build it out by creating your own passion projects or taking on pro bono work.

“We have heard from several design talent that they are helping friends and family outside of the creative realm to craft original résumés and bios while also working on their own branding,” says Runnels.

If you’ve thought about creating a podcast or YouTube channel, or publishing a blog, there’s never been a better time to make it happen. Whatever you create, find a way to weave it into your professional storyline so that it supports your long-term goals. Whether it’s an asset you can include in your portfolio or simply a passion project that allows you to explore a topic you’re curious about, it never hurts to demonstrate initiative and creativity to future employers.

Finally, creatives and marketers know it’s important to never stop learning.

Use your extra time to take courses, especially those that lead to a credential you can add to your LinkedIn profile and résumé, like a HubSpot or Facebook Blueprint certification.

And if you can, seek out and build relationships with people in roles that intrigue you. “Find a mentor in your industry early in your career who you can go to for career advice,” says Allen.

Difficult times can bring out the best in us, if we let them. So don’t be afraid to stretch your skills and shift your focus.

But whatever you do, don’t lower your expectations out of fear. Business is still being done, and companies are still hiring. Though the landscape is changing, all of this change is creating new opportunities for those ready to seize them.

Make the most of this time to build a bridge to the life and career you want.

From contract to full-time roles, Freeman+Leonard has over 25 years of experience placing marketing, digital and creative talent. Click here to submit your résumé and to be considered for future opportunities.