Our latest Guestpert Advice comes from Emerson alumna, Fran Berrick ’85.
Fran is the founder and head coach of Spearmint Coaching.

There is a new tone and tenor in my conversations with soon-to-be grads. With formal graduation ceremonies postponed indefinitely and all of us working virtually, many have an understandable sense of fear combined with a heightened paralysis about launching a job search in unchartered waters. Most college seniors have flown back to the nest, finishing up classes online. While it might have been easy to kick the can down the road until after commencement in years past, the class of 2020 feel they should be doing something now.

I cannot think of a more emotionally charged and challenging job market to enter, and it’s true for clients across all age groups. But I worked through 9/11 and the crash of 2008, so I know that together we will recover and move forward. We’ve barely finished Q1, but “This, too, shall pass” has already become the catchphrase of the year. The nature of how—and where—we work may change, but the good news for the class of 2020 (and the many other job seekers in the marketplace this spring) is that you all have very marketable skills: look no further than all those Instagram stories you’ve painstakingly crafted!

So let’s discuss logistics, or as I like to call them gravity issues (anything that directly affects the economic reality of your life) first. My colleagues in the Career Development Center at my alma mater @ Emerson put it this way in a recent email:

Let’s say you’re a senior completing your final classes online while staying with your parents in Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas, or Oregon. And you’re wondering if and when you should move to Los Angeles or New York to pursue a career in (for instance) the entertainment industry once you complete your degree in May. Will those orders to stay home for Californians and New Yorkers still be in effect come summer? If so, doesn’t that mean there won’t be any entry-level jobs in the entertainment industry? And if that’s the case, wouldn’t it make more sense to stay home in Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas, or Oregon and look for a survival job while living with your folks and trying to save money for a move at some future time? 

These are tough questions, and only you can answer them honestly. But I do have some suggestions for a way forward.

A survival job, or something encompassing essential services, may be an option and an opportunity to give back to your community until stay-at-home directives are lifted. More insight from Emerson’s Career Development team:

You might also look for xyz Industry jobs in your home state, or target roles that allow you to work remotely. College seniors are already virtual workersthey’re digital natives, highly adept with online communication platforms and learning. This can be a real advantage as you approach this new way to work.

If you are not yet at the point where you can articulate your dream job, or if real-time circumstances have forced you to change your plans, here are three steps you can take to refocus your energy in a productive way right now.

Narrow it down.

The first—and in my experience, most challenging—part of achieving a goal is setting one. When I work with clients, we start by constructing a target job goal and illustrating what that job might look like. This is a role you can justify on paper: You can convince a skilled interviewer that you can do it, and you have qualitative and perhaps quantitative evidence (through data-based assessments such as STRONG) to show that you will succeed. If you are at the whiteboard stage, I strongly encourage you to connect with your college or university’s Career Services team. I also highly recommend the processes and tools that Bill Burnett and Dave Evans share in their super-helpful book (and accompanying website), Designing your Life. And because it’s always valuable to have another perspective, you might also consider scheduling a session or two with a career coach.

Craft your narrative.

This part of the process is where you develop a succinct answer to the “tell me about yourself” question that typically begins every interview. Your answer should be highly personal, and based on the strengths, skills, and values you’ll bring to your target job. My clients and I refer to this as your Professional Value Proposition (PVP), and yours should communicate a concise and relatable summary of your unique professional value. Your PVP will be an easy reference to use for interviews and also for the many networking opportunities you’ll have.

Your PVP tells employers what you bring to the table, your unique brand promise, and may even identify a problem you could solve. To craft yours, follow my three-step process:

  • Identify your personal strengths. What special, innate talents make you unique? You might, for instance, be: a confident leader, an extremely adaptive team player, someone who works well under pressure, or a creator of new ideas. List 3+ personal strengths.
  • Identify the attributes/skills the employers in your target set are looking for, and all the ways your skills are a match. You might have hard skills such as anything computer- or IT-based, as well as high-touch skills for work in sales, customer service/relations, writing, data analysis, or research. Connect the dots between your skills, the impact or solution you can provide, and the target set you are looking to connect with. Use some examples of your Target Role for this step.
  • Identify all the personal and professional experiences that demonstrate and/or contributed to your strengths. Provide concrete evidence of your talents through a relevant and memorable narrative. List 3+ personal experiences that highlight your strengths and skills. 

Network.

Now is the time to really investigate an industry. Identify who you might know or who your parents ortheir friends might know. You need to identify a person—not someone in HR necessarily. Keep track of who you are reaching out to and follow-up. Send a quick thank you for their time after you speak to someone.

If you don’t know anyone—Join as many professional organizations as you can. There are so many online. You never know who you will meet—the virtual meet ups that the Riveter and Luminary are doing are informative and great! Tap the Emerson Alumni network- I hear so many networking success stories thru alumni networks. 

Once you do identify contacts that can help- be succinct and specific about what you are looking for. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for the person you are contacting to know how to help you (and the less time it will require them to do so. Be ready to share a job link that interests you. Have your resume ready and your LI profile perfect. This way you make it as easy as possible to action your request and help you. if you have identified specific organizations or individuals you want to work with- try reaching out directly. Remember to keep the message short and simple. I think that once the hiring freezes get lifted, it will be helpful for you to have already made contact.

FLEXJOBS: https://bit.ly/39ayibk

JOBSPRESSO: https://jobspresso.co

OUTSOURCELY: https://www.outsourcely.com

THE MUSE: https://www.themuse.com

CAREER BUILDER: https://www.careerbuilder.com

UPWORK:  https://www.upwork.com

A new board which I have just found that is super cool:

https://bit.ly/2Rzi2ei  Shared by Jai Sanjani, Principal New Enterprise Associates, Inc. NEA is a global venture capital firm that empowers founders who are creating vital change in the world.

I have also heard a lot about Fiverr (a site and an app) of late. With jobs starting at just $5 a pop, Fiverr is a handy site for finding your first freelance gigs and building a portfolio in a hurry. Fiverr focuses on “gigs” or “micro-jobs,” like editing an image in Photoshop, designing a Facebook ad, or brainstorming SEO-rank-worthy article titles. You can also add any specific skills or credentials you have to your listings, allowing you to make a lot more than $5 for some jobs. If you register and are employed through the site, a fee is subtracted when payment is wired. 

Connect with More Online Internship Resources:

Connect with More Online Job Resources:


We’re all working in new and different ways, and we’ll likely continue to well after we come out of quarantine. But by being proactive now, you’ll prepare yourself to step confidently into the workforce now or towards a more permanent destination when the time comes.