After two months of unemployment, I am pleased to say I will shortly be starting at a new job!

This has been no easy feat, by any stretch.

I’ve been actively looking for work for almost a year now, competing against the masses of other unemployed folk and the unique obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, I’ve probably sent off around 200+ job applications, received a whopping 180 “no responses” (sometimes not even an automated acknowledgement email), an explicit 15 rejections from the outset and a total of 5 virtual interviews.

What have I learned from this experience?

1. Don’t take rejection/failure personally!

The natural instinct is to take rejections personally. For every rejection email or ghosting, you can’t help but wonder, “what am I doing wrong?”. Especially after a while of actively searching for a new role, it’s quite easy to look inwards and see your disadvantages and flaws, as opposed to your assets and strengths. However, it’s important to remember that there are many factors working against you from the moment you hit the job market. For one, there’s the sheer amount of candidates applying for the same job. Employers are absolutely inundated with applications. Some prospective employees will be selected due to relevant experience in the same field or because they have exceptional qualifications. It’s a game of chance!

In addition, recent world events have had brutal consequences for the economy. So much has been destabilised by COVID-19 and people have had to become malleable in their searches for jobs, sacrificing “career jobs” in favour of any basic employment that can help to make ends meet. It’s an especially tough time and it’s important to be kind to yourself: whatever you’re going through, you’re certainly not alone and it’s not your fault. Take the search day by day.

2. Consult a variety of sources for advice

Getting an impartial opinion on your CV, portfolio or cover letter can really help when you’ve spent hours scrutinising your own work. Fresh eyes offer feedback and insight, potentially helping you to get rid of silly mistakes.

I was signed up to Universal Credit, who admittedly offered little to no services on this occasion, but they usually provide a work coach who is equipped to answer any queries and help to point you in the right direction. I also signed up to recruitment agencies and free online CV reviewing websites. In the end, after revising my CV countless times, I ended up with a synthesised final product that was far more accessible and well-formatted than the one I’d originally started my search with.

3. Network!

Get your tentacles out far and wide! I reached out to professionals on both LinkedIn and Instagram, taking care to update my social media channels regularly so that there was more opportunity for engagement. Through connecting wisely, I found a lot of useful advice from other fellows who’d found employment as fresh graduates in a post-COVID-19 world. I also found some brilliant opportunities, in the form of seminars and workshops, that helped me to engage with experienced professionals within the publishing industry, which was relevant to my motivation to manifest a career within the editorial sector.

On a personal basis, it was also very reassuring to learn that others were in similar, often identical, situations to me. Networking provides the opportunity to develop a close community of like-minded individuals who can help you to stay motivated and focused, even as circumstances are tough and applications are unsuccessful.

4. Use your time to learn new skills

Looking for work is a full-time job in itself. That being said, there are many other ways you can equip yourself with new skills and seek to stand out against other candidates. Taking on a part-time course or LinkedIn Learning course (LinkedIn Premium offers a free trial for a month, 10/10 would recommend!) is a good way to pass the time in a productive manner, shows initiative to prospective employers and keeps you mentally stimulated on the days where you can lose hours just waiting for a potential email response to an application.

5. Open your mind to new types of experiences

I once considered internships to be unworthy as experiences because, from what I’d seen, they were short-term and often unpaid opportunities. Recent reflection has seen me change my mind on this, as, at the end of the day, experiences are experiences! Industry-specific chances are useful as another way to gain new skills, network with professionals, as well as try the shoes on as such and see if they fit. You never know, an internship could lead to a permanent position further down the line or, alternatively, it could show you that you that the role you were aspiring for isn’t what you thought it would be and might not be worth pursuing.

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