How to Personally and Professionally Develop While You are Self-Sequestering
Social isolation doesn't mean you can't be social. In fact, now more than ever is a great time to develop social skills that will help your future. Continue reading to see concrete steps to getting your future on track.
1. Make or Review Your Resume
If you've been waiting for a break in your crazy schedule to develop your resume, now is the perfect time to get started. Resumes are an essential way for employers to get to know you at first glance. On average, hiring managers look at a resume for about 7 seconds before moving to the next one. This means that it is essential to have a catchy resume that will help you stand out - in a good way.
While a hiring manager may only take a quick first glance at your resume, it is important to put in ample time to developing how you want to present yourself. Remember: there is no second chance at a first impression! If you are looking for tools to help develop your resume, VisualCV is a tool that uses information that you've plugged into LinkedIn to create a visually aesthetic document. Don't have a LinkedIn set up yet? You can still use this service as a template or check out one of the available templates on Google Docs. Live Career also has a free an interactive tool that you can use to make your resume shine! Live Career's resume builder allows you to start from scratch or upload your current resume and reformat it.
If you already have a resume you are happy with, take this time to polish it up. Use actionable items to establish what you have completed. A good formula to follow is: action word + quantitative value-add + result. For example "Coordinate 19 volunteers and implement Student Friend with Central Elementary School resulting in a 90% retention rate of weekly mentors" Once you have finished updating your resume, send it to someone who works in career services at your university! Resume Worded is a free tool that checks your resume for what employers are looking for and gives you a score for improvement.
2. Practice Your Virtual Interview Skills
In today's day and age, virtual interviews are increasingly common. They allow employers to connect across the country and around the world to people hiring. In phone and video interviews, the way you present yourself can be very different from an in person interview. While you might not be able to work on that firm handshake and powerful body language, you can still prepare for future interviews.
Virtual interviews, specifically video calls, require you to appear professional - even though you may be in the comfort of your home. Check out these tips from Harvard Business School to help you be prepared. Once you feel ready and confident in your skills, reach out to a professor or mentor to help you practice. Ask them to write down any feedback they have for you. Extra credit if you can find someone in the field you are interested in! The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll be when it comes time for the real thing. So, if you cannot find someone in the workforce to interview you - ask a friend or a family member to chat.
Tips for asking someone for help practicing:
Schedule a 30 minute time block with a hard start and stop time so that they know you are being respectful of time
Send your resume in advance so that they can formulate specific questions
After you have finished interviewing, follow up with a thank you email (you'll get brownie points for a handwritten note) and ask for any feedback they have
3. Reach out to Former Mentors and Employers
Put pen to paper and reach out to the mentors who helped you get where you are today! Think about a former employer who taught you a valuable skill or someone on faculty/staff at your university who advocated for you. Regardless of who it is, take this time to update them about where you currently are in life. Be sure to mention how you are continuing to use their advice to learn and grow, and how their support of you has positively contributed to your present successes. List some of the specific ways their help has made an impact on your life. For example, if they recommended a book that changed your perspective - mention it!
Reaching out to a mentor will also keep you fresh in their minds. They may be able to help you expand your network further or offer more advice for advancing your career. If you aren't sure of where to start, read this article from Indeed that walks you through the essential components of a thank-you letter. Make sure to add a personal touch to your letter. This attention to detail will show just how much their guidance has meant to you.
4. Be Active on LinkedIn
After you are done thanking former or current mentors, take some time to connect with potential new ones. Polish up your LinkedIn profile by posting some of your more recent professional accomplishments and activities. Make sure that you have updated your profile to include your most current resume and activities. Don't forget that LinkedIn is a social media platform that allows you to share thoughts, peruse articles, and comment on the successes of your network. Try interacting with your connections in new ways. Follow companies you hope to work for and read up on the posts they've shared to stay informed on their activities. If you are looking for some ideas on how to spice up your profile and make it more appealing, browse these suggestions from LinkedIn itself!
Once you have a profile you are proud of, connect with recruiters and employers in fields you are interested in. Consider reaching out with them to have a virtual meeting about their job. Once you have them added to your LinkedIn network, take it one step farther and add them to your personal network. Setting up these contacts now will lead to more expansive job or internship prospects later. A great tip for connecting with people you don't personally know is sending a personalized message with your connection request; demonstrate your interest in their company and field and show why you could be a valuable addition to their network, too. After you have made initial contact, don't forget to follow up. Continuing to build these relationships is an essential part in expanding and maintaining your network!
5. Brainstorm Ideas to Help Your Community
Self-sequestering might not seem like the ideal time to buff up your volunteer experience - but there is so much that you can do remotely. Virtual volunteering is a great way to stay involved and help you balance out your more open schedule. Glance at these ideas - or search for things happening in your own community:
If you are interested in history, consider transcribing historical documents for the Smithsonian
English major? Record yourself reading books for LibriVox to help establish a robust library of audio-books available to the public
A passion for healthcare makes you the perfect candidate to be the Red Cross's newest digital advocate
There are many more organizations that could utilize your skills through online mediums. If you cannot find something online, consider reaching out to a local volunteer coordinator and asking how you can support them while you are social-distancing.
In addition, if you have always had an idea for helping your community - commit to getting it started. If you need help brainstorming, set up a group call to form a think tank of peers! This Ted Talk by OK Go shows how unconventional thought processes can help you line up the world just right to make an idea happen; like they say, traditional brainstorming may shut off some of your best, most creative innovations.