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What I Learned as a Young Professional During a Pandemic

As I reflect on 2020, both the ups and downs, I realize not only how much I have endured in the past year, but also how much I have grown. I also understand that so many young professionals have experienced the same trials that have made us rethink our purpose and path, and even five-year goals and life plan that we thought we were on the road to fulfilling. I want to share my observations, tips, and tools that got me through.

A little about me

You could say my professional path hasn’t followed much of the straight and narrow. I’ve dipped my toes in two incredibly different industries- professional coaching and fashion. Those job opportunities have not only provided me with so much experience, opportunity, and insight but also real lessons that have truly changed my life. 

My first job out of college was as a marketing strategist for Intero. I worked at Intero for a year, overseeing the kickoff of in:side, creating a podcast, and bringing in new clients using paid LinkedIn marketing ads. I knew the in’s and out’s of LinkedIn like the back of my hand.

A little after a year working for the company, I received an offer in the fashion industry, working for a company that I interned with in college. It was my dream job, and in just six months, it was all taken away from me. The pandemic left me unemployed, scrambling to find a new way to support myself, along with 11% of the U.S. population. 

I am a planner. I like organization, stability, and ideally a 5-year plan. When I was laid off from my job due to COVID-19, you could imagine that really sent me for a whirlwind. I immediately jumped to the tool that I (thankfully)  have so much experience in—Linkedin. However, not many young professionals such as myself are as blessed to know how to navigate what the platform has to offer. 

Here’s the thing about LinkedIn: it doesn’t always appeal to the younger generation such as myself. And why should it? It’s strictly professional, meaning there is not a lot of personal picture posting depicting the best moments of our lives, or hilarious memes and videos that provide hours of entertainment. And, while many of us have a LinkedIn profile because our college career centers made us create one, that doesn’t mean we keep up with it.

So why do I think this platform is so lucrative? I may be a bit biased because I use it all day, every day, and I have seen the results it can produce, but I also see the value that it can provide. 

Job searching isn’t easy…especially during a pandemic

When I was furloughed from my job in March, I immediately went on LinkedIn and started searching. Sure, I had the shame of being temporarily laid off, and I definitely wasn’t ready to announce that to the world, but it gave me comfort to see that so many professionals were in the same boat as I was and that they too were looking for other opportunities. 

The downside to a lot of my job searching in March was that many positions that I applied for were there before the pandemic hit. I spent days applying, crafting the perfect cover letter for each position, and reaching out on LinkedIn, only to receive a generic email back saying that the position I applied for was no longer available due to the reduction of staff and/or a hiring freeze that was going on within the company. Unfortunately, some companies didn’t even notify me, they just continued to keep the posting up for months, leaving myself and hundreds of others wondering if the position was open, filled, or eliminated like so many others. 

I took some time off from applying, and it wasn’t until the end of June when I was officially laid off that I went back to LinkedIn to search for new jobs. I found LinkedIn to be the most reputable place to apply because they not only had links to company pages where I could check out the culture of the company immediately, but I also could see how many people had already applied for the job (some with 500+…yikes!), and whether or not the company was actively recruiting. Believe me, if you have ever applied for jobs, you know that your time is as valuable crafting the best cover letter or filling out a 20-minute application that only reiterates what is on your resume. 

It can be daunting, so these features are seriously helpful and can save you a ton of time. LinkedIn is always changing, but this year, it made some incredible changes and offered new settings that helped users like never before. In addition to the features added in the Jobs section, it connected millions of users to potential employers by the #OpentoWork hashtag and profile image addition, which is still being used today. I saw a large platform with millions of users come together to help like never before.

Experience? Never heard of it.

Being a young professional in the world we are living in today isn’t easy. That’s not to say that older generations of professionals are not experiencing the same, but I have to tell you from my own experience that I have endured some of the biases that can exist for young professionals when applying for jobs. 

How many times have you looked at a job posting, only to see that one of the requirements was 5+ years experience? Ok, it could be arguable that we are looking at non-entry level jobs. But, what if I told you that so many times during my search, I came across entry-level positions that had requirement lists with 10 or more bullet points, and a minimum of 3+ years experience? 

Employers: you are putting yourself at a great disadvantage by expecting candidates to have ALL the listed qualifications.

Young professionals are moldable, eager, and driven to succeed. They have the capacity to learn and adapt to new environments, and they are willing to do what it takes. I received so many rejections because my resume didn’t display the experience or one skill that the job required. It is no wonder that so many young professionals don’t take LinkedIn seriously…because employers aren’t taking US seriously.

Being a young professional during this pandemic has been tough. We are often the first ones to be laid off due to our lack of experience or short time at a company, and we are often ignored in the candidate pool because of that same lack of experience. However, we have so much to offer. 

I encourage young professionals to take LinkedIn more seriously and start using it as a tool to build your personal brand. Your profile gives a glimpse into who you are, and can add so much more insight than a basic resume.

Let your personality shine through your profile, and be sure to keep sharing articles that really speak to who you are as a professional, and how you work. Be sure to utilize the tools that LinkedIn holds. You never know where your next potential employer could be hiding.

Ghosting—it’s not just for dating apps

A wise woman once told me “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Well man, was I fooled. After giving a potential employer three different opportunities to connect with me, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that ghosting doesn’t just happen in the dating world. It happens professionally as well.

After being laid off, I was offered the opportunity to speak with a professional who had a small luxury fashion business she was looking to grow. Her products were stunning, her marketing was impeccable, and her mission was something I strongly identified with. 

After having my first in-person interview canceled, having my second meeting moved to zoom and then canceled, and then finally being stood up on my third meeting (yes, I got dressed, had notes, everything), I realized we probably weren’t the right fit for each other. These meetings that were set up were over the course of a one month period. Not only was I terribly disappointed each time, but my unemployment was running out, my lease for the place I was renting was up, and most importantly, I had another offer that was waiting for me to respond. 

Read about ghosting being prevalent in the recruiting field here.

I get it. Employers are under a TON of stress and pressure, whether it be to cut budgets, take on new responsibilities, or reworking an entire business plan. Teams are getting smaller, which means calendars are getting more and more booked. Everyone is busy, but if you make a commitment, you should show up for those people. You’re going to be praised for being punctual and prepared. You will also be remembered for ghosting. 

It doesn’t matter how badly you may want to work for them, it comes down to whether that company is truly the right fit. Evaluate those red flags. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean that your time isn’t valuable.

Networking *cue spooky music*

Oftentimes we hear the term “networking” and panic, thinking “oh no, you mean I ACTUALLY have to have a face-to-face conversation with them?”

Networking takes us out of our comfort zone, and can definitely be intimidating. However, I guarantee that many others are thinking the SAME things as you. Whether you are 21 or 51, networking isn’t always our first choice. But, remember that phrase “it’s all about who you know?”

Believe me, I hear that so often it usually evokes an eye roll from me. But, I can’t tell you how important it really is to immediately start building a network.

I reached out to a lot of different connections on LinkedIn when I was job searching because they worked at a company that I wanted to potentially get in the door at, or they had a mutual connection I wanted an introduction to. Three out of four times that I reached out, I either had my resume go through to the next round, or I was given permission to use their name as a referral on my application. Take advantage of the people in your network. You never know when a door is going to open and stay open for you.

Networking is intimidating and tedious, but you never know when one of those connections could be your key to unlocking the next step in your career. Start connecting with people you know, reach out and just say hello, and continue to try and meet new people that have similar interests. It’s a tough world that we are living in today, but the more people you have on your side, the better.

If you are a young professional that needs help getting started building your network, read this blog that one of my colleagues wrote, 5 Ways to Build Your Network for Young Professionals.

So, what’s next?

The more meaningful and intentional we are with using LinkedIn, the more value we will start to get from it. We can’t always control the world around us, that is more true now than ever, however, we can do our part in making sure we are prepared. 

I believe that each opportunity or hardship that we endure is preparing us for the next step. Our age does not define our ability, and the more that we can show up on LinkedIn, the more we are dismantling those biases that exist. We may be at a disadvantage right now, but we have the power to increase our opportunities and take full advantage of the possibilities that LinkedIn can provide us. 

I am grateful to rejoin a team that encourages growth, independence, and endless opportunity. Colleen and my colleagues at Intero are like a family to me. They are incredibly supportive, knowledgeable, and absolutely hilarious.

In the short time that I have been back with Intero, I’ve helped with the editing, designing, and upcoming publishing of Colleen’s book, assisted in the launch of our new Licensing Partner program, and worked with three incredible clients on a long-term basis. 2020 brought a lot of change, but it showed me the importance of utilizing my network, taught me that not all employers are the perfect fit, and that my abilities aren’t strictly defined by my resume. I am excited to see what remarkable things Intero and I can accomplish in 2021.

If you are still searching for a job or would like knowledge on how to optimize your profile for potential employers, reach out to us to see how we can help.

Our blog posts, tips, and suggestions are accurate at the time of publication. 

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