Graduating from college and applying for your first professional job is stressful enough – but feels especially challenging when the job market is so uncertain. In this period of prolonged uncertainty, how you choose to spend your time is especially important.

This current business environment is tough, but not impossible. My suggestion is to stay focused on only the things you can control, not what you can’t, and there is a lot within your control! To help you keep focused:

  1. Think plus-one. When you are working on anything… step back and think “if I could do this a little bit better, what else would I add to it?” For example, when preparing a cover letter for a job posting, don’t rush through it. Pause for a moment and think about what you could add to it to make yourself stand out.
  2. Behave famously. Think about how famous people behave – they’re showing up in the world and you’re noticing them. You should be doing this too as you start building your brand. Introduce yourself (virtually) to people, comment on what’s happening in the industry, follow people on social media. Don’t wait until you’re further along in your career, do this now.
  3. Prepare relentlessly. Spend 1-2 hours preparing ahead of any meeting you’re going to have with anyone in the industry. Google them, look at their companies’ latest news, figure out who their competitors are and what they’re doing. Research everything about the person you’ll be meeting and write out your questions. Prepare, prepare, prepare. If you do this kind of relentless preparation, you will definitely be known in your industry.

With all this additional time at home, think about the technical skills you can learn that you can bring to your ideal role in the future. Expand your abilities to understand data, logic and analytics. Research technologies that help deliver insights for communicators and start to work with the data sets that these technologies can pull. Familiarize yourself with HTML and basic coding language.

For a job in communications, you should be reading a diverse set of media and study how stories come together. I suggest you read broadly – pull from all different areas of the world and see how different topics start to connect.

It’s natural to feel down sometimes and even frustrated that conversations take longer to schedule and you may not hear back from interviews for weeks. In these moments, take a deep breath, feel what you need to and then work to reframe your mindset. If the thought running through your mind is, “this is hard” you could reframe it as “I do hard things. This is who I am.” I’m not saying this is easy. I practice reframing almost every day when frustrating thoughts creep in.

Stay connected, get curious, and spend this time preparing for the career you want and planning for how you’ll stand out in the crowd. Continue learning and focusing on your goals and remember, things might be tough… but they’re not impossible.

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