I was forced to fly back home to Korea in April when the pandemic was getting worse. I had my summer internship position secured but turns out life doesn’t always go the way you planned it to be. When I returned home, I decided I am going to earn money in Korea. Three weeks into my job hunt, here’s how things unraveled:
- Applied to 30 jobs
- Heard back from 4 places
- Got fired at a job midway
At this point, I was not too hopeful. But here’s the plot twist: Three months later, I got an offer to become a full-time associate at a global consulting company.
So what happened? From my experience, I think it depended on two factors: (1) how smartly you can find a job and (2) how you prove your value at your workplace. I want to share my experience for college students who are struggling to find internships during the pandemic.
Looking for a Job? Be Proactive.
LinkedIn Can Only Get You So Far. Contact Companies Before They Even Post a Job Opening.
After a month of continuous job search, I realized that I should not be entirely dependent on job portals like LinkedIn and Albamon (Korea’s part-time job search site). For every job opening advertised on these sites, there seemed to be at least 30 to 100 other applicants competing for the same position.
But you can get creative and use LinkedIn another way. I went and looked up the LinkedIn profiles of all the Korean alumni from my school who have previously found themselves internship opportunities in Korea.
Yes, that’s right. I stalked them real hard.
I shortlisted the companies that they have interned at before. I did this because having precedents suggest that these companies are open to recruiting interns.
Then, I narrowed down the places I am interested in working for and contacted them even though they did not have any job posting.
After three rounds of interviews and tests, I got a freelance job at a global consulting company. I earned an opportunity to develop the company’s new projects and at times involved myself in them more proactively than other full-time employees. I was able to prove myself to be a valuable asset to the company.
Three months into my work, the company offered me a seat to be part of the team.
One might ask: With so many people being laid off, how can you be sure that they’re interested in recruiting someone new? And a seemingly unqualified candidate like a college student?
That’s a valid point.
But the truth is many companies are as uncertain about their future as you are right now. They are adapting to the new normal of the digital age and struggling with budget cuts at the same time.
With COVID-19 accelerating digitalization, Generation Z kids like us who grew up with social media and technology have the opportunity to be the fastest adapters. The company leadership needs our insights and skills. Marketize yourself on those qualities that companies these days might be desiring.
Because of budget cuts, companies might prefer hiring more affordable sources of labor like college interns to work for them.
For example, a senior colleague of mine was asked to drastically reduce her work hours. Consequently, the company created a condition where she had to quit her work for a more stable job. Her role was eventually handed to me when I became promoted even though I thought I was unqualified to perform those tasks.
They did this not necessarily because I was better than her but because less financial input was needed if they use me instead of her. Of course, I am not encouraging you to be exploited. My point is it’s important to put yourself in the company leadership’s shoes and turn their crises into your opportunity.
Prove Your Worth: Skill Up
Continue building your skills and demonstrate your growth.
If you have experience working at any place, you know that finding a job is only the first step. Sometimes securing that job is the bigger challenge. That was the same for me, especially since I got fired at my previous job.
For my current job, I mainly work with PowerPoint as my tool. Initially, I didn’t think my first set of PowerPoint designs were bad. But my boss recommended me to take a PowerPoint course to develop my skills, and I gave it a shot. I registered for an online course and started applying what I learned at work. Everytime my PowerPoint design improved, it hit me that I have so much area for improvement.
Seeing my own development was fun too, which motivated me to watch YouTube videos and online tutorials on the weekend to further improve my skills. I also did more readings on my own that would be beneficial to the market research I am doing for my company.
And guess what? People noticed.
My boss noticed my growth. She started to actively assign me tasks and put me in charge of other PowerPoint designs. My skills and effort have been recognized.
What’s most important here is that I have proved myself to be a valuable asset to the organization. After three months, I was no longer a freelance worker but an associate. A freelancer is seen as an outsider who just provides a helping hand, but a full-time worker is an insider. This means that they admitted me as an official team member. My willingness to develop my skills enabled me to earn that opportunity.
Take That Action.
So the recipe I got from my grueling journey of job search is that you have to be proactive in the way you hunt for jobs and have the willingness to continue upskilling yourselves.
Especially in times of crisis, with everyone concerned about their own lives, no one can help you out except yourself.
Brainstorm about things companies you are interested in might be struggling with lately.
Think about how you can contribute to their works and marketize yourself accordingly.
Continue to develop your skills and demonstrate your dedication and development.
Though our journeys might stem out of different contexts, being proactive and training yourself will help you out in achieving your goals in many ways. At the end of the day, it boils down to the choice between taking action and remaining passive.
Whether it is for being hired or excelling in academics, there will always be times when you notice there are so many people who are more qualified or the situation just doesn’t look hopeful. But those who turn crises into opportunities are likely the ones who took action.