Dear Class of 2020,
You did it! Despite major obstacles as a result of COVID-19, you leaned in. You engaged. You Zoomed like a boss.
Most importantly, you did not give up.
Now you are fully equipped for your next big step, the start of your career. It may seem daunting, especially in our economic climate where half of Americans are out of work. My advice to you is to adopt a qualified mindset. What’s that, you ask? It’s finding confidence and truly believing you have the passions, interests, strengths and values to offer the world.
Once you discover just how impressive you really are, you become unstoppable. Let me break it down for you:
1. Level up your story.
As your graduation cap begins to collect dust, it’s time to reframe the last six months into your very own heroes’ journey. Sure, your senior year wasn’t what you imagined, but overcoming the unexpected only made you stronger.
Unearth all the skills you’ve gained while tackling the challenges of virtual learning. Maybe you flexed your teamwork, communication and problem-solving muscles by working with your peers virtually for a big project. Perhaps you and your team delivered a seamless online presentation which essentially resembles an online webinar. Talk about transferable skills that employers desire.
And if you didn’t lean in during COVID-19, and instead, binge-watched “Riverdale,” then just know that even six months of Veronica’s shenanigans won’t stain your future—simply start today. Forgive yourself for not developing your skills during an unforeseen pandemic and move forward by determining one action you can take to build your qualified mindset.
This could mean volunteering, working on a side hustle, interning or joining relevant social networking groups for the career you're considering. You can also try meetup.com or swap your knowledge on skillshare.com. A few Google searches and you’ll find an organization with your name on it that can help you build your skills for the career you really want.
2. Launch your own swoosh.
Once you feel like you have your skills and experiences in hand, it’s time to build your personal brand and share it with the world. Identify all the value you have to offer employers and convey this message through your personal platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, a portfolio website or podcast. Start simple with a LinkedIn account that highlights your experiences and grow from there.
Think about all the projects you’ve worked on over the last four years. A personal website will help you showcase this hard work while demonstrating that you understand content management systems (skills that matter in a virtual world). I recommend a WordPress theme or all-in-one option like Mai Solution (which I use for my personal website) for hosting, easy design and plugin needs.
Will Hansen, now a design manager at Intuit, started his portfolio site while in art school. This features Will’s bio, his work, a contact page, and his shop. I tell you about Will because he’s still contributing to his personal brand. And just like Will, your personal brand will grow with you over time. The takeaway? Don’t aim for perfection today, instead, just get started.
Also, consider starting a podcast. Did you know that 14 million new people have become podcast listeners in the last year? They create a fantastic excuse to make courageous connections with people you admire in your industry because you can ask them for interviews. Another advantage is that you can repurpose your podcast interview into a video for your new YouTube channel. You can also transform your interview into a blog post on your personal branded website and share your favorite quote on your Instagram. The podcast is next level personal branding. You don’t need any tech experience to get started; just a smartphone.
3. Quiet your inner critic.
I’m a big fan of making courageous connections by sending a DM a day. After you’ve held an informational interview with someone in your desired field, you’ll want to communicate your passion. Why? Because passion beat pandemics like a defuse card beats an exploding kitten.
We grow up speaking about our passion to everyone we know. But somewhere along the way we let doubt seep in and take over. Before we know it, we’ve stopped talking about our passions, hopes, or dreams—and when we do, it doesn’t flow as easily as it did before. Why do we quiet ourselves? Perhaps we don’t want to brag, we don’t think we’re qualified, or we don’t feel like our dreams are possible.
It’s time to quiet the critic within and speak about your passions now. Otherwise, you’ll silence yourself while expecting different results for your career journey after graduation. When you speak your passion, you start to believe it. Others will hear you and believe it, too, and doors will open.
To my surprise, the more I spoke about my idea for College Magazine, which I am now the publisher of, the more confident I felt, and the more helpful feedback I would receive. Meanwhile, I got better and better at explaining the idea. And then people I met would want to help and would often connect me with experts, advertisers and opportunities.
Practice speaking your passion with your professors, family and friends. Most people are going to be impressed that you are putting your dream out in the universe and are speaking confidently about what you want. They will want to root for you and give you advice to help you achieve your career goals.
Life will throw you curveballs that may upend your plans. Don’t let it shake you. Even during a global pandemic, you can still build your qualified mindset and make courageous connections. You can design your personal branded website, glow up your Insta and launch a podcast. And you can always speak your passion. I promise that no matter what life throws at you, your qualified mindset is here to stay.
Congratulations class of 2020, you are more qualified than you realize.
ABOUT AMANDA NACHMAN: As the CEO and publisher of College Magazine, the trusted guide to navigating college, reaching millions of readers, Amanda Nachman empowers young professionals to achieve a career they love. She’s developed a career strategy over twelve years coaching thousands of students. It’s the same strategy that helped her to quit her boring day job and launch her dream magazine. Her graduates have gone on to careers at NBC, USA Today, Vox, Washingtonian, Us Weekly, National Geographic, and more. She’s also a TEDx speaker and host of the Find Your Passion Career podcast found on iTunes and Spotify.