3 ways job seekers can get a competitive edge, expand their career choices
These tips can help professionals get a professional edge and expand their career choices – even during a pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has put some people’s education and career advancement plans on hold — unnecessarily. With many universities returning in the fall and new online options available, there are a number of great opportunities for everyone looking to skill up to get ahead.
Many universities in Michigan and nationwide have expanded their online course offerings for the coming school year. Some colleges, including Davenport University, with campuses throughout Michigan, are offering classes in-person classes, online classes and hybrid options this fall, giving students a high level of flexibility during these ever-changing times.
Shelley Lowe, the executive director of career services at Davenport University, spends much of her time advising students on ways they can stand out from other job applicants and achieve their growth potential.
There are three areas that Lowe suggests individuals should explore when they have additional time and work-life balance flexibility: completing a formal two-year, four-year, or advanced degree; pursuing skill certification; and polishing job search and interview skills. These areas can increase a candidate’s marketability in a competitive job arena, lead to career advancement, and foster personal growth.
1. Complete or earn a degree
While some potential students may look at 2020-21 as a perfect “gap year,” Lowe said they should reconsider.
“Gap years have traditionally been a way for students to explore the job market or travel — essentially take time to determine what success may look like in their future,” she said. “Today’s job market is competitive, and we expect that level of competitiveness to increase over time. Maintaining your momentum in school or the workplace — even with one or two classes toward a degree — will give you an advantage over the competition.”
Research shows that when you add a degree, whether you finish a degree you’ve started or add a graduate degree to your resume, you increase your job prospects. According to a report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, college graduates have 57% more job opportunities compared with non-graduates, and an estimated two-thirds of all jobs in the next year will require at least some form of postsecondary education.
To help ease the financial strain, employer-sponsored scholarships and tuition reimbursement — especially for high-demand careers — are becoming more prevalent. Independent and university-offered scholarships are often options too.
“Davenport University is offering individuals who are laid off or furloughed because of COVID-19 an $8,000 scholarship per year for four years,” said Lowe. “This is just one of many scholarships we offer to make getting or completing a degree more affordable.”
Anyone interested in scholarship opportunities can visit davenport.edu/launch to learn more.
2. Seek certification
According to Lowe, with the rise in online learning, there are a number of professional development courses and certifications available that can enhance not only your skill set but also how your resume stands out against those of your competitors.
After speaking with recruiters and human resources professionals, the job and recruiting website Glassdoor concluded that while certifications make a difference, not all certifications are created equal. It rated role-specific certifications in fields such as human resources, project management, sales and information technology, as well as software certifications from HubSpot, Google and Salesforce, at the top of its list.
“Online classes are plentiful, and you can expand your skill set, thereby making yourself more marketable, on your own time,” Lowe said.
3. Level-up your job search skills
Finally, first impressions are made online, sometimes before a candidate even submits a cover letter or resume. LinkedIn and Handshake are used by recruiters to find candidates for employers at all levels; therefore, profiles must be up to date and professionally written.
Cover letters and resumes depend on keywords and clarity to achieve consideration. Once an employer is interested, phone and in-person interview skills are crucial to success.
“This is another area where Davenport University has really stepped up,” Lowe said. “Davenport University is offering a free, three-credit course for laid-off or furloughed individuals who are looking to perfect their resume and boost their interview skills.”
It's critical to prepare in advance, she said, to make sure your online and in-person personas reflect you as a person and a professional.
Job seekers can apply for the free course at davenport.edu/CareerBuilder.
While the overall disruption this pandemic has caused cannot be overlooked, now can be the time to embrace online learning and explore new skills, degrees or certifications designed to make yourself more marketable and help you move toward the career or job advancement you’ve been seeking.