How I found and started a full-time job remotely

Photo of Asher Alt.

Starting your job search in quarantine? A recent grad shares tips on landing a job virtually.

Getting a job remotely is a challenge that has become more common since the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for new grads. You’ve already gotten through virtual classes and maybe a virtual graduation, and now you’re expected to land a full-time job virtually.

There’s hope: Getting a job remotely, in the middle of a pandemic, is possible. I’ve done it myself!

After graduating from the University of Missouri in 2018 with degrees in journalism and theater and working for an ad agency for a few years, I decided it was time for a change. My job search coincided with the beginning of COVID-19, so I began freelancing and searching for a full-time position.

The world seemed to be on pause and jobs were scarce. I seriously doubted that I would find a full-time job — much less a job I enjoyed and found fulfilling. But with a lot of tenacity, consistency, and a bit of luck, I found and started a great job remotely. These tips are what worked for me in landing a job remotely, and I hope they help you, too.

Get your resume in order

Your resume is likely the first way you’ll make an impression on an employer, so make sure it’s a good one! There are tons of resume templates online that you can use, but make sure your resume is readable by applicant tracking systems (ATS). These are systems that HR departments use to computerize the initial screening of resumes — meaning that your resume likely won’t be seen by a human first. To help avoid your resume being rejected by the ATS, keep the design sleek and include keywords from the job description. Job-searching sites like Jobscan and Indeed have ATS-friendly resume templates to help you get started.

Once you’ve decided on your resume format, focus on the content. List your experience in reverse chronological order, and tailor it to the job you’re seeking. If you don’t have professional job experience yet, highlight applicable skills from your college experience. Did you serve as president of a club? Organize a dance marathon? Act in a school play? Employers will likely want to see those organizational and team-oriented skills, no matter where you built them. If you’re still unsure of what to include on your resume, take the resume do’s and don’ts quiz to learn how to build a rock-solid resume.

Finally, make sure you proofread your resume and other application materials at least twice and ask a grammar-minded friend to look everything over for good measure.

Make genuine connections

There’s a saying that goes, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” In the world of job searching, this can be true. When I was job searching remotely, I interviewed with a law firm and ended up being a top candidate. Unfortunately, the firm decided to go with an agency for marketing help rather than a single person. But even though I wasn’t the right fit, that interview led to another job lead with my interviewer’s colleague!

LinkedIn was a very useful networking resource for me. There’s a premium version with a monthly fee, but I found success without paying for the service. With this tool, you can connect not only with people you know but also with people you aspire to be. Reach out to professionals in your field and ask for an informational interview — just be sure to send a personalized invitation saying why you’re interested in connecting with them.

And before you graduate, connect (on LinkedIn or other social networking sites) with friends, former coworkers and bosses, classmates, or professors — you never know who can make that great connection.

Be prepared for (virtual) interviews

I was on the job hunt during the COVID-19 pandemic, so that meant I was interviewing remotely, either through the phone or on video (or both). I imagine that this interviewing style will continue for some time, so it’s best to be prepared.

Fortunately, preparing for virtual interviews is a lot like preparing for in-person ones. Research common job interviewer questions and have your answers ready. Be honest: Highlight your strengths, and don’t say something like, “My greatest weakness is that I work too hard.” It helped me to write down my answers and study them like I would for a test. That way, I felt comfortable and ready for my interviews. Pro tip: Tell a story of your experiences using the STAR technique.

When it’s time for the interview, log on (or have your phone ready) at least five minutes beforehand. This gives you time to work through any issues that may come up and keeps you from being late. If you’re on video, make sure that whatever the interviewer sees is presentable. Wear an appropriate top, and keep your background free of distractions. You may also consider a virtual background if you’re not able to control your surroundings.

Upgrade your skills

During the summer of 2020, I had lots of time to throw myself into freelancing and learning valuable skills to amp up my resume. Capitalizing on opportunities for advancement was one of the things that set me apart in my job search.

There are tons of online resources — free and fee-based — to help you improve your marketability. For example, I took photography, HTML coding, and scriptwriting classes online to fill up my free time and stay productive. I learned new skills I otherwise wouldn’t have in my job, and I even picked up some new hobbies along the way.

Reading books related to your industry, attending virtual events, and taking online classes are great ways to set yourself apart from the pack. That one class could give you an edge over the other candidates, and you may even end up enjoying it so much you turn that skill into a side gig.

Stay consistent

Job searching can be tough. It may take many no’s before you get a yes. I submitted dozens of applications over several months before I found my job. Most of the applications were to positions within my area of expertise, but I did apply for a few so-called “survival jobs” to get some sort of a paycheck.

I’ve learned that it’s important to stay motivated. Carve out time every day for your job search. Tailor and submit resumes, reach out to industry connections, and keep sharpening your skills. Like most things in life, you see results when you consistently work toward your goal.

And when you do get a job remotely …

Celebrate! Your hard work has finally paid off. But know that the work doesn’t stop when you land a job. Expect a learning curve when you first start and have patience with the remote onboarding process. You may need to send important hiring documents online, and you may even need to find a local notary for those documents, as I did.

As you get up and running in your new position, don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand something. Things can get lost in virtual translation, and it may be better to ask questions first rather than fix a problem later. Also, I found it helpful to schedule regular check-ins with my supervisor to assess my progress. Finally, keep track of all the projects and tasks you’re involved in and their results; this will make it easier to fill out your resume when (and if) you start the job-searching process all over again.

Good luck!

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