Dear Sam: I have been reading your articles for a while and enjoy the advice you offer to people in a wide variety of situations. I am in my final year of university and will be graduating with a degree in Communications this summer. The usual anxiety of entering the job market after college is now amplified by the current crisis our world faces with COVID-19. I wanted to reach out not only for myself but also for all those who find themselves in a similar situation. What does entering the job market look like during this pandemic? Is my degree going to be of use right now? Are employers hiring? These are also questions I hear from my class of 2020 peers. I hope you’re staying safe and healthy! – Olivia

Dear Olivia: Thank you for your kind words and readership. This is a challenging time to graduate and launch your career, but I assure you that I have seen plenty of new graduates secure positions during our current economic and health climate.

As the job market is saturated, the key to success is ensuring you know who you are and what you want to be. In this environment, there is no space for a “general” resume; you must target your candidacy to have the keyword relevance and a message that resonates with your desired audience. I know this can be challenging when you have not carved out an area of expertise. Still, it is imperative to show an employer that you offer a high level of value based on your degree, coursework, potential internships, early experiences, and even your extracurricular and leadership roles in college.

Your degree is absolutely useful, and will be made even more so if you are sure to present related coursework, perhaps class projects, capstone studies, and other college experiences that predict your ability to ‘hit the ground running!’ Please don’t get discouraged, as I said, I have seen numerous clients at all levels of their careers, begin and successfully end job searches amid our current uncertain environment. I recently had a conversation with a human resources thought leader who said that even though her company was on a hiring freeze for a while, she was still actively building her talent pipeline.

Before you begin to write your resume, be sure you have defined your target and understand what message you need to send to engage your target audience. Then, and only then, will you know what is most important to focus on when building your brand and telling your unique story. Review job postings of interest to get a sense of the language expected in a qualified candidate’s presentation. You should see themes emerge from the job postings you were reading, confirming your search is targeted enough to send a message that resonates with the intended audience.

In addition, be sure you are spending significant time researching emerging opportunities, connecting with influencers and decision-makers, and leveraging the power of LinkedIn to get your brand in front of target employers and their hiring managers. With 80% of jobs out there never hitting the ‘open’ market, this is more important than ever with our current candidate saturation.

Wish you tremendous success and congratulations on your upcoming graduation.