Are you a soon-to-be or recent graduate looking to enter the job market? Are you concerned about how you can gain work experience? Are you wondering how to improve your employment skills? Taking your first steps on the career ladder can be a daunting prospect, never mind when trying to do so amidst an ongoing global health crisis which is interrupting, transforming and redefining ‘business as usual’ and the workplace.
Over the course of the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has sent the world economy into turmoil, forcing industries across the globe to come to a stand-still or reinvent themselves in record time as both small and large businesses fought for survival and workforces in large part found themselves confined to their homes. National lockdowns, a persistent decline in working hours and business closures have contributed to the loss of the equivalent of an unprecedented 255 million jobs. Countless employers have been forced to cancel and postpone work experiences and internships leaving many graduates questioning their future.
According to a Prospects survey, in 2020, 26% of final year students lost out on an internship because of the pandemic. In a recent Indeed survey of over 1000 students graduating in 2021, 54% said they feel less confident in finding work after they graduate because of the coronavirus' impact on the labor market, while 33% said they feel they will struggle to get into the industry they're graduating in. But, while it may feel all doom and gloom, there is a silver lining to every crisis – including this one.
How to develop your employment skills in the COVID era
Rethink where and how you want to work in the future
The World Economic Forum projects that by 2022, at least 54% of all employees will need reskilling and upskilling to respond to changing work requirements. While you can be forgiven for feeling an initial sense of despair at these unprecedented obstacles, these hurdles should instead be seen as steppingstones to invaluable life lessons and skills required for the future of work. A future in which flexible work schemes are going ‘viral’. From internships to part-time work, job-shares, remote and virtual work, freelance, contracting or full-time work, employment nowadays can take on many more different forms broadening your prospects. The current climate is then a prime environment to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial in order to respond to this reality with ingenuity. As hospitality graduates, you are equipped with the mindset and skills to help (re)imagine, (re)design, and (re)build what employment looks like moving forward.
1. Entrepreneurial mindset: spot opportunities for business growth
In today’s climate, companies are going to need creative and disruptive thinkers in order to reimagine business models, processes, service offerings, and client engagements with a digital-first approach. Digital natives with entrepreneurial experience or a flare for transforming challenges into opportunities and developing a business are going to have an edge above others as entrepreneurialism becomes key to companies’ growth strategy. With more and more organizations recruiting on potential, and not solely on past experience, the time is ripe to get involved with, or even better, launch your own innovative start-up.
2. Online networking: leverage technology to stay visible in a virtual world
Employers today are going to be looking for individuals who can thrive in a virtual environment. Remote networking and creating a professional presence on social media are proving critical as professionals shift online and social distancing limits opportunities for real-life encounters. Ensure you are active on business networking sites like LinkedIn, have up-to-date employer-friendly social media profiles, join professional interest and industry groups online and interact with similar professionals to expand your network and grow your profile. Your next employment opportunity or mentor may just be a connection away.
3. Continuous learning: acquire and hone new employment skills
Improve your employability by improving your skills. Online certifications, skill-specific courses or professional development training such as those offered by EHL are nowadays available in a range of subjects to complete in your own time, online, alongside employment and without the constraints of enrolling in a new degree. Furthering your education by completing short courses or online certificates are a helpful way to sharpen your existing skills or explore something new and prepare you for this rapidly evolving work environment. As employers increasingly look out for continuous, agile learners, it’s also an effective way of demonstrating your initiative, drive, and organizational skills.
4. Multi-language fluency: learn a foreign language
In an international and digitalized business world, there is a significant interest in hiring multilingual employees who can bridge the gaps in understanding and communication between different countries and cultures. Being fluent in multiple languages will make you more competitive in the job market, and particularly for globally-minded organizations. If you are lacking incentive, note that a study found that speaking a second language can add 10-15% to your salary. So, parlez-vous français? Sprechen Sie Deutsch? ¿Hablas español? If not, what are you waiting for? There are plenty of online resources and apps that are just a click away to help you learn a new language or take your second (or third) language to the next level.
5. Outside interests: pick up a (creative) hobby
Pursuing a hobby not only has many personal benefits – such as improved physical and mental health or creativity – but a growing amount of research and anecdotal evidence suggest that hobbies can supercharge our ability to learn and grow, making us better professionals. Having interests beyond work and home life broadens your identity and shows you have passion and drive, making you more interesting and unique to prospective employers. Aside from helping you gain new perspectives, a hobby also introduces you to new people and therefore widens your network of contacts – and who knows the connections you can make or the doors that could open via a shared interest…
6. Emotional intelligence: strengthen your social skills and self-awareness
In the current job market, the deciding factor for employers often comes down to a contest between candidates hard vs. soft skills, with the latter seen as more important. A key gauge of soft skills is emotional intelligence which is thought to be the ‘secret ingredient’ for career success with facilitated personal interaction with colleagues, leadership or clients. While everyone possesses an innate level of emotional intelligence, consider whether you need to take steps to improve your EQ (emotional quotient). For example, widen your horizons by engaging with people from a variety of background, get involved in social projects or volunteer. These experiences will teach you greater awareness both of yourself and others as well as develop relationship-building and communication skills – useful across all industries and job types.
7. “VUCA” leadership: demonstrate effective leadership fit for the future
Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) characterize the current environment we are in, creating unprecedented challenges and demands for leadership. A certain skill set is required to confront these conditions – from the ability to react quickly to change, demonstrating flexibility and agility in merging planned activities with adapted ones or changing course entirely, to a winning attitude, resilience and the foresight to deal with the expected and unexpected alike. In other terms, to demonstrate VUCA leadership: Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility. Consider investing in some executive coaching to ensure you have all the skills and competencies to take your personal and professional development to the next level and be a leader fit for the future.
Hospitality skills are transferable to many sectors
The hospitality mindset, the various specializations and practical skills acquired during hospitality management studies and work placements make you a well-rounded prospective employee attractive to any employer. With the increased usage of technology in the future, companies will have to differentiate themselves from the competition through the human factor. As hospitality graduates stemming from a sector all about people, human interaction and experiences, you can prove yourself to be a highly valuable and appealing candidate to industries outside of the hospitality sector such as retail, luxury brands, banking, human resources or marketing. Excellence in the future will be defined by the level and quality of the human interactions and experiences, as technology will be a given. So, keep an open mind, see everything as an opportunity, and remember, when one door closes, another opens.