Pandemic post-grad job update: A year later

Pandemic post-grad job update: A year later

Entry-level jobs are down, but that doesn’t mean you’re out

Here we are. Another round of college graduates are about to head off into the professional world in the wake of the pandemic. As more vaccines become available in these next rollouts, it opens the door for new groups of people and gives hope of a more normal life to come. But the economic affects of this last year haven’t left the door quite as wide open for entry-level positions essential to college graduates.

The major matters

The reality of it is, even in a normal year, major matters. A study that was recently completed by Jeffrey Selingo and Matt Sigelman using data from Burning Glass Technologies, a labor-market analytics firm, showed that those in the visual and performing arts and communications/journalism industries dropped 43 and 42 percent. It’s important to note, however, that all job markets have seen drops to their labor-market. Something I, a soon-to-be journalism grad, can feel in my current job search. 

All is not lost in the post-grad job search though. The study suggests looking into “target occupations”, professions across a range of majors with solid salaries and where employers continue to hire at the entry level. They also suggest “lifeboat occupations”. These jobs typically require less than a bachelor’s degree but allow employees to gain important skills they can use to transition later.

Find a job with sellable skills

“When it comes to future prospects, there’s a big difference between taking a job on an IT help desk versus winding up as a barista.” Jeffrey Selingo and Matt Sigelman said in an article by the Wall Street Journal.

While there’s nothing wrong with working as a barista for a dream job, in fact service industry jobs provide great customer service experience, it’s important to make sure that it’s helping to build your resume in the right ways. If your major lends itself to a 9-to-5 office job, you’ll want to find work that puts you into that environment. Knowing how the culture and structure of an office works while getting used to the hours is going to benefit you when you finally land that dream job.

Using the communications and journalism majors as an example, the study suggests targeting industry occupations such as reporter, web developer and writer/author for their slightly higher availability. But let’s face it, there isn’t enough for everyone. “Lifeboat jobs”, albeit not everyone’s #1 choice, can offer you skills that employers are looking for. The study shows “lifeboat jobs” like a computer user support specialists and loan officers can make a salary up to $55,000 with some benefits. It’s worth it to take a deep dive into job search sites like Indeed or LinkedIn to find entry level jobs that match key resume builders. The nice thing about LinkedIn is that you can see if any of your connections also work at the companies you’re applying to. Don’t be afraid to reach out, you never know where a connection may take you.

We’re not saying to completely abandon the career path you set out to achieve, but there is the hard truth that you may not get it directly out of college like you expected.  A look into the future of an automated economy also shows an increase in jobs for positions like UI or UX (User Interface/Experience) designers, writers, and developers averaging a salary of almost $100,000. Having knowledge about design, react javascript, and robotics can help you potentially transition into those jobs later on. Even landing a job at a tech company as a receptionist or customer service representative could gain you that tech knowledge needed for those higher level jobs. 

Reach out to EVERYONE

There’s nothing more true than the age old saying of “who you know matters”. Having that one mutual connection can be the difference between getting the job or not. That may seem a little dramatic but it’s true. Reach out to old bosses, past coworkers, your parent’s friends, older graduates, alumni, the mail man (okay maybe not that one), but you get the idea. Ask if they know of any opportunities that would be good for you and set up an informational interview. If you can, get in touch with someone in the company you’re applying to and ask them out for a zoom coffee. you could even send them a virtual gift card to their favorite coffee place as a way to “buy” them a coffee on you. The Starbucks app offers a lot of themed gift cards and Venmo is always an option as well.

Then, when you finally get that informational interview, come prepared with questions and make a good impression. You are the one who asked them, don’t make them carry on the conversation. Also, don’t log on looking like you just rolled out of bed either (we’ve all done it). Get up, eat a good breakfast, and put on a professional outfit that you feel confident in. If you can, casually mention that you’re applying to a position in their company, but don’t push it. It’s up to them whether or not they mention you to recruiters.

Lastly, get their address. No, this does not mean go to their house. Once the informational interview is done, you want to send a follow up thank you email and then send them a handwritten thank you letter. SEND. THE. LETTER. People love to receive handwritten letters and it shows that you’re proactive. Stamps and stationary are cheap and writing is free. It’ll be worth the investment.

Keep learning

For those college students that still have a year or more left in their studies, look into classes that may not be in your major but could be sellable skills that will make you stand out. Take an app design class or take a class that teaches you software systems such as Adobe Suites, Excel, and some CMS systems to name a few. You can also check out Surviving the Pandemic – What Technology Our Team Has Been Utilizing for more ideas. 

However, even if you are graduating at the end of May 2021, don’t think that your learning needs to stop there. Look into online courses and programs that can teach you these sellable skills if you didn’t get to them in college. Many industry professionals continue to attend webinars, speakers, classes, and other informational sessions to keep up with trends and changes in the marketplace/industry all the time. Zoom has also made it so much easier to attend such events by removing travel time and increasing accessibility. 

The hard reality is, they are just not that many jobs right now. As someone who is about to graduate, I am all too aware of that fact. But there are things we can do to obtain that workplace experience so that we can end up in the jobs we went to college for. Try out your top jobs first, you may actually get them––but if you find yourself struggling in the entry-level job market, use some of the tips above to help you find something that will still benefit you in the long run.  

Surviving the Pandemic- Social Media Analytics and Your Small Business

Surviving the Pandemic- Social Media Analytics and Your Small Business

Understanding your social media analytics as a small business

I think it’s safe to say, especially during a global pandemic, that social media has become one of the biggest and most important marketing platforms for businesses in recent years. It’s also one of the many services we provide at Enterprise Iowa. The platform has given businesses (big and small) a place to create and sell their brands while facilitating greater connections with their customers. 

The best thing about these social media platforms in marketing terms, is that they generate their own analytics. These days everybody and their dog (quite literally) has a social media account. So analytics become important when trying to work the algorithms and get your brand in front of your target audience. 

Corporations have entire departments dedicated toward analyzing and tracking social media analytics and algorithms, but this article will be focusing on more manageable and cost effective ways for small businesses to take that next step in their social media marketing.

Make a plan

Create goals for your social media marketing activity. They can be measured in traffic, community engagement, conversions, follower growth and anything else you feel is important to your business. Aim to make “SMART” goals:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Revelant

Timely

Having all of this figured out once you set up your analytics will make it easier to create content that will help you reach those goals.

 

Switch to a business account

In order to receive the full range of analytic data from social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, you need to make or switch to a business account. Once you have done this, you will be able to see all the account insights from impressions (how many times your posts were seen) to engagement (likes, comments, shares).

Understanding the metrics

As you start to use and familiarize yourself with your analytics data, there will be key performance indicators (KPI’s) or metrics that you’ll find are vital to your business. According to Hootsuite, here are some of the major metrics found on most analytics trackers based on the four social funnels:

Awareness: These metrics show your current and potential audience. There are different metrics you can track in awareness but here is the most relevant one to your small business.

  • Audience Growth Rate: pick a reporting period that works best for you and then follow this equation.

                    Net New Followers ÷ Total Audience  X  100 = Growth Rate Percentage

Engagement: Shows how audiences are engaging with your content (e.g likes, comments, shares)

Conversion: It demonstrates the effectiveness of your social engagement by tracking the number of visitors that take action on your account. A high conversion rate means your content is valuable and relevant. 

Consumer: this metric reflects how customers think and feel about your brand

  • Great Customer Testimonials (reviews, comments, endorsement, etc) will garner trust and credibility among your consumers, boosting brand awareness.

 

Use hashtags

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to stress this one. Hashtags are used as keyword indicators so your content is more likely to show up when someone searches it. Utilizing these in every post is going to give you an SEO advantage later. 

Hashtags can also be used as campaign material when trying to promote something for your business, helping to increase your conversion rate. It can also indicate how big of an audience is being reached and who it is reaching.

Look for trends in post performance

It’s important to keep track of how your posts perform because they are an indicator of what your audience is reacting and relating to the most. If you notice that videos tend to garner more attention, then maybe think about implementing more video content into your posts. 

Say, for example, a post received a significantly higher response via likes and comments than is normal for your platform. Examine the post to determine why that is. Is the content more personable? What time of day did you post it? Did it have relevance to current events? Was it relatable? It’s always good to ask these types of questions when looking to understand your insights.

 

Social Media Publishers

If you have more than one social platform for your small business and find yourself feeling overwhelmed having to keep track of all the different posts, a social media publisher may be helpful. 

These services let you schedule automatic posts for a later date on multiple platforms. That way you can have your content pre-scheduled and ready to be published before the intended date. They can also show you an organized calendar of all your scheduled posts to give you a view of what you have coming up or if you have too many posts in one day. Some even generate their own set of analytics too.

The most common services people use are:

It may seem overwhelming, but you can do it!

The world of social media analytics is vast and can be a bit overwhelming at times. But it’s important to note that not all these “best practices” out there are relevant for smaller businesses with little to no communications department. This article was aimed at giving relevant tips and information that would help boost smaller platforms and increase their marketing capabilities while relieving some of that confusion. 

As your business grows and your social media platforms require more analytical knowledge, reevaluate your social media plan from time to time. Your KPI’s might have changed or maybe you’re in the right place to hire a social media manager. Either way, social media has become a place where anyone can market what they do, no matter the resources available to them.

 

Help Your Networks With Housing and Utility Challenges

Help Your Networks With Housing and Utility Challenges

If you work in the field of economic development, and more specifically if you have an economic interest in the real estate industry, then you know the value of stability in the marketplace. Significant events with adverse economic impacts, such as COVID-19 and a derecho, can have a cascading effect on jobs, families, and the economy generally. That is why it has been important for government, non-profit organizations, and businesses to support activities that collectively create a safety net – to provide some measure of economic stability. It’s one of the reasons the State of Iowa, local governments and community organizations created their own economic recovery grant programs. Other nationwide support systems, such as unemployment benefits, the Paycheck Protection Program and various forms of natural disaster assistance, have also been important.

To be sure, these are imperfect systems, and one can debate the effectiveness of various policy alternatives or the extent to which we can borrow from the future to pay for them. But there is no question that they have provided an important lifeline to many during these challenging times. While some programs have ended or are winding down, there are some that will continue for a few months longer. Two of them are designed to help people stay in their homes and businesses by assisting with rent and utility expenses.

Iowa COVID-19 Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention (EFP) Program

The Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) reported last week that rental assistance has been provided to just over 2000 applicants equaling approximately $4.8 million. On the foreclosure side, the EFP Program has awarded nearly $135,000 to 61 applicants. Approximately $15 million in funds remain in the program, which will remain open until funds are exhausted or until December, 2020, whichever comes first.

IFA reports that the program has seen a significant increase in the number of applications being submitted since August 1. On Tuesday, August 4, it was announced that Iowans who have been receiving $600 a week in federal unemployment stimulus benefits may now apply for the rent and mortgage assistance. For more information, visit https://www.iowafinance.com/covid-19-iowa-eviction-and-foreclosure-prevention-program/.

Iowa Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) recently announced that more Iowa small business owners and nonprofits are now eligible to receive financial assistance with electric and natural gas utility bills. Eligibility criteria for the Iowa Small Business Utility Disruption Prevention Program has been expanded to include utility assistance for eligible small businesses and nonprofits for electric or natural gas service provided between March 17, 2020 and October 15, 2020.

To be eligible, small businesses and nonprofits must have experienced a COVID-19 loss of income. Financial assistance of up to $7,500 is available. Payment’s would be made directly to an applicant’s utility service provider. The program will accept applications through October 31, 2020 or until all funds have been exhausted. The state allocated approximately $14.5 million of federal CARES Act funds for the program when launched in early July.

For more information, visit https://www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/Business/energy-recovery or call 515.348.8914 (toll free: 855.300.2342).

The Enterprise Iowa team encourages our clients and affiliated organizations to share this information with everyone in their various networks. Let’s do what we can to ensure that the individuals and businesses in need of this assistance get connected with these resources. It is the type of help that can increase economic stability for the benefit of all.

Surviving the Pandemic – What Technology Our Team Has Been Utitlizing

Surviving the Pandemic – What Technology Our Team Has Been Utitlizing

In a world forever changed by a global pandemic, we are also experiencing a business world forever changed. While COVID-19 has obviously given businesses a whole slew of challenges, there are also key takeaways that can be applied to improve business operations in the long run. These are not necessarily new technologies, but they all deserve an extra round of applause for helping our team and other teams continue to make it through our time away from the office. They will also certainly have a new face even after the pandemic dissipates.

With that said, here is our list of the most helpful tools for continuing remote operations:

 

Adobe Connect

Videoconferencing has largely made the transition to remote offices possible. There are many videoconferencing platforms out there, but Adobe Connect has primarily been what our team has used. It’s an essential communication tool to more closely mimic that in-person conversation as well as explain more complex tasks and issues. It comes in handy both for internal and external meetings that would typically happen in person.

Slack

Slack (or a similar platform) has been pretty much essential for any business to continue operations through these times. It is arguably the best way for teams to instant message each other to keep projects flowing. Our team utilized Slack before this all began, but this pandemic gave Slack a newfound purpose for our team at Enterprise Iowa.

Microsoft SharePoint

Microsoft SharePoint has been another essential technology our team has used away from the office. It’s a web-based shared library that allows each member of our team to access files outside of the office. Prior to the pandemic, we mostly had to be at our desks to access company-wide files. This has truly allowed our team to operate fully remote.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Like SharePoint, Adobe Creative Cloud has a shared library feature. When creating graphics for a variety of uses, the library is helpful tool to keep themes consistent across all design elements. This means that from anywhere, anyone on our team can create new themed designs without having to access files on the network in the office.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp has been another life-saving communication tool in the times of COVID-19. It has been our best and easiest way to share information with our audience. This not only includes updates about continuing business through these times, but also serves as a relevant information tool for the virus itself.

Hootsuite

Much like Mailchimp, Hootsuite has been another way to keep our customers and audience updated through social media platforms. Hootsuite is an easy place to manage all social media platforms, schedule reminders, and allows access for our team members within the account. Again, it allows us to update everyone regarding our business and COVID-19.

WordPress

I’m writing this blog with WordPress right now! WordPress has been another essential tool to keep everyone updated and informed. Aside from the blogs, the websites we run are also created with WordPress. Again, websites are a fantastic way to update everyone about continuing business as well as finding relevant information about COVID-19.

Docking Stations

This one is different because it is hardware rather than software, but docking stations paired with laptops have been incredibly useful through the pandemic. As companies look to new technologies for their offices, docking stations allow much more flexibility when working from home as well. Rather than having a stationary desktop, having a laptop that you can connect to a docking station for all office files, programs, etc. that you can also disconnect to take the laptop anywhere allows for a lot more freedom away from the office.

 

As you can tell, the age of communication is changing—and that change has been expedited by this global pandemic. COVID-19 has forced all of us to rethink how we operate our businesses, and many of these practices will likely carry over to a post-pandemic world. While some jobs will return to what they once were, and some jobs never really changed throughout this pandemic, a lot of jobs will likely be transformed forever by technology used remotely to grant employees more freedom when it comes to the workplace.

Remember, while more and more of the country begins to reopen and businesses may be returning to normal, or our new normal, COVID-19 has not just disappeared. Cases are still on the rise, so it is important to still be taking safety precautions even as we ease back into our typical day-to-day lives. Throughout these changing times, stay happy and stay healthy.

Preparing for Remote Work: Technology to the Rescue!

Preparing for Remote Work: Technology to the Rescue!

From a technology standpoint, I don’t think there has ever been a time in history when our world has been more prepared for a crisis. Most companies are fortunate enough to have the ability to perform many of their necessary functions remotely. However, I would be remiss to not recognize the fact that creating a solid remote work environment does not come without workarounds and struggles with initial set up. We can often take for granted the technology and resources available to us in an office setting, from fast internet speeds to secure network access there are many things that make our everyday work environment convenient and comfortable.

Fortunately, our team didn’t take the COVID-19 warnings lightly, and we started to think ahead and prepare for a possible remote work scenario. Did we get it all right on the first try? Certainly not, but we were ahead of the curve by giving some early thought to how we could operate remotely.

Here are a few things we considered.

Access to Network Files

Our team relies on an in-office file network for day-to-day access to our files. The network is an efficient way for our team to stay organized by sharing files in one place that is accessible to our entire team. Moving away from this organized structure may seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.

We knew we obviously didn’t need every single file created in company history moved to a new location for remote access, so our team collaborated to make a list of the files that would need moved. We opted to move our files to a SharePoint folder system which is available with our Office 365 subscription. If you do not have access to something like SharePoint there are free versions of cloud-based storage such as Google Drive and Dropbox that you could potentially utilize.

Computer/Device Set Up

Before you can access files and securely log in to a system, you need to make sure that your computer and device setup will allow you to work efficiently. I will tell you firsthand that going from large dual monitors to a small laptop quickly gets frustrating. It’s not always simple to set up a new device configuration but considering a few things will make the process much simpler. Does your office have a spare monitor you can hook up to your laptop? What types or cords or adapters will you need to connect the two devices? Will you want a full keyboard and mouse? How will those connect to your portable device? Taking these configuration options into consideration and having the appropriate materials on hand to create your optimal working environment will pay dividends by helping you avoid unnecessary frustrations.

Team Meetings/Communication

In the beginning, your thoughts about technology needs might be limited to your own work, but if you operate with a small team, there are other things you should consider. Because our team is small, and we are accustomed to being able to hold daily in-person team meetings. In addition, we are fortunate enough to be able to walk down the hall for a quick consult with a co-worker. Luckily, we already had a few things in place that allow us to continue to communicate effectively during this work-from-home period.

Slack
Prior to COVID-19 our team was using Slack to communicate with one another in the office. When the COVID emergency emerged, our communications flow never missed a beat, and we could continue business as usual. Of course, this came with more typing of messages and fewer face-to-face interactions on more complex topics, but this tool helped keep our workflow moving forward.

Adobe Connect
Slack worked great for short conversations and questions, but it isn’t a good environment for a team meeting. Another existing software that we were lucky to have available in our toolkit is Adobe Connect. This service is commonly used for hosting webinars and web conferences.

Prior to the emergency, we would often use a teleconference in conjunction with the web conference features, but not much else. Our new circumstances pushed us to increase use of other features available in Adobe Connect, such as internal video and audio. When dealing with several team members, each with their own device configurations, there were a few hiccups to get each team members device set up to function correctly, but in the end the video and audio connection allowed us to interact like a team again.

Our team feels fortunate to have access to tools that have made our transition to remote work easier. After nearly two months of living through these unprecedented times we can begin to dream about what getting back to a new normal work environment might look like. I am certain this will look different for each company, but I am confident that the exercise of thinking outside the box to prepare a remote work environment will serve all companies well and leave them more prepared and confident for future challenges that might come there way.

Top 5 Tips for Working from Home

Top 5 Tips for Working from Home

To promote the safety and well-being of our population during this pandemic, many companies have told their employees to stay home and work remotely. While this is a rather difficult transition for many, there are simple things to do to make life a little bit easier throughout this time. As I write this blog from my couch, I have compiled a list of tips and tricks to stay productive at home. 

1) Establish a Routine 

Establishing a routine may just be the most important tip for effectively working from home. It will help outline day-to-day activities to stay in line and productive at work. When will I start work? When will I take my lunch break? What can I do to keep me focused and motivated throughout the day? What kind of time needs to be allocated to the tasks I need to complete?These are all valid questions that can be incorporated into a daily routine. Perhaps getting in the routine of keeping and following a schedule or list to follow day in and day out will help keep you on track at work. 

2) Get Ready for Work 

This is not to say that you still need to dress business casual to work from home (although feel free to if that helps). However, sticking to a morning routine before “heading off to work” will help you get in the right mindset to be a productive employee. My top recommendation for this tip is to continue setting your alarm. Furthermore, before beginning work for the day, try doing simple things such as starting your day with some exercise, hitting the shower, and making breakfast to send a mental signal that you are ready for work. 

3) Create a Separate Office Space 

You do not need a nice, at home office to utilize this tipMy home office has become one end of my couch with a side table. The important part here is that this is not somewhere I typically sit and lounge on a regular basis. The point is to have a physical separation of your personal and professional lives within your home. It’s possible for this to work out for some people, but the one thing I recommend avoiding is working from bed. 

4) Utilize Technology and Keep in Contact with Your Team 

Technology is what makes work from home possible. However, a new adjustment for most of us is electronically communicating and coordinating shared documents with everyone. At the office, we are used to having easy access to everything we need and stepping next door to ask a coworker a question. Moving that all online can be a difficult transition. Having shared access to necessary documents through cloud technology is a necessity for team-based environments. It is also important to utilize messaging and videoconferencing apps to maintain good communication with everyone involved in your line of work. Communication is still key! 

5) Minimize the Distractions 

It is no doubt that an endless number of distractions can come from working at home. Many of us have taken on the extra role of care providers and teachers for children, are sharing spaces with family members also working from home in completely different lines of work, or have new furry coworkers who are always in your business. This is not to mention other simple distractions that arise in a home environment that we do not typically face at the office: How many trips to the fridge will I take today? What new shows are on Netflix? I’ll just take a quick ten minute break to fold some laundry. Again, a solution to this goes back to tip #3. Try to keep a separate office space secluded from many of the distractions you face to remain as productive as possible. 

But don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself falling victim to these distractions. Yes, it is important to find ways to stay focused and more productive at work. But more importantly during this time is to be honest about your work. Try to keep detailed notes of when you’re taking breaks and for how long. So, while a small break here and there may be healthy to clear your mind and get back on track, just be honest with the work you have actually completed. 

Those are just a few tips to start out with, and you may find that not all of them help or that something completely different helps you the most. What’s important to remember is that many of us are facing the same challenges that come from working at home. I find that most of us are understanding, forgiving, and patient as we are going through the same complications of this transition. In the end, this is not a permanent state and learning how to be productive with your coworkers remotely may end up being a skill we can all benefit from in the future.