For recent graduates, the job market looks far different than it did when they started on their university journeys four years ago. COVID-19 rapidly shifted how we are expected to work, and where we do that work. Some may find themselves wondering what does the world of remote work mean for today’s graduates? Fortunately, it seems to be rather promising. Let’s take a look at what the current work-from-home experience looks like, and how students can explore possible opportunities.

Large companies have committed to working remotely

Some of the world’s biggest companies, including Facebook and Twitter, recently announced employees won’t be required to return to work in person. According to the BBC, Facebook representatives say remote work is "the future". Employees in qualifying roles can apply to work remotely on a permanent basis, with the majority expected to work from home in the next three to five years. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced his employees "can now work from home forever". While this is fabulous news for current employees of these organizations, what does it mean for future employees? Forbes predicts other companies may follow Twitter’s example by allowing employees to choose if they work remotely, come back in person, or a hybrid model combining the two. This puts employees in charge of managing their options when it comes to choosing how and where they work. As a result, they may be able to expand their horizons when it comes to where and how they perform their job duties.

Meeting the demands of workers

New graduates might find themselves entering a workplace that looks significantly different than that of their predecessors. A survey performed by Flexjobs indicated over 65% of employees currently working from home wish to remain there, citing less time spent on commutes, and financial benefits. Rather than spending time in the car or on the train, employees are satisfied with logging on in the morning, and turning off their laptops at night. Now that employees are understanding the benefits of working from home, that’s where they would like to stay and many companies are meeting their demands. Prior to the pandemic, employers weren’t entirely sure how fully remote or hybrid models could work. However, now they’ve had a change of heart and “indicated in surveys that hybrid models of remote work for some employees are here to stay.”

However, there are some concerns about the success newer employees will find in a fully remote workplace environment. While recent graduate Nicole Jao has been successful in her role as a cybersecurity risk consultant, she’s also had to put in some extra work to get there. About her experience starting her career remotely, Jao reflected, “when you’re remote, you need to be very vocal about the assistance you need and the help you’re looking for. As a new grad and new hire, it definitely affects the way I can learn”. However, despite some of the challenges represented by a remote workplace, new hires are also learning the benefits of working from home.

Saving money

Most recent graduates leave school with  $35,000 or more in student loan debt. When launching a career, money can be tight. However, a remote work position allows a graduate to work from wherever in the world they’d like, meaning they can find a low-cost living situation to help them get started. While some larger companies are located in very expensive places to live, new hires can opt for less expensive cities while getting established and working on paying down debt. Additionally, some employees are finding they no longer need a vehicle for their commute, which also contributes to their yearly savings.

Working while traveling

Have you ever dreamt of selling your belongings and hitting the road in an RV? If so, now might just be your chance. The new work-from-home lifestyle requires only a stable internet connection to join in on a staff meeting or have a Zoom meeting with a supervisor, so there’s more opportunity for travel, even while working. New employees can answer emails from abroad, from their AirBnB outside of a national park, or even from their best friend’s couch in another city.

More opportunities for employment

While most students leave university wondering what their next steps are, it might be right into remote employment. According to Dooral Family Journal, in 2020 remote work accelerated at four to five times the pace it did in 2019. Essentially, this means increased opportunities. The fact that students finished their education remotely is going to work for their advantage, as they’re already used to distance working and learning. This means they will have a leg up over other prospective employees who don’t have the comfortability, adaptability, and understanding of technology that they do. Some companies are even beginning to state on job vacancies that the successful applicant/s can work from wherever they want, taking away considerations of money, family, immigration issues, and more and in doing so broadening access to top quality jobs to people all over the world! 

How to start a job search

Leaving school and getting started on a career can be daunting, even without the additional pressures of a global pandemic. However, taking an organized and proactive approach to a job search can help students find more success.

To get started, students should begin using their networks. Update LinkedIn to reflect your current education and experience, as well as the type of employment you’re seeking, and consider adding the '#OPEN TO WORK' tag to your profile picture . Connect with people who work for companies you may be interested in, ask for introductions, and reach out to your school’s career services for assistance in meeting alumni in your field.

When you do have an interview, prepare for it exactly as you would an in-person interview. Research the company beforehand, and have thoughtful questions prepared to go. Additionally, make sure you hold the interview in an appropriate setting by stowing away photos or other distracting items in the background. Practice to make sure you’ll be able to successfully connect on the day of, make good eye contact during the interview, and dress appropriately for the role.

Finally, think outside the box. Is there a way you can showcase or highlight your skills and experience for an employer? This is a good time to explore creating a website or online portfolio that an employer can peruse to see what you can do. Not only will this be helpful for them, it’ll also give you some talking points during an interview, and help you stand out from the crowd.

Remote employment provides a viable option that does take getting used to, but also has a lot of potential benefits. Moreover, students can get their foot in the door with companies they -- due to, for example, location, cost, or visa issues -- might not have been able to work for otherwise. While getting a job in 2021 might not be exactly what new graduates expected, there are lots of options available. In fact, in many ways, more opportunities and more exciting opportunities than there were before COVID!