Predicting hiring trends can be quite a challenge at the best of times. While the landscape looks vastly different compared to this time last year when the pandemic first arrived, the contrast between now and 2019 is even wider. Back then, a largely candidate driven market meant that talent was scarce and job opportunities were abundant meaning better work for higher salaries. That situation has now reversed as increased competition has meant that the demand for jobs is vastly outpacing supply.

Despite the fact that the outlook for the remainder of the year and the potential return to "normal" is now largely contingent on the speed of vaccine rollouts, there are still reasons to be hopeful. Many companies that implemented hiring freezes and lay-offs over the last 12 months are now poised to continue the growth they had enjoyed before the pandemic arrived, meaning there should be a greater number of opportunities at your disposal.

However, while we can make assumptions about the employment market - some things have irrefutably changed. Whether it's remote onboarding or a shift in how we look for job opportunities and network, several key trends have emerged that will fundamentally change how graduates search for and start a new job going forward. With that in mind, we've put together three trends to watch look out for in todays market, along with tips on how you can best prepare for them.

Remote working is a thing now ๐Ÿ’ป

On the off chance you thought that remote working was a trend destined to be left behind in the post-COVID landscape, you are sadly mistaken. A recent study carried out by McKinsey found that we've now broken through some of the cultural and technological barriers that prevented remote work from becoming mainstream before. Whereas previously it would have been unthinkable for companies to adopt fully remote or hybrid working policies, it has and will continue to become a lot more prevalent moving forward.

This shift is borne largely as a result of the success remote work has enjoyed over the last year with that same study from McKinsey finding more than 20 per cent of the workforce can do their job remotely 3-5 days a week as effectively as they could in an office.

The implications of this for you as a graduate is two-fold. For some roles, recruiters are no longer confined to sourcing candidates from a specific location, meaning more potential opportunities for you outside of the town/city where you're based. Unsurprisingly, this is largely skewed towards jobs that are conducive to being performed remotely with certain companies and industries that are filling roles that require cognitive thinking, problem solving, managing and developing people and data processing at the forefront.

The second change is that the hiring process will now look very different. Where it would have been unheard of before, companies have now become comfortable with recruiting new hires without ever meeting them in-person. If on-site interviews are to take place at all going forward, it's now increasingly likely that they'll limit it to the few people who make it through to the final rounds.

TIP: If you're looking for a job in 2021, it's important to know how to perform in a remote interview setting. We've put together a post which offers some best practices on how you can prepare yourself for remote interviews from how to get your setup on point right through to what you should wear.

Remote networking is too ๐ŸŒ

In this new era of remote work and physical distancing, large group, in-person professional networking events have been temporarily put on hold. While there will inevitably be a re-emergence of these events as countries open up again, attending popular online substitutes such as webinars and workshops should be a part of your networking strategy moving forward.

Something that many people have realised is despite the fact they can no longer rely on impromptu conversations or "water-cooler chats" that they'd get in work or at college, they can still establish and maintain professional relationships online.

As you look for a job moving forward, you should continue to network with not only your existing contacts but re-engage with people you haven't been keeping in touch with as proactively like former colleagues or former classmates

TIP: Invest some time in building a digital presence by creating, curating and engaging with content on LinkedIn with your connections as well as people you admire. By establishing your personal brand at a time when you may be out of work and job opportunities are sparse, you position yourself nicely to benefit when the outlook looks brighter as we move further in 2021. Curious how you can get started? Check out our blog post on 4 simple steps you can take to grow your network.

Upskills will pay the bills ๐Ÿค‘

Rolling lockdowns over the past year have meant that people have inevitably had a lot more free time on their hands. While binging out on Netflix, doing five kilometre runs and baking banana bread are all perfectly acceptable ways to spend your downtime, there's also been an opportunity to invest in your professional development.

If youโ€™re really serious about getting somewhere in a hyper-competitive job market, you need to make the process of learning and upskilling a priority. Despite the fact that many people are out of work, 87% of employers recently surveyed said they are struggling to fill positions as a result of a skills gap. Irrespective of the career path you want to pursue, there are countless online resources and courses both free and paid for that will make you a more attractive candidate.

TIP: Evaluate your current skillset honestly and where any potential skill gaps exist, hone in on a small number of courses, and set aside an allotted amount of time on a regular basis where you can make a concentrated effort to learn and improve. To save you the hassle of going and finding free online courses, we've put together a list with some of the best ones for you.