Are you one of the four million students that graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, you’re probably thinking, now what?
While the unemployment rate is improving, it has not reached pre-pandemic numbers. There is more competition and fewer good-paying, career-oriented jobs. What’s more is that the way of traditional work has changed. More and more people are working from home, and it is projected to continue to be that way.
As a career coach, I have been giving career advice for graduates for a long time. I can tell you that even though it may not seem like it, there are still a lot of really great jobs available. Everyone in your shoes worries about finding their first job out of college – especially if they don’t have one already lined up – or, in pandemic times, had their offer rescinded.
Here is the best career advice I can give you as a recent graduate as we navigate the final stages of the pandemic.
Seek a short-term internship.
More that 40% of college students lost an internship, job, or job offer during the height of the pandemic. If you accepted an internship only to receive a letter of rescission, secure another internship. Make a list of companies that you would like to work for and reach out to each individually. Offer to complete an internship for no pay.
When you reach out, outline the skills you can bring to their company and your time commitment. As a Gen-Z (born between 1997 and 2012) you’re more tech savvy than any of the older generations. You have a lot to offer in terms of technical assistance and use of online platforms. Don’t sell yourself short. Tap into this innate technology skillset and nab an internship. Often, internships result in job offers.
Look for temporary employment.
The economy is bouncing back, slowly. Every day, more and more jobs are being listed on Indeed, Craigslist, and other help wanted sites. These might not be the best jobs or even where you saw yourself going after graduation, but even so, one of the jobs available can still propel you forward along our career path.
When looking for temporary employment, research the company to see if advancing within that company would be along your career path. For example, you may want a role in biotech research but the only position available in biotech is as a temporary administrative assistant. This may be the foot in the door you need. This also shows the company that you’re willing to work hard to get where you want to be.
Practice interviewing online.
Chances are really good that your first interview will be in a virtual setting. The good news is that you likely finished your senior year virtually, so you already have some experience. Nonetheless, you’ll want to practice interviewing in front of a camera.
A few tips to keep in mind during an online interview include:
- Set up a light behind the camera.
- Always look into the camera.
- Get dressed as if it was an in-person interview – that means ditch the PJ bottoms.
- Pay attention to what is behind you – all those books and the laundry on the floor are part of the virtual world your interviewer will see.
- Complete a mock interview and record it. Watch the recording to see what works well and what needs to be changed before your interview.
Slower than normal onboarding and hiring decisions.
A lot of employees are still working from home. Decisions are taking longer, and the onboarding process has changed. While you’re waiting, don’t be afraid to reach out. A short follow-up email goes a long way to show that you’re interested and motivated. Give the employer time to navigate this process.
Do you want my honest opinion? I think you’ve been handed a bum deal. You spent your last year as a college student learning online. You walked a virtual stage to pick up your degree. You celebrated over Zoom. And now you’re facing an uncertain job market. So, now you have a choice. You can move on with confidence and surety that you will find a great job that is aligned with your career path. Or you can feel sorry for yourself. But the choice is yours to make.
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