Class of 2020: Job search for college seniors

Seniors, this is not the graduation you planned. You’ve almost certainly left your professors and classrooms, your friends, your jobs, and your campus residence and are finishing your last classes at home. You are probably looking at a virtual commencement, or an indefinitely postponed IRL graduation event.

But graduation was always going to mark the end of one phase, and the beginning of new challenges and opportunities. While so much has changed in recent weeks, the economy and the need for your skills and knowledge is going to grow, build, and bounce back in new ways. Preparing for that is your new job.

Here are some recommendations to help you prepare:

Use your research skills to target your job search

  • What is happening in the industry you hope to enter? What are thought leaders from industry and professional associations in your industry writing about and talking about? How do they see needs for workers playing out in the upcoming economic recovery? Importantly, what are the skills they see as especially useful for the recovery? Then think about how your skills might relate to those needs.
  • Think about qualities you have that might be especially helpful for organizations dealing with effects of the pandemic. Business experts cite a strong need for collaboration, innovative thinking, communication skills, problem solving, adaptability, reliability. Consider how you have demonstrated some of these skills and note any examples of personal experiences that would show an employer your skills.
  • A number of industries are hiring immediately and growing in the current environment, including grocery, health care administration and support, order fulfillment and delivery, and more. A job that “scaffolds” to future jobs, building your skills and work experience, may be a good strategy now, even if it’s outside your ultimate goal career. We should expect to see more opportunities that are part-time, temporary, contract, or gig work, as employers recalibrate their plans.
  • If you are unsure of the type of work that is likely to suit you or your skills, take some career assessments, and research different careers to get a clearer idea of the kind of work you’d like to do.

Follow the proven steps of a successful job search

  • Resume and social media profiles. Finish or update your resume and LinkedIn profile. To ensure they highlight your strengths, make a list of your skills, including those you developed in classes and special project work, campus activities such as leadership, teamwork, initiative, and from work experience.
  • Identify your network. Make an exercise of writing down all the contacts you can think of who are in your network. This includes family members, friends and friends’ parents and siblings, classmates, neighbors, professors and past teachers, coaches, supervisors, etc. Keep adding to your network list when you think of additions.
  • Use your network to find opportunities. Reach out to people in your network through LinkedIn, Handshake, phone calls, and emails to ask about job possibilities and for contacts to connect with about job possibilities. These communications should be brief, friendly, and clear, with well thought-out points about what you are seeking.
  • Informational interviews. Setting up informational interviews is a great strategy to connect with a variety of people who could be helpful in your job search. While many professionals are working from home, their schedule flexibility may vary considerably, so it’s important to develop your list of questions and be thoughtful about managing a short meeting, and keeping to the time your contact agreed to.
  • Interviews. Most hiring processes are conducted remotely at this time. Check your phone, computer and Internet access to avoid technical problems. Set up your workspace to minimize distractions and light you well for any videoconferencing. Practice your answers to interview questions so that you feel confident and can bring enthusiasm into your answers, extra important for remote interviews.
  • References. Prepare your list of job references. Consider supervisors from campus or summer jobs or internships, volunteer work supervisors, professors, or others who might be able to speak to your employment-related skills and experience. Be sure to ask them before you list them, and let them know the kinds of jobs you are applying for.

Get support and guidance

  • Connect with your college or university career center. Their focus is to help students and graduates find employment and succeed in the workforce, so take advantage of all the kinds of help they offer. Most centers offer help with resume development and critiques, guidance on developing LinkedIn profiles and tips for networking using LinkedIn and Handshake, practice interviews, job search strategy advice, and listings for summer jobs, internships, and full-time jobs.

    They also link closely with alumni who have volunteered to do informational interviews, give grads insights about a particular employer, or even hire graduates for internship and job opportunities. They are a very important resource.
  • American Job Centers (AJC) are located in every state. Many are currently offering virtual and phone-based services to help job seekers find work. Find an AJC in your area to contact for local job leads, resume and interview help and online job search classes and webinars.

Keep in mind that student loan relief is out there

  • Most federal student loans have been automatically placed into forbearance, which means no interest will be charged and payments are not due until after September 30, 2020. If you have a federal student loan, check out StudentAid.gov/coronavirus to see the latest guidance and options for student loan repayment.
  • This is not the case for private loans, however private lenders may be willing to negotiate a modified repayment plan. Contact them directly to discuss this. Check their websites as well; some are posting options for repayment such as payment suspension or waivers.

Class of 2020, we salute you and wish you all the best as you transition into your future careers!

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