Prior to 2020, there were fairly predictable paths most college seniors followed. Some would move directly into the workforce, others to graduate school, and others pursuing volunteerism.
2020 has turned that on its head.
Graduates who had worked not only on academics, but also to obtain internships and fieldwork that would help to stand out amongst their peers, have found themselves in what can only be described as deep uncertainty about what comes next. Lectures morphed, overnight, into online video calls. Being able to walk on campus became a memory. Internships and job offers have been delayed, and often canceled. The question now becomes how to navigate some complex new paths, and a job market that looks similar to one their great-grandparents lived through.
Recruiting News Network had the opportunity to speak with a few graduates from the class of 2020 to gather their opinions of the current job market, as well as their thoughts on how lower-level students should prepare moving forward as they begin to search for post-graduate work in the coming year.
Internships Still Matter - and Are Increasingly Elusive
The job market has raised worries for recent graduates entering the workforce. In response, they are watching the news closely. A recent Cedarville University graduate noted: “The job market has been hindered and partially halted, as it can be observed by the rising unemployment rates and layoffs.”
Most graduates have worked to gain internship experiences within their focus of study before entering the job market. Having had hands-on experience, this allowed them to enhance their skills to be ready for the demands of the workforce as new hires. As undergraduates continue to seek out internship opportunities, this is meant as a stepping stone to their potential career path. With the changes, students seeking these key internships will need to adapt.
As the Cedarville graduate expressed: “There will be many key aspects to hands-on internship experience that will be lost during this time”. He continued to share that lower-level students should still work to seek out opportunities with companies and corporations for internships as these programs work to teach them basic fundamental skills of the work environment, but that the challenges will be significant. The skills will still matter - but how the students land the internships will be changing.
Jon Schlesinger, director of the career center at Brandeis University, writes that networking and research are now key elements of any internship hunt. There are still opportunities out there, but they are going to require extra effort compared to the recent past. “It’s still best to reach out to the individual recruiter or employer to learn about their hiring plans. However, time spent researching employers and networking is more crucial than just sending out resumes.”
Students need to appropriately prepare their mindsets both while in college and upon graduation. “Students almost have to think 2-3 years in advance in regards to decisions that they are making about future work, since often internships could land a job” the Cedarville graduate noted. It is important that students become even more proactive to find these internships. Because even when they do land one, it may not stick. According to data from Hiring20, over 40% of opportunities have been canceled across the companies they are tracking.
Numbers and Tools
A Western New England University graduate expressed that he has had difficulty in working to find entry-level jobs that fit his undergraduate experience and education as a biomedical engineer. He continued to share that through this pandemic, it allowed for expansion among medical field positions. While he's hopeful that as the economy begins to normalize again, opportunities will arise, they have yet to materialize.
It becomes a numbers game. The WNE graduate is utilizing the time at home to reach out to employers, networking, and sending out applications. His plan: “Be aggressive and send out resumes to show employers determination”.
An Endicott College graduate hopes “working remotely could be a possibility that companies may stick with, as they see it could be working out for employees”. Digital natives like the class of 2020 may well be best suited to adapt to this model, once the dust settles.
Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of College Recruiter, provided further insight on how recent graduates can maintain a competitive, yet proactive approach while working to navigate themselves through the current challenges of the job market. "In regards to how new hires can enter the job market, students are encouraged to prepare themselves for the workforce, focusing on the quality of their actions to reach out to employers, rather than quantity". Rothberg continued, “Research the industries of interest to you and focus on the one that best aligns with your competencies, interests, values and needed compensation.”
During this time, graduates will benefit from gaining a strong sense of where they are looking to focus their career, as they are looking for positions. As graduates begin to build relationships with members of companies they are interested in, this will work to enhance their network.
Rothberg instructed that for lower-level students, it’s important to focus on positions that will allow for a smooth transition into their career-related roles. Working to enhance their skill-set like this allows both students and potential employers to understand how to transfer their skills to other roles.
Through the level of uncertainty that has been presented during this time, it is essential that students consider what can be done to enhance their skills while they continue to search for opportunities within their field of study. The recruiting industry has responded, creating tools to help graduates. Handshake, a platform that students can utilize as a resource, has their “Who’s Hiring” tool, along with other useful data within the site. Not all of it positive, but of interest: 73% of participants expressed that they are still currently looking for a position.
Brian Brenberg, the executive Vice President and chair of the Program in Business and Finance at The King’s College in New York City, spoke out in a recent Fox News interview in regards to the current situation that recent graduates have been faced with. He believes employers are going to want recent graduates to tell a story of what they did during the pandemic. Brenberg presents the questions of: “how did you deal with adversity?” and “how did you handle your last semester when everything was disrupted?” Graduates will be able to highlight themselves in a different framework of how they were able to adapt as well as enhance their learning through the current pandemic.
Brenberg leaves graduates with an important thought: “You’ve got control of what you can control. You can’t worry about the uncertainty. Do the things that are within your control”.
This seems like sound advice, in general, especially now.