What University Graduates Should Know Entering the Job Market During COVID-19

Young Woman and University Student

What University Graduates Should Know Entering the Job Market During COVID-19

COVID-19, has turned the job market upside down—just in time for the class of 2020 to graduate. These young men and women will face fewer open jobs and greater competition than many of the graduating classes before them. They’ll be asked to interview virtually, and then, in many cases, start their professional careers from their homes.

How can these university graduates adapt and thrive? This guide is here to help the class of 2020.

How New Uni Grads Can Adapt To a COVID-19 Job Market

In the past, many industries have weathered economic downturns well. Teachers, for example, have always been in high demand, as well as a handful of other recession-proof jobs. But in the midst of COVID-19, many previously impervious fields have fallen victim to this recession, says Suzanne Rohan Jones, career counselor and psychology instructor at Maryville University.

“What I have noticed the most about the job market in the last two months is that all industries have been impacted by the quarantines or restrictions associated with COVID-19,” Jones says, “so there is currently no such thing as a fool-proof industry or career to enter right now.” To adapt, recent university graduates will need to recognise that many employers will be unable to hire during this time, as they deal with lost revenues, decreased demand, an abundance of caution, or restrictions that prevent them from operating as usual. “Patience and dedication to a longer-than-expected job search will be needed by recent university graduates” in order to succeed, Jones says.

Jason Patel, CEO of Transizion and former career ambassador at George Washington University, agrees. “I would expect new hiring to dramatically slow down and offers to take much longer,” he says. To adapt, university graduates will have to remain patient and vigilant in their job searches.

5 Strategic Job-Seeking Strategies for the Class of 2020

Ready to start your job search? Here are five strategies to help the class of 2020 land a job now:

  1. Send out multiple applications each day. In the current job market, you can increase your chances of getting an interview by increasing the number of applications you submit each day. “Hiring is a numbers game,” Patel says. “You won't hear back from 95 percent of opportunities, so you need to keep at it and find several good leads.” He suggests applying to 10 jobs per day.
  2. Use your network. Networking is always important—but it’s even more important now, says Dale McLennan, dean of the internship and career center at Endicott College, because there will be intense competition for any posted job opportunities. “By reaching out to your network—family, friends, current and former professors, managers from internships and summer jobs, as well as alumni from their universities—you are more likely to hear about unposted opportunities or be referred directly to a hiring manager,” McLennan explains.
  3. Customise your resume to be competitive. Just because you’re applying for a lot of jobs doesn’t mean you can use the same resume for each application, warns Jones. “Considering how tight the job market will likely be for many months … it is key for new grads to adjust their resumes so that the most relevant qualifications and skills are listed higher,” Jones says. You should also add and adjust keywords in your CV based on the job description and industry.
  4. Make a Plan B—and a Plan C. “If the companies or industries that you want to work in are not hiring, consider other industries that may be doing well and look for opportunities that are a good fit for your skillset,” suggests McLennan. You may also want to consider applying for jobs that you may not have previously considered, but that will help you hone desirable skills. “For example, if you want to work in the hospitality field, look for jobs in other areas that involve providing customer service, a critical skill you can use when the hospitality field recovers,” says McLellan. You could also consider temporary work while you look for something permanent.
  5. Continue to learn new things. Just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you should stop learning. In fact, taking the time to learn new skills now could make you more attractive to potential employers. “COVID-19-related layoffs have left a large number of both skilled and unskilled workers displaced and seeking new employment,” says Jones. “New graduates will be more attractive to employers if they continue to add and update their technology, communication, clinical, or other career-related skills via online seminars, self-learning … or volunteering.”

The 3 Career Effects of Graduating in A Recession

Entering the job market now, during a recession, can have short and long-term effects on your career. Here are three effects the class of 2020 might experience.

  1. Accepting a less-than-ideal position. While most university graduates don’t land their dream jobs as their first jobs, the Class of 2020 may be forced into less-than-ideal jobs because of the recession. “New graduates should consider if they can accept an hourly, less than full-time, or contract position in order to gain skills and experience to add to their resume,” Jones says.

McLellan agrees. “In a recession, it may be necessary to take a job that pays the bills, but may not be related to the degree you earned at university,” she says. “In that case, keep in mind that the recession is temporary. Keep working toward the career you want by continuing to build your network and use your network, keep up or build the skills you need in your desired field, and monitor the recovery in your field.” The key, she adds, is to not allow yourself to get stuck in that bills-paying job. Keep searching for jobs that will help you achieve your professional goals.

  1. Entering your chosen field later. Some industries take longer to recover in a recession than others. If your chosen field is one of them, that could mean you start your professional path later than you had planned. “While every industry is feeling some impact from COVID-19, careers in healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, and others that used to offer plentiful of a stable of job opportunities are some of those especially affected by quarantine and social distancing,” says Jones. “University graduates who planned lucrative careers in these industries should consider other options, recognizing what long-term economic recovery will mean to prospects in these fields.”
  2. More competition for jobs. Graduating during a recession means there is more competition for jobs, which can have effects on your career, of course. That’s why it’s important to tap your network, apply to as many jobs as possible, and personalize your applications. “If you apply to a posting, take the time to try to find out who the hiring manager is and send your CV and cover letter directly to [them], in addition to applying on the company website,” McLellan says.

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