What College Seniors Can Do to Secure a Job Amid COVID-19

Andrea Alcid

With COVID-19 derailing many students’ academic plans, it’s hard not to worry about the future of our job prospects after graduation. In fact, more than 22% of employers revoked their internship positions just this past summer. While the job market seems less than satisfactory for the graduating class of 2021, myself included, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of job security post COVID-19. 

But first, take a deep breath—we’re in this together.

1. Explore Your Options

As an advertising major, it’s hard enough to sift through sales internships masquerading as marketing positions and compete with peers who are just as capable as myself on a normal day. During the coronavirus pandemic however, it’s even harder to snag a job, between rescinded offers, unpaid roles, and still, the competitive talent around me.

There was one silver lining: I learned how flexible my degree actually could be. Though the job market did not become any easier to navigate, I began to see opportunity in roles that were not strictly “advertising.” I took my chances and applied to any position that interested me or that I could see myself enjoying. When everything is uncertain, taking the time to explore options that aren’t necessarily your first choice can pay off in the end. For me, this looked like data, marketing, and even UX design internships.

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2. Learn a New Skill

To continue on this route of exploration, I took the time to beef up my resume and add to my skill set. After all, it feels like there’s nothing but time now that we’ve all been in quarantine for months amidst COVID-19. With a quick Google search, you can find out what skills are highly sought out for in your respective industry.

Interestingly enough, I found not only skills to work on, but industry trends within my major that are shifting amidst the pandemic. Hiring managers in advertising are no longer looking for students who specialize in certain skills, but rather employees who can do a bit of everything the company handles. They’re drawn to the “well-rounded student,” someone who could act as a full-service advertising agency all on their own. With this in mind, I knew I had to teach myself skills that spanned across the board—from consumer analytics to content strategy to art direction.

With thousands of skill-building platforms online, it’s easy to find a way to learn something new. Your university may even offer some free online resources to help you get started. My personal favorites are Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, and even just good old video tutorials on YouTube. This doesn’t need to be done all in one session by any means—even just devoting 30 minutes a day to learning something new can be beneficial. I was surprised at how fun learning could be outside of a classroom setting. While I do enjoy my college classes, there’s something extremely rewarding about experiencing trial & error and succeeding all on your own.

Mastering a skill is something that I highly recommend to be on your to-do list, as it allows you to explore new avenues, increase your competitive edge in the job market, and learn worthwhile soft skills like time management and initiative that will serve you well beyond your college years. All it takes is a little time and motivation.

3. Reach Out to Your Connections

With my improved skill set, I felt much more confident entering the job market. Even so, I was met with countless automated rejection emails and outdated job postings.

While it’s good to stay connected on job-posting sites, throughout my college journey I’ve found that reaching out to people I’m already acquainted with pays off the best. Though it’s nerve-wracking to ask a friend or alum in your industry to recommend you or see if there are any openings within their company, remember that everyone is struggling in today’s job hunt and there are lots of people out there willing to help you out.

Don’t forget about your professors either! Though you’re probably only familiar with the work they assign you, their expertise spans far outside of the classroom. Chances are, many of the people teaching your classes have professional experience in the industry and can easily tap into their network to help you out.

In April, when it seemed like there was no chance of me finding an internship for the summer, I had a chat with my design professor to let off some stress and gain some advice moving forward. Turns out, he’s the CEO of an international UX design agency and ended up offering me a position by the end of our talk! Needless to say, this internship has so far been much more exciting and enriching than any job I’d applied to and been rejected from previously.

While this most certainly feels like a step in the right direction, the upcoming year will undoubtedly hold more hurdles and challenges to navigate through. And that’s okay.

The greatest lesson that the coronavirus pandemic has taught me is to take things one victory at a time, no matter how small it may be. We were expecting to enter perhaps the healthiest economy that the U.S. has seen in decades, and are now faced with 14.7% unemployment rates. Regardless of what your plans are following graduation, it’s important to acknowledge that you’re working through challenges that most college graduates have never experienced. That’s an accomplishment in and of itself. Be proud of this, and don’t forget to take care of yourself and those around you as we get through this together.

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