If you are a new graduate feeling uncertain about your future, you are not alone. New and soon-to-be graduates have experienced significant and unexpected disruptions to their plans due to the spread of COVID-19. However, there are actions you can take to empower yourself and make informed decisions about your future in this difficult time. Learn how to prepare to enter the workforce as a recent graduate affected by the novel coronavirus in this article.
The impact of COVID-19 on recent graduates
The spread of the novel coronavirus has impacted or interrupted how graduates were preparing to leave school. Some graduates had been searching for jobs or were waiting to hear back from employers about their applications, while others may have already been accepted for internships, seasonal jobs or full-time jobs after graduation.
Many of these graduates are not sure whether these confirmed opportunities are at risk, or whether potential opportunities may be cancelled by employers. In a recent Indeed survey of over 1000 students graduating in the US this year, 54% said the coronavirus' impact on the labour market has made them feel less confident in finding work after they graduate, while 33% said they feel they will struggle to get into the industry they're graduating in. ¹
Uncertainty about job opportunities and disruption to regular routines can make an already-stressful job search even more challenging for recent graduates. While some specialised students may not be affected yet, other graduates planning to enter fields like hospitality, retail, food and technology may have to overcome unexpected obstacles.
While it may be difficult, there are measures you can take right now to help you navigate this situation to the best of your ability. Resources and information are available for you. Above all, take care of yourself, your health and your loved ones during this time. Follow your government's website for official guidelines and updates on the development of COVID-19.
How to prepare to enter the workforce during COVID-19
New graduates can prepare to leave school and find a job during the COVID-19 outbreak by following these steps:
1. Apply for national and local relief efforts available to you
Start preparing for graduating by finding the national and local coronavirus relief efforts available to you. Support may look different depending on your region and community. Reach out to your local representatives, community leaders and school officials for local information, as well as staying updated on the latest government measures.
Potential support could include:
- Individual financial aid
- Food and meal support
- Community and grassroots efforts
- Delayed rent and mortgage payments
- Pausing evictions and foreclosures
Deferred student loan and debt repayment
If you have been laid off or have had your hours reduced due to businesses closing in response to the coronavirus, additional financial assistance could be available to you.
Learn more: COVID-19 Job Resources
2. Consider short-term or unexpected work in the interim
Depending on your financial situation, it may be necessary to consider short-term work or work outside your area of expertise while employers adjust to the coronavirus spread. These jobs may not be the type of work you may have anticipated, but having an extra income can help you navigate this uncertainty after graduation with more confidence. Remote and in-person jobs actively hiring right now could include customer service representatives, warehouse distribution, food inventory and stocking and food delivery.
If you are able to work during this time, adding experience to your CV could help improve your CV and give you an advantage in the long-run. Showing employers that you were able to adjust to this challenging situation could make your application more competitive.
When looking for job opportunities, prioritise transferable skills and soft skills that could support you in your chosen career path. Even if a job is not in your ideal industry, there may be opportunities to develop skills that you can leverage later when applying for future jobs. For example, complex problem solving, remote software use, de-escalating conflict and communication are the kinds of experience that could be added to your CV in the future.
3. Prepare yourself for remote hiring and online networking alternatives
Whether or not you are searching for jobs in your intended field, becoming comfortable with remote hiring and online networking alternatives could improve your ability to get hired. Virtual interviews are likely to become more popular in the short-term. Meanwhile, remote networking and professional social media accounts may become more important as professionals move increasingly online.
Practising mock video interviews and phone interviews with one other person and in a group with other people you trust can help prepare you for real remote hiring. Remote interviews and conferencing can have unexpected quirks that are not present during in-person interviews. For example, social cues to know when you can speak without interrupting someone during a video call may be different to a face-to-face conversation.
Creating a professional presence on social media and on remote networking groups may also help you find opportunities and meet professionals in your chosen field while social distancing. Join professional interest and industry groups online and interact with similar professional social accounts to expand your network and improve your online profile. Networking, mentorship and informational interviews can be done remotely and could help better prepare you to enter the workforce after graduation.
4. Prepare yourself for slower-than-usual hiring and onboarding at this time
You may want to prepare yourself for slower-than-usual hiring and onboarding as employers adjust how they hire candidates for jobs. Tempering your expectations as you graduate and enter the workforce could help you as employers adjust to this new environment.
5. Consider more professional training and education, but be wary of added debt
You may want to consider more professional training and education during this time instead of entering the workforce right away. Some graduates feel that the opportunity cost of attending school may be lower as their chosen industry may have fewer opportunities for entry-level positions at this time.
It may help to open to different types of educational opportunities, as some options may be more costly in energy and resources than others. Professional development training, online certifications and skill-specific classes can be helpful for recent graduates and require less investment than enrolling in a new degree. Or, if you are feeling uncertain about your short-term plans, it may help you to explore other opportunities that may feel more secure to you.
If you do choose to pursue more education instead of, or in addition to, entering the workforce, it is important to be wary of unnecessary added debt. This is especially important if you feel unsure about your current and future financial situation. These might be important decisions about your future that could require time, space and energy that you may not have available right now.
6. Be ready and informed to increase your earning potential in the future
Some fresh graduates may be wondering whether leaving school in this circumstance may negatively affect their lifetime earnings as employers adjust to the new coronavirus. Depending on your area of expertise, you may be offered a lower base salary for an entry-level position than you may have planned when you start your career. You may want to take extra steps to reduce the chances that this base salary will reduce future pay in your chosen path.
It may help you to keep your options open as your work experience grows and your career develops. Searching for better opportunities in your chosen field will help increase your career mobility. Updating your job alerts, researching competitive salary ranges and actively networking are simple ways to keep opportunities open. Career mobility may help compensate for potentially lower income immediately after graduation.
You can visit Indeed Salary Calculator to get a free salary range estimate based on your job title, location and experience level.
7. Be proud of yourself for facing challenges that many people will never experience
No matter what you decide to do, it is important to acknowledge that you are facing challenges as a new graduate entering the workforce that many people will never experience. Above all, take care of yourself and the people around you as we navigate this situation together.
¹ Indeed survey,n=1001