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Post Grad Life Post COVID-19

Spring has sprung and typically this is the time of opportunity and excitement – for graduates especially. High-school is done and many are planning a move away to college for the first time. For college graduates, this is the time of starting your career. But let’s be honest. That was last year. This is now. As we navigate a whole new world in the midst of a pandemic, the time of optimism has turned to uncertainty. Many of us need guidance in trying to make sense out of what is next and for grads, luckily, there’s help.

Mike Doria is a Certified Life and Career Coach based in Las Vegas. He works to motivate clients from all over the country to reach a goal, make a change, and find meaningful work – all things of utmost importance at this time.  Without a coach, people get to about 1/3 of the available possibilities. Doria helps clients find new perspective, new work and achieve goals through reason, reality and positivity. You could say he is like the voice in our head we all need to listen to right now.

Here, he outlines tips for graduates trying to maneuver this new climate.

New grads need to show they’re serious and ready to work. They need to look and play the part of an enthusiastic newbie who is eager to learn. That means spending the 9 to 5 part of the day searching for work, perfecting the resumes, and crafting cover letters for each job they apply for. Finding a full-time job used to be a full-time job. Now it’s a full and part-time job both with mandatory overtime and some weekends.”

Mike Doria – Personal and Career Coach

Grit Daily: Securing a job post-graduation has always been a concern for students. What makes this current landscape even more challenging?

Mike Doria: The massive lay-offs form the COVID-19 pandemic will certainly give new graduates some grief and perhaps one of the hardest job search challenges they’ll have in their professional careers. First, many companies are on a hiring freeze.  Couple that with 22 million Americans out of work and the competition will be off the charts.

Some might argue that it’s apples and oranges because new grads are entry-level while others are more mid-level or higher.  True. However, companies have just lost a lot of money. They’ll be looking to eliminate some positions, merge others and restructure pay scales. We’re in territory right now where people may have to step into a position previously considered too junior for their experience.  That really stinks.  The new grads certainly have a chance and they’re going to find work.  But they need to go from celebrating to serious very quickly. Before the pandemic, one job opening could get 125 to 180 applications. Expect that number to double or triple post quarantine.  And be patient, as companies move slowly.  It’s not uncommon to go six-months to a year without finding a job.

GD: What are some ways grads can set themselves apart from the veterans going after the same jobs? Is it having a digital presence? Networking?

MD: All of the above and then some. The new graduates are among some of the first in Generation Z to enter the workforce.  They aren’t Millennials.  So, they are already set apart from the majority of the workforce generationally.  Generation Z isn’t fond of Facebook.  They prefer Snapchat and Instagram.  I’ve personally never seen a job post on Instagram or Snapchat.  They will need to get on board with Facebook.  It’s such a big part of every company and business,  I don’t see how they can get around it.  They will also need to get a profile on LinkedIn and fill out as much as they can.  A premium membership is also a good way to connect with potential boss or company.  

New graduates can also set themselves apart by staying in their lane and staying realistic during their job search.  They are entry-level. It’s where everyone starts.  Applying for anything bigger would likely be a waste of time and slow down the overall hiring process for everyone.

If done correctly, networking will be a big strategy for new graduates. They will almost need to exhaust the networking component of the job search. The more connections, the better. That means reaching out to the local Chambers of Commerce to pick some brains and get some face time. 

If they break up their job search time with some volunteer experience, they will pave a potential road right into their first job.  It looks great on a resume, helps a person stay positive, provides another network of people to tap and could result in a glowing letter of recommendation.  To the new grads with no internships or volunteer experience under their belt, they’re starting out in dangerous territory.  Use volunteermatch.org and find an opportunity.  Hiring managers at companies now have the upper hand as their pool of candidates just went from shallow to deep — very quickly. Without volunteer work or internship experience, new graduates will sink.

GD: Are there any upsides for grads looking for work after COVID-19 that maybe didn’t exist before?

MD: Maybe this is more reality than upside, but companies will have vacancies from employees who just don’t want to go back, if they have the option. Maybe they didn’t like the job or got burned out — either way, it’s an opening. This pandemic also gave bosses the needed reason to get rid of the sloppy, unproductive employees. Those spots, in some cases, need to get filled. 

The biggest upside, I believe, is that employers will have much more empathy and compassion for people. We all experienced this quarantine together, so we’ve all had a hardship to endure.  

Another upside is the number of approaches they will have to float their name. With so many people out of work, people will no doubt get crafty and sneaky as they job search. I think hiring managers and bosses can expect to get emails and phone calls from people looking for work. Some of the approaches or strategies that wouldn’t fly before the pandemic might have some more widespread use. People need to work. They’ll climb mountains to do so. And, companies will understand why it’s happening. So, there is a slight advantage there. But always remain respectful in whatever approach you use. 

Pro-Tip!

“New grads may want to research the specific skills needed for the jobs to which they’re applying. While they may need job experience to learn the skills they can at least be aware of them beforehand.  Skill sets are even bigger today. New grads shouldn’t be surprised if after they submit a job application, they get an email from the employer with a link to a skills quiz.  It’s part of the weeding out process used by companies today.”

GD: How would you have navigated this time if you were a graduate?

MD: If I were a graduate right now, I would’ve navigated this time the same way I did when I graduated college in 1998. 

Two days after graduation, I started my first full-time job in the field for which I hold my degree. That’s because I made connections, sent out resumes and got serious about my career well before commencement. Competition in the Journalism field was fierce back then and I couldn’t afford to slack. I put myself out there and it paid off. I had one day between graduation and the world of work to celebrate.  

Current graduates may also want to consider a part-time job until they can find full-time work or have both just to get ahead a little. It is not uncommon anymore to have two jobs or a side-business.  

A negative attitude or having a sense of entitlement is not going to be received very well. I would encourage new graduates to research emotional intelligence and keep learning about it. It’s something that will come in handy their entire professional lives and will be the key to most successes and failures.  

On a resume, don’t get fancy or colorful and do not put your picture on it. Also, leave off any religious or political affiliations, as well as references. Companies will ask for references if they need them. 

GD: What are some no-no’s for grads when job hunting in this market?

MD: For starters, don’t use the wrong resume. There are a few types of resumes and new grads will want to research and use the Functional Resume format. 

Thought it may be tempting, new grads should not call a company or hiring manager asking for an update or if their resume was reviewed.  The company will call if interested.  

When offered an interview, don’t be late and don’t go in having done no research.  A candidate has exactly 24 hours after the interview to send a thank-you email. 

Pro Tip!

In the short (three-paragraph maximum) thank-you email, candidates should include the part of the interview or portion of a conversation they enjoyed most and explain why. You’re welcome!

GD: If there was one big takeaway for Generation Z and younger millennials seeking employment at this time, what would it be from your perspective?

MD: The importance of gratitude. We just saw how quickly people went from employed to jobless. We also see how small businesses to major companies continue to struggle through this chaos. Every opportunity that Generation Z — even Millennials and Generation X for that matter — gets, ought to be met with gratitude and the understanding that nothing is guaranteed.  

The other takeaway in all of this is responsibility with money. Even if it’s $10 a week, this new generation of workers needs to save for catastrophic situations, hardships or prolonged unemployment. The amount of stress they’ll save themselves is priceless.   Financial health is always in need of urgent care.  

Lastly, remember that this all ephemeral. We’re in front of a challenge right now, but one day soon we’ll be behind it. Keep your chin up and your eye on the prize.   

For more unemployment help on resume writing, cover letters, and interview tips, check it out here!