Dear Addi P.,
As a new college grad, I'm concerned about how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect my job search. How has the unemployment landscape changed the number or types of jobs available to new grads? How are employers or HR leaders attracting and retaining recent grads in this new landscape?
— Searching in Seattle
Dear Searching in Seattle,
The COVID-19 pandemic affects the availability of jobs for recent college graduates, for sure. New college grads are feeling the pressure of large student debt loads coupled with a weakened economy — the U.S. unemployment rate is now close to the highest levels since the 1940s due to COVID-19. With the recent layoffs, hiring freezes, pay cuts and furloughs, your concern is understandable. Landing that first job could be a challenge, and the job you get might not be the one you envisioned.
However, you shouldn't let this get you down. Here's what you need to know to improve your chances of finding a job during the pandemic.
Understand Short- and Long-term Impacts
The current global crisis brings some short- and long-term implications for recent college grads. Short-term impacts include internship availability. Some notable, large organizations have rescinded internships due to the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.
Internships completed while still a student, as well as internships that are done post-graduation, help job seekers get the experience that's required at some businesses. If you've already completed an internship, great. Without one, though, you may have trouble finding a job in the short term, especially during a slow economy.
In addition, when you do land a job, it's possible that you'll be starting at a lower salary than you normally would have in a strong economy. You may also discover that you've accepted a job that doesn't match your education level or offers less than full-time hours. These factors affect the long-term prospects for new college grads, as it may slow their career progression.
Know Where to Look for Available Jobs
Certain sectors are really feeling the punch of COVID-19 in today's economic climate. According to the ADP Research Institute's National Employment Report, both sectors of the economy (goods-producing and service-producing) have experienced significant drops in employment. The ADP RI also says that the leisure and hospitality industry are taking big hits, as well as transportation and retail trade (but not online retail). So I would approach those industries with caution for now.
It wouldn't hurt to look for positions with organizations that are having a recent increase in demand. For instance, shipping and delivery companies have been greatly needed during the pandemic. With nearly 30 million children out of school, online learning firms are also a good bet. You can also try your luck at grocery stores and delivery services or at remote learning and communication companies. At the very least, working at one of those organizations will give you some experience and a starting point on which to build your resume for future work.
Be Prepared for New Recruitment, Interviewing and Onboarding Tactics
Due to the pandemic, interviews are now being conducted using video chatting tools. You probably experienced a virtual graduation recently, so this trend should come as no surprise. Digital approaches to recruitment, interviewing and onboarding are to be expected.
In-person interactions during the early stages of the recruitment process are unlikely to happen, so it's important to brush up on your phone and video interviewing skills if you haven't already done so. You should also be prepared for virtual onboarding and working remotely instead of that window office you always dreamed of.
A note to employers: To attract young, tech-savvy talent, you should be making these processes as easy as possible. If your technology doesn't function well or if the rules aren't clear for those interviewing or starting a new job, the applicant or new hire may be left with a negative feeling toward your organization.
However you get there, landing that first job will eventually happen. In the meantime, it's important to stay resilient and keep moving forward.