The Sum Up: Tips for Graduates Entering the Workforce During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everybody from children to retirees. While many of us have had to cope with working or learning from home, and some have lost their jobs or taken pay cuts, few groups have had more uncertainty than college students who are preparing to graduate into a world that’s in the middle of a crisis.

A recent article on offered some advice and guidance for college students and new graduates as they prepare to enter the workforce. Here’s what you need to know.

Take Work Where You Can Find It

The first piece of advice relates to work. For most college graduates, the search for employment focuses on their area of concentration or an industry where they expect to build a career. That’s still likely to be the case but the pandemic reality is that you may have to be flexible when it comes to employment.

If you’re planning to graduate, you should prepare for two work scenarios. The first is where you land a job in your chosen field. We’ll talk more about some potential issues in that area, but the second situation is one that is likely to impact many graduates. If you can’t find a job in your chosen field, you may need to look for ways to earn money in the interim.

You may choose between a full or part-time job in customer service and a side gig such as driving for Lyft or Uber or delivering food. These jobs might not be your dream but they have the benefit of keeping you busy and putting money in your pocket while you look for something better.

Be Prepared for Pandemic Salary Realities

You may be among the lucky people who find a job in their chosen field after graduation. However, what many college graduates are learning is that the salaries they’re being offered are lower than what they anticipated.

The unfortunate truth is that you may need to settle for a lower salary than you’d like – for now. Getting a foot in the door is still better than the alternative and a salary with benefits is nothing to sneeze at. That said, you should also keep your eyes on the road ahead.

Once you’re employed, you should continue looking for career opportunities that present themselves. Job mobility can help you increase your salary more quickly than would be possible if you stayed at the same company. It’s common for people to lag behind industry pay standards when they stay in one place, so keep your eyes open and be willing to move for a better salary.

Prepare for New Hiring Realities

If you are in a position where you can’t find a job in your chosen field, there are still opportunities to prime yourself for the job market when things pick up again. Millions of people are getting vaccinated but it will be a while before things are back to normal. 

That means you should be prepared for video interviews, remote hiring and anything else that might become part of your job hunting process. The Indeed article points out that it may be helpful to form an interview practice group with other recent graduates. There’s an art to a back-and-forth on Zoom that’s very different from an in-person interview. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at not interrupting and making a good impression.

You can also spend some time networking within your chosen industry. They might not be hiring but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a mentor or attend virtual events where you can meet people and learn about industry trends.

Boost Your Hireability with Continuing Education

Graduating from college doesn’t mean that you’re done with learning. If you can’t find a job in your chosen field, you may want to consider pursuing an additional degree or professional certifications that can help you find a job down the line.

This is another way of saying that you should use your time wisely if you can afford to do so. If you want to go to law school down the line, you could prepare for the LSAT by taking practice tests. Those preparing for jobs in industries where professional certifications are a must can get them now to make themselves more attractive to employers.

We do want to note here that you should be wary of taking on additional debt at a time of financial uncertainty. If you can afford to pursue additional education without accruing debt, then by all means, do so. If not, you can still prep for job interviews and research employment opportunities.

Get Assistance if You Need It

What if you can’t find a job and your side gig isn’t earning enough for you to support yourself? Remember that there are assistance programs available that can help you.

Some of the options you may find in your state include:

  • Delayed rent and mortgage payments
  • Paused evictions and foreclosures
  • Food and meal support (SNAP and food pantries)
  • Deferrals on student loans
  • Financial aid for additional education
  • Community assistance programs

You can find a list of COVID-19 assistance programs by state here.

Manage Your Money Wisely

Whether you have a full-time job or a part-time gig, it’s essential to manage the money you have carefully and give yourself some breathing room, financially speaking.

First, we recommend making a budget and sticking to it. Even if you are financially comfortable, a budget will help you avoid overspending and make it easy to meet your savings goals.

Second, if you can afford to do so, we suggest creating an emergency fund in the event that you lose your job or can’t find a job to cover your expenses. It may require some sacrifice to create an emergency fund but the sacrifices are worth making. You should save two months’ worth of expenses to begin and then gradually build your fund until it’s enough to cover six months of expenses.

It may not be the ideal time to be entering the workforce, but the tips here can help you navigate the job market and prepare for the future.

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