This pandemic has impacted most aspects of our communities, our healthcare systems, our families, and our workforces. The impact has been acute and devastating in many segments of our workforce. This certainly includes young students coming out of college in May. While many of them may also be experiencing additional complicating factors such as sick family members or friends, or parents losing income, they all are also experiencing a dramatic loss of job opportunities. For these young people it can seriously shake their confidence as they grapple with questions of if and when they will have careers that will allow them to support themselves, and where they can learn and grow.
LaunchingU was started because of how the 2008 Financial Crisis upended career opportunities for early career professionals. As coaches with strong HR, leadership, and executive search experience we knew how challenging this was going to be for young graduates and we knew we could help. Here we are in 2020, and our early career professionals are facing something very similar to what we went through in 2008.
As a career coach for college students and new graduates I have learned a lot from my conversations with my clients over the past month. I have sharpened and shifted my focus in response to that learning. Here is my message to my young clients and their families at this moment in time. I am sharing it broadly in the hopes that it can be helpful to other young graduates and their families:
This is ugly and it is likely to stay ugly for quite a while.
Most of you will not have a college worthy job by the time you graduate, and many will not have one by the end of the summer. A significant number of you will have to start in a job that does not require the skills you have developed, because you need to start earning some money.
This is hard but it is also going to be okay. You won’t be here forever.
Almost nobody is hiring now.
Unless you have a connection inside a company or a company is in one of the few industries that is growing right now, it is not useful to be spending all your time applying for jobs. Almost nobody is hiring, especially at entry levels. When I poll our broad connections in industry, government and nonprofits, they tell me to check back in a month and they may have a better picture of when things might start to open up. They also say it might take longer than that. We are staying in contact with them to be sure we are ready to help you understand when and where opportunities are opening up.
This episode does not define you.
It is not about you, although obviously it will have consequences for you in the short run. The skills you are graduating with, the work you have done to succeed in college, in summer jobs and internships, are still real, and you will have careers that put them to use. I ask my clients to put these skills and accomplishments on their computer or refrigerator and to not lose sight of them in this delay of game.
Preparation still matters.
When this virus and the economic consequences of it passes, and there are real jobs to apply for, candidates who are well-prepared, who have strong material and know how to interview, will do better. This is actually a very good time to get better at this – and you can always get better at it. The market of available jobs will be smaller but there will be jobs – and jobs that you are qualified for, but you absolutely want to be ready to present yourself strongly. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be, and the more effective you will be at making the case for why you are the candidate they want on your team. We do this work. This includes being ready to do online interviewing, and in general building your technical skills.
You are not powerless in this situation.
This is your life. Let’s for a moment assume that this takes six months before there are a reasonable number of jobs out there for you to apply for. I could be overestimating this or underestimating it – but let’s just work with that number. What are you going to do to make use of these six months of your life? What can you do that will bring you joy, keep your brain engaged, or develop a new skill or interest? In my conversations with my new clients, you are coming up with things that are meaningful to you, useful in the world, and that will develop new capacities that have the potential to make you a stronger job candidate. In addition to the career planning work they are doing with us at LaunchingU, here are a few examples of how else they are using this time:
- Building a deck on the back of their grandparent’s house
- Taking two free online courses at Harvard. One because it is a passion of theirs and one because it broadens their skill set
- Volunteering to help get food out to families who need it because of school being closed
- Learning to play the guitar
These examples are all good and will help them recognize their own power in this situation, as well as answer the type of question they can count on being asked when they finally do interview: “How did you adjust and keep moving forward when the boulder of Covid19 fell on your post-graduate plans.”
When a good friend was listening to me talk about helping my clients make this a time of active growth, she pointed out to me that it might be helpful for me to model this as well as outline it. Touché!
So, for my whole life it has been clear that I have a very poor singing voice. The old story about being kicked out of the choir in 5th grade is actually true for me. I happen to have a friend who does an amazing job of giving online singing lessons with quite remarkable success – so I just picked up the phone and called her to schedule my first lesson.
Parents, as you are working to support the young adults in your household, and if you are not overwhelmed with taking care of family members, etc., consider whether this might be a good time for you to pick up something new. It can be joyful, and as we know, modeling is always more powerful than suggesting. Reach out if you want to connect with my singing teacher 😊.
Take care, be safe and stay in touch. We are always willing to do a free consultation with parents or students. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 603-398-7278.