Hello Graduates! Don’t lose heart. Your best education starts now.
Welcome to the world of uncertainty. Fasten your seatbelt. Your career road may be a long ride. But they say half the fun is getting there. You’ll be railroaded on life’s path of twists and turns.
You may even have to take a non-paid internship, entry-level or just a survival job until the economy bounces back. But don’t be afraid. You are catching an education everywhere, on jobs you hadn’t thought of or even wanted, to the backdrop of world events now with COVID and racism. Against all odds, I’m willing to wager that you will survive!
Everyone who graduates college, especially, has high hopes and dreams for going out there and grabbing their dream job. “The world is your oyster!” we are told. Well….not if the pickings are slim. That is what happens in a depressed economy. Unlike the global economic crash of 2008, this time it is a pandemic that shut down the economy. People are hurting. The future of office work is rapidly morphing regarding physical and logistical layout and we may be seeing more remote jobs. With many layoffs and companies that have taken a big hit, they may be soft on new hiring. It is certainly a huge disappointment when job search becomes a desert and our plans do not pan out. The idea of college was once upon a time, you’d come out and slide into your ideal work situation. Hold tight to the dream as you navigate the terrible rocks and shoals of stormy weather.
The good news is – it’s not the end of the world. You are already equipped with the strengths to weather disappointment, to flex and adapt to the environment. Those lessons were inflicted on you. You learned them well. Pat yourself on the back. You’ve been compelled to equip yourself with character – those non-glamorous qualities of patience and perseverance. That’s growth but it is painful. These personal traits will sustain you if you surrender to their worth. No graduation ceremony. No prom. No chance to say goodbye. Your life became a drive-by as you Zoomed your way through your studies.
You did it! All last minute with no notice. You won’t get awards for these lessons. But they are worth their weight in gold.
So, you ask, what does this all mean for me? Well, you can make this time of uncertainty work for you. That is the key. Be brave. Think out of the box. These are two clichés for good reasons.
Yes, make this time work for you. Consider the following ideas:
- Look at life as a filmstrip. You’re in it but it keeps moving through all sorts of stages, relationships, environments and so on. Adopt that attitude that you are acquiring all sorts of knowledge, hard skills and learning how to navigate people.
- Use a specific in a cover letter and interview. Explain why you took a job out of your career goal or for less pay because you honed invaluable experience and can transfer it or apply it to your chosen field. All jobs require certain things: Organization; Interpersonal interactions and serving the public in some capacity. Tell them you didn’t want to stagnate. And tell them you have a work ethic. It was all part of your growth professionally and personally.
- Say something about what you learned and how you can apply it to the desired field of work. This is key. Think big. Talk of how you made a rote, ordinary job shine!
- Speak with confidence, knowing that a survival job in tough times was a weigh station to your goal, like climbing a mountain. Mention famous CEOs who look back fondly on their summer jobs and entry-level retail or fast food jobs.
- Implement the tools you already have and talk a good game about how you learned to roll with life’s punches. How lucky, in ways, that you started out that way. The worst is behind you because you had to finish the last semester in a half-baked way. You know about the best laid plans of mice and men! Piece of cake now for whatever you must do.
- Initiate a volunteer project for those in need. You choose the cause. Use your talents to pay it forward. Good will come back to you.
- Target companies YOU would like to work for. Send an introductory letter. Keep in touch with them on social media. Like their Facebook page and contact to connect on LinkedIn. You will feel less powerless and it could lead to something down the road.
- Finally — WATCH what you post to social media. If you think no one in a hiring or other authoritative decision-making position isn’t looking, they ARE.
If you handle this transition properly, you can impress and talk your way into the job you really want. Don’t stop looking for it, of course. Ferret it out like a forager and keep growing your network along the dusty road. Life is not a straight line. Careers change. Businesses come and they go. History teaches us that there is no permanence in this fast-moving world and you’re never too old. You will only get lost in the shuffle if you think you will!
You’re lucky, 2020 grads. You’re already out of the box by the pure random luck of graduating now at this turbulent time. Make the most of it and know you are not alone!
Gloria Schramm is a playwright, career counselor and horse lover from Bellmore, NY.