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Graduating in the Age of COVID-19 Webster University / Career Planning & Development Center

Graduating in the Age of COVID-19 Student Guide

At The Career Planning & Development Center, we understand that entering the workforce these days must be a surreal experience for you. The entire workforce has been turned upside-down, hiring freezes have been instituted across industries and sectors, and unemployment is rising rapidly.

We know that this is not the world you thought you’d be graduating into. These are stressful and uncertain times for you, for us, and for millions of recent college graduates across the country.

Graduating in the Age of COVID-19 Student Guide

We want to help

The good news is that there are plenty of immediate and long-term actions you can take to increase your appeal to organizations that are hiring, network and connect with professionals online, manage your resources wisely, enhance your (virtual) competencies, and set action oriented goals for yourself.

How to use this guide

This guide will introduce a variety of resources, ideas, and mindsets you should adopt and utilize to overcome these challenging times.

This guide was designed with you in mind, a recent Webster University graduate! It will take you through three stages designed to use in chronological order. Specifically, the guide starts with critical mindsets needed to succeed in the age of covid-19 before moving on to immediate and long-term action steps you can take to thrive now that you've completed your Webster degree.

This is our best attempt to prepare you during these unprecedented times. Obviously, we know that no written content can replace personal advising or coaching. The Career Planning & Development Center advising team will continue to meet with current students and recent graduates for individual advising appointments by phone or videoconference through the Fall 2020 semester.

Getting Started

Before taking any action, we recommend that you pause for a moment and think critically about your approach. These are not ordinary times and you will likely need to stretch your comfort zone and adapt to the world as it is.

Take time to think about this before jumping into action.

Be practical

For many of you, your professional plans and career launch strategies will soon have to change. The companies you’re interested in may not be hiring right now, as entire sectors are being reconfigured and overturned. This is painful and bizzare, but it can also be a call for action. You will need to adopt a practical approach and align your job search with organizations that are still hiring.

We know this can be difficult, and in many ways counterintuitive to everything you heard during college, but it’s necessary. You will compromise and make concessions, but you will also be setting yourself up for long-term success.

Networking during a pandemic

You all know that most people find jobs through networking and personal connections. This should come as a surprise to no one. Staying connected with people and communities, and growing your network is paramount to success in a virtual world.

Let us reassure you that it’s definitely OK to reach out to your network right now. In fact, you might find that people are eager to help with introductions or advice. The way you ask, however, will be the ultimate key to your success. Here’s how to do it right.

Be action-oriented

Graduating during a recession is to begin your career underwater. As the market struggles and reinvents itself, recent college graduates run the risk of being left behind. It is up to you to be assertive, action-oriented, entrepreneurial, and gritty, as you navigate a changing market.

This requires you to seek out opportunities, intentionally connect with people online, and most importantly, be comfortable with the unknown. You will find strength and confidence in your ability to tackle the unknown. You will persevere, but it takes an action-oriented mindset to get there.

Share how you're feeling

You are not alone in this! Whether it’s your career advisor, a close friend or a mentor, share your feelings and be ok with being vulnerable.

You have a powerful group of guides, coaches, advisors and confidants at your disposal. Use them, embrace them, and find power in their guidance. We are all in this together and are all here to help each other.

Immediate Actions

In the last few months we’ve seen unprecedented change to the workforce and labor market. In a short period of time the market has changed dramatically as entire industries have been impacted by the devastating effect of COVID-19. Even with the the country opening back up, employers are still going to proceed hiring with caution.

To successfully enter the workforce today, you will need to take some immediate actions. Specifically, you’ll need to enhance your appeal to organizations that are hiring and arm yourself with a “virtual toolkit” of skills and approaches that best fit the times we’re in.

The resources below represent some immediate actions you should take to prepare yourself for your career launch.

Who's hiring now?

Many companies are still hiring. These resources will help you stay connected to who’s hiring:

  • Candor: view a list of companies who are hiring or indicated they're currently on a hiring freeze
  • The Muse: 70+ companies that want your applications now
  • Forbes: 27 best work from home and remote jobs
  • Tip: follow Federal and State governments hiring status
  • Tip: follow #GetHired on LinkedIn to get real-time information about companies that are hiring
Note, be cautious when pursuing job opportunities that sound too good to be true. If you would like a member of the Career Planning & Development Center staff to review a job posting before you apply, please e-mail careercn@webster.edu.

Virtual career fairs

While most career fairs are in-person events, some employers have opted to recruit in an online format at a number of virtual career fairs around the country. Webster University's Fall 2020 Career Fair will be hosted in a virtual format, which you're welcome to participate in! Mark your calendar for Tuesday, October 6, 1:00 - 4:00 PM CST, via Handshake. View additional virtual career fair boards and information below.

Handshake is also a great resource to continue using beyond completing your degree. Employers host virtual recruiting events and information sessions throughout the year. Log-in to your Handshake account and view the "events" section of your account. Virtual recruiting events are added weekly.

Remote work opportunities

With individual mobility being hindered by travel restrictions, many companies will likely embrace remote work in the near future.

The following websites will help you find remote-work opportunities:

In the Job Search section of your Handshake account, use the keyword "remote" to explore work from home employment positions currently in Handshake. Learn more here.

Hundreds of job postings are currently listed as Remote or Virtual in Handshake

Virtual networking & informational interviewing

Even during these difficult times it is essential to expand your professional network, connect with people, and “get yourself out there”. You can do this from home, here’s how:

Virtual interviewing

Just when you thought that you might be getting the hang of interviewing for a new job, the world went sideways. As the ground continues to shift under our feet, companies are working to adjust their recruiting, interviewing, and hiring processes to fit the circumstances. Which means hiring is going to look different for a while.

Here are some tips to consider as you prepare for a remote hiring process:

  • Make sure you have adequate technology for a successful interview
  • Plan to wear professional attire, as if you were interviewing in-person
  • Minimize any potential distractions for you and the interviewer
  • Organize and clean-up your surroundings to present your skills and qualifications in an organized work area
  • If possible, practice with a friend or family member beforehand to work out any technology issues
  • Practice responding to get to know you questions and prepare examples to emphasize your transferable skills
  • Be mindful of your non-verbal communication

View our Best Practices for Interviewing Guide to learn more

Round-out your skill set

Many educational companies and universities are currently offering their content for free. Take advantage of this opportunity to enhance your skills and knowledge.

Webster University has always provided free eLearning through LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com). Students can access LinkedIn Learning's database of courses and videos using their Office 365 login credentials.

Resources for Long-Term Success

Entering the professional world into a recession can have profound long-term implications on your income potential, job prospects, and career success. For long-term success you will need to fully comprehend your financial situation, avoid complacency, and be assertive in how you navigate the market.

Here are resources, ideas, and strategies to stay competitive, generate income, and avoid potential pitfalls along the way.

Understanding your student loans

The average college student in the U.S. graduates with about $30,000 in student-loan debt. This constitutes a formidable, often prolonged financial burden during “normal” times. Rest assured that the impact will be compounded during a recession.

It is absolutely imperative that you fully comprehend all aspects of your student loan management, repayment options, impact on your personal budget, and of course, relevant and current legislation.

Click on the following resources and to get started:

Webster University Alumni Association

The Alumni Association at Webster University has a large selection of resources that will be beneficial to your success long after completing your degree. You will be welcomed into a community of over 100,000 graduates across the world.

The Career Planning & Development Center has partnered with Alumni Programs to offer a specialized career development resource for Webster alumni. Learn more about alumni career resources here.

Personal budgeting resources

Entering the world of work into a recession could result in reduced income over a prolonged time-period. Your ability to save, be frugal, and budget your money wisely is essential.

Click on the following resources to get started:

Commit to lateral movement

Studies have shown that switching positions and employers can help increase people’s income over time. This might be counterintuitive to some, but you’ll need to prioritize mobility over loyalty to a single organization.

Negotiate everything

Entering into a recession oftentimes results in lower-than-market-value first-job salaries.

Studies have shown that a low entry-level salary can fundamentally reduce your income over time. Consequently, make it your habit to perfect your salary negotiation skills and always, but always, negotiate! View our Negotiating Salary Guide here.

The Career Planning & Development Center created this career guide with permission from the Washington Center