In May, thousands of students in New York graduated from college, leaving the institutions where they studied to begin their careers. These graduates hope to enter the workforce in a time of unprecedented change and instability amidst the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Although Long Island has now entered Phase 3 of reopening, it will take time for the economy to recover. In addition, the pandemic and subsequent shutdown has altered the employment landscape for both job seekers and recruiters, and new graduates must be adaptable and diligent in their efforts to find work. Given this new landscape, job seekers need fresh advice from experts who help students and graduates with their careers every day.
“It is such a different job market for new graduates,” comments Urszula Zalewski, Hauppauge resident and Director of Experiential Education at the Stony Brook University Career Center. When students graduated in May, many companies were not recruiting, and some of those who offered students positions prior to the pandemic were unable to bring them on board. “Even recruiters were furloughed or lost jobs,” Zalewski adds. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics report for May shows some improvement in the national unemployment rate, new graduates face an unstable job market. Regardless of the numbers, Zalewski assures new graduates and unemployed alumni that “amazing opportunities are still out there.” Arlene Kaukus, Director of Career Services at University at Buffalo, echoes Zalewski’s sentiments: “There are still opportunities out there. Not all doors are closed. The challenge is to be more resourceful in developing their plan than they might have been.” So how can new graduates achieve greater success in securing employment?
Be Open and Flexible
Landing a dream job right out of college is unlikely when the economy is at its best, and now it is even more unlikely. What graduates were set on doing might not be a prevalent opportunity in the current job market, and job seekers should be open when considering employment opportunities. Kaukus advises new graduates to “seize opportunities to get them launched” with the understanding that “it’s not a forever thing. You’re not married to the job.” Zalewski agrees, recommending graduates consider opportunities where they can “learn, grow, then move on.” She advises that they “look at skills and competencies they will gain from the opportunity,” keeping in mind the skills, competencies, and networking needed for their future career. Zalewski also counsels new graduates to consider both full and part-time opportunities, as a part-time position could transition into full-time.
Do Some Research
While most industries have experienced losses, some have been impacted more than others. “Some of these downturns could be temporary,” says Kaukus, although it is difficult to predict what the trajectory will be for an industry to come back, and this can vary by region. In Western NY, for example, finance, healthcare and technology all offer opportunities for new graduates. She urges new graduates to research what the regional picture looks like, and to not only look at industry giants, but also start-up companies. Zalewski notes that both technology (IT and engineering) and healthcare have seen little downturn in recruitment, although some graduates were afraid to jump into clinical positions during the height of COVID-19 on Long Island. In addition to industry considerations, Zalewski recommends new graduates research employers using databases like Buzzfile, a nationwide database allowing job seekers to research and network with employers by field of interest.
Prior to the pandemic, networking online was useful for job seekers; now, it as an outright necessity. “The technology tools have been enhanced in the last decade and accelerated through COVID-19,” says Kaukus, “and they need to understand the power and importance of this.” This includes creating profiles on platforms like Handshake and LinkedIn, as well as participating in online job fairs and recruitment events. “Teaching people how to network online is important,” agrees Zalewski, “90% of employers are recruiting through LinkedIn.” When asked about the loss of in-person job fairs, Kaukus feels platforms like Handshake and LinkedIn might offer better opportunities, as they allow employers more time to review each profile. “The power of the platform,” says Kaukus in reference to Handshake, “is that employers can find you.” And apparently, they are trying: “There has been an uptick in messages going from employers to graduates,” she adds. Kaukus also encourages new graduates to explore all of the platform’s features, including messaging other graduates.
Get Comfortable with Video Conferencing
Video conferencing has boomed since the start of the pandemic, utilized for everything from medical appointments to school lessons to job interviews. “The situation we are in now might be advantageous in the future,” states Kaukus, as recruiters will likely opt to continue using this technology for interviewing and employee screening. Job fairs and recruitment events will be online for the foreseeable future, as will many job interviews. Zalewski advises new graduates learn how to network on applications like Zoom, commenting that too many recruitment event participants “hide” by not turning on their camera. Job seekers may not be able to make a first impression in person, so “they have to be aware of how to supplement on a video screen,” adds Kaukus. She urges new graduates to practice interviewing with virtual interviewing tools, which allow people to record, view, and share mock interviews. These are often available through college career center websites, as is InterviewStream through the NYS Department of Labor.
Utilize Career Services
There are a myriad of resources available for new graduates seeking employment, but one important resource they too often underutilize is their school’s career center or careers services office. While Kaukus recommends new graduates “use any and all resources available,” she advises them not to overlook the website of their school’s career services office as a resource. Most colleges and universities offer career services for new graduates and alumni, as do many technical and training schools. Career services can help students create resumes, practice interviewing, develop networking skills, find jobs and internships, and even connect with alumni in their chosen field. Zalewski reminds new graduates that businesses and organizations recruit through career centers, so they serve as yet another channel to connect with possible employers. In addition to the services provided to students and graduates, the Stony Brook University Career Center offers a list of additional resources for job seekers in the wake of COVID-19, including job and internship resources, employer databases, remote job opportunities, and more.
Be Proactive, Find Support, and Don’t Give Up
Job-hunting can be stressful, especially for new graduates. Zalewski recommends that they “be proactive,” focus on skills and career competencies that “can transition into a new position,” and keep making connections through a variety of channels. Most importantly: “Don’t give up.” Kaukus encourages new graduates to build a “diverse and robust” support team, including family, friends, professors, alumni, and anyone else in their network who is willing to help when they face challenges. Doing everything they are told and then getting stuck can be “immobilizing and discouraging,” she continues, “and they don’t want to be in that space alone. They need support, especially now.”
Resources for New Graduates Entering the Workforce
SBU Career Center Job and Internship Marketplace During COVID-19