Graduation season brings with it a rush of bright-eyed alumni on the competitive hunt for the coveted “first-job-after-college.” Add in a global pandemic, and this celebratory epoch turns suddenly paralyzing for many young alumni.
As a senior graduating this May, I also have my own doubts. What if I can’t find a job after I graduate? Or even worse, what if I get laid off from my first job due to the pandemic? I find myself increasingly uncertain about my future while time seems to be running out.
The COVID-19 pandemic upended the workforce across the country. Lost opportunities and occupations littered the summer of 2020. Workplaces, schools, and businesses slowly metamorphosed into their respective virtual worlds.
“If the pandemic has taught us anything,” says Amanda Morgan (’06 Busi., ’08 M.Ed.), associate director of the Academic Success and Career Center (ASCC) at Washington State University, “it’s that we can’t really anticipate what’s coming around the corner.” Now, as the dust of the job market crash begins to settle, navigating this new normal is an everyday challenge. But, Morgan says, although the online space in many people’s lives may be unfamiliar, “it actually makes opportunities a little more accessible.”
In fact, says ASCC internship coordinator Judy Hopkins (’12 Ag.), “there is an incredible opportunity for graduates because employers have literally pivoted from the previous way of managing their internships to creating remote opportunities.”
This pivot is opening doors instead of nailing them shut. So, what can young WSU alumni do to succeed?
Using online tools like LinkedIn to build connections within the WSU alumni family, Hopkins suggests, is where many young alumni should begin. “It’s not a cold call whatsoever, it’s a very warm connection when we have that opportunity to reach out to fellow Cougs.”
After building connections on LinkedIn, young alumni can reach out to relevant contacts for an informational interview. “Whatever it is that you are wanting, whatever your goal is, tell as many people as you can,” Morgan says. “You never know who’s going to be able to open that door for you.” These informational interviews can serve as the first step in a pathway to a dream job or even as the foundation to reach additional resources. As Hopkins says, “Often, because we have that Cougar connection, there is a strong possibility that it is going to unfold as a real meaningful connection.”
The pandemic has caused many habitually hopeful graduates to doubt their abilities. Even if it seems like the only thing to do is take a step back and wait out the storm, now more than ever is an opportunity to push through the clouds of uncertainty. “You’re graduating with other students, maybe competing for some of the same jobs,” Morgan says, “so this is not the time to be humble. This is the time to really showcase what you’ve done in every experience that you’ve had.”
Graduates must realize the job search process takes time. “I don’t think a lot of people, especially new graduates, recognize how time intensive that process can be and that can be really daunting and overwhelming. But it’s 100 percent worth it,” Morgan says.
As new graduates like me challenge this era’s scarcity, it is clear that things may not be so bleak after all. “We’ve been forced to be creative and innovative,” Hopkins says. “We have greater opportunities for success in new ways that we haven’t considered before.”
WSU Academic Success and Career Center
• Professional résumé reviews and career coaching
• One-on-one virtual appointments (all WSU campuses)
• Freshman students through alumni for six months after graduation
• Online resources at ascc.wsu.edu
WSU Alumni Association
• Cougar Career Academy: Webinars and interactive workshops led by WSU alumni that cover professional development and job search topics. alumlc.org/wsu
• Mission Collaborative: A 30-day online career development program for alumni who are looking to figure out what they want from the next chapter of their careers.
• Job search and career development resources at alumni.wsu.edu
Gen Z employees’ resiliency tested by pandemic-induced work challenges (Report from Carson College of Business, WSU News, March 12, 2021)