Across the country, or rather the world, Coronavirus has cancelled commencement for millions of college students.
Commencement is supposed to be the culmination and celebration of years of late nights, physical and financial sacrifices, tears, work, stress and unforgettable moments. The day when friends and family and your tribe that has held you down for years, stands proudly and screams loudly as your name is called.
It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be mad. Despite the absence of a physical ceremony, know that you have still indeed graduated from this stage of life. You are moving up, moving on, moving out into the world. As uncertain as these times are, you are entering this new phase and bringing a collection of beautiful experiences with you.
Where to go from here
On top of a cancelled commencement, you are entering into an uncertain job market. Just two months ago, you were headed unto a strong economy with a good job market. Now, companies are rescinding job and internship offers daily while people are filing for unemployement in record numbers.
Things took a very quick turn for the worst. But, since no one knows what life will look like 3 months from now, things could turn around just as quickly. The economy will likely bounce back after the crisis is over, companies will once again hire and salaries will return. What we don’t seem to know today is when will the virus end and that turn around actually begin.
I don’t know what our new “normal” will be. There are many unanswered questions about how jobs will change, will more people begin working from home permanently, will more people seek employment rather than freelancing, how will our social interactions change and so many more questions. I don’t have a crystal ball, but what I can offer are some ideas on how to move forward when your classes are over in a few weeks.
- Celebrate your success
Right now you are likely finishing up your classes online. Focus your energy on finishing strong (not like you can can go anywhere right now anyway). When you have handed in that last paper breathe, yell, scream, shout, jump and realize that you did it!
I know some schools are doing virtual commencement ceremonies to mark the day. Even if your school is not offering that option, order a cake, order some food, blow up some ballons, put on your cap and gown, take some pictures and celebrate by yourself or with whomever else is trapped in the house with you!
Prayerfully, you will be able to celebrate outside soon!
2. Don’t run to graduate school if things get hard
When the economy tanks, the first impulse is to run out and get another degree. I understand the impulse but chill. For real.
When the economy tanks, the first impulse is to run out and get another degree. I understand the impulse but chill. For real. Right now earning another degree with no work experience is not going to vastly improve your shot at landing a job. Taking on additional student loan debt for a degree that won’t do much to increase your salary is not a smart move.
There are professions like teaching or accounting or some medical careers that require a Master’s degree, that is different. You do not need to go right into a graduate program that does not have a return on investment or won’t improve your marketability. If you feel you must add a specific skill such as learning a computer language, there a plenty of low cost and free resources online.
Most ranked business and law schools prefer candidates with a few years of work experience. If you are looking to go that route, working for a few years will help make you competitive for those programs in the future.
Wait it out. The market will turn.
3. Your first job after college is not your last
Your first job after college does not have to define your career. Your first job is a stepping stone, a resume builder to show future employers your ability to apply what you learned in college. In your first role you will learn what you like and don’t like, enhance certain skills, learn new skills, love it some days and hate it others.
Statistics say that in your lifetime you will have three different careers. I started off in higher education and have remained in the field, but with 8 different colleges and one non-profit working in three different states.
When you are entering into a tough job market, your first job might not be your perfect job. I’m not saying you take the first thing offered, but I do suggest you use wisdom and not let every offer pass by. When you are applying for jobs, you should ask yourself if you would take the job if they offered. If you know you don’t want the job, then don’t waste their time or yours.
That said, I am not talking about a part-time job that you may take to pay bills while you wait for a full-time opportunity. In that case, take what pays best and starts fastest while you search for perm work.
We all know someone or may have even been that “someone” who is underemployed or working a job the doesn’t require a degree. It happens. Some people who start in jobs that don’t require a degree will grow stagnant and not make the necessary moves to break into the next level of their career. If you find yourself taking a role that doesn’t seem to match your education and experience, decide from jump that you are going to continue to network, showcase skills, add new skills and claw your way towards your career goals.
4. Remain flexible
When I gradauted college I wanted to work in PR for a big public relations agency. I realized quickly I was too broke to move to NYC or Boston or any major east coast city on an entry level PR salary! My sister mentioned a role she saw at local university in college admissions. It sounded fun and interesting and would allow me to use my public speaking skills. Fast forward I have since spent a career in higher education. I’ve never worked directly for a pr agency (or had a desire to).
Don’t just read job titles, read the descriptions fully. Look for roles, responsibilities and duties that get you excited. Look for roles in industries that you are interested in being in. Don’t be so focused on only one type of role that you look past what could be other great opportunities.
Right now, in the midst of the highest unemployment rates our country has ever experienced, there are still companies hiring!
- Amazon is hiring 100,000
- CVS Health is hiring 50,000
- Lowes is hiring 30,000
- Pepsico is hiring 6,000
Don’t assume that every job is paying minimum wage. Do your research and see what is out there. Also, not all retail positions are front line, there are marketing departments, IT, analytics, operations, finance, human resources and so many other types of roles in nearly every sector.
Coming out of school, you can also consider doing a post-graduate internship. In the current economy, that could be the perfect move to gain experience while waiting for the market to turn. The unfortunate reality though is that it could be an unpaid internship. I am not a fan of unpaid internships but as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.
5. Stay home and save your money
The importance of saving money and setting yourself up to be financially stable is more important than rushing out to show how much of an adult you are.
Not everyone has the option of returning home after college, but if you can, do it. There are a lot of people who jumped ship with no safety net who are regretting that decision big time right now. The importance of saving money and setting yourself up to be financially stable is more important than rushing out to show how much of an adult you are.
Take the longer commute, deal with your family, but take the cheap or if you are lucky, free rent along with no utility bills for a short time. Set a time frame for finding a job and for moving out (3-12 months). Be intentional with how you spend your money, stick to a budget and set financial goals.
Moving out with an emergency fund in place and a steady income can set you up to not have to move back home 6 months later.
Look, we are in the middle of a never seen before global pandemic. If you don’t wake up everyday and spend 3 hours looking for a job, I personally think that is perfectly fine. Don’t be pressured to feel like you have to come out of this period speaking six new languages, how to build a computer and ready to compete and Top Chef. You just conquered a major achievement in life. Be proud and have your moment.
Congratulations to the class of 2020.