Graduates: Your Life Skills Gained during COVID Make You Strong

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

By: Gloria Schramm

Hello graduates! 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. 

Everyone who graduates college dreams of getting out there and grabbing their ideal job. “The world is your oyster!” we are told. Not if the pickings are slim, as they are in today’s 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 into remote jobs. With company profits taking a big hit, many are laying off employees and are now soft on new hiring. It is certainly a huge disappointment when the job search becomes a desert and our plans do not pan out.

Once upon a time, a college education meant that you’d graduate and slide into your ideal work situation. Instead, your life became a drive-by as you Zoomed your way through your studies. There was no graduation ceremony, no chance to say goodbye to your college friends.

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’ve been compelled to equip yourself with character – those non-glamorous qualities of patience and perseverance. However painfully acquired, these personal traits will sustain you if you surrender to their worth. You learned them well. Pat yourself on the back. 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.

You may have to take a non-paid internship, entry-level or survival job until the economy bounces back. But don’t be afraid. You are catching an education everywhere, from the jobs you hadn’t thought of or even wanted, to current world events with COVID and racism.

I’m willing to wager that you will survive if you make this time work for you. Consider the following ideas:

1.     Look at your life as a documentary film. You’re in it, but it keeps moving through all sorts of stages, relationships, environments and so on. Adopt the attitude that you are acquiring all sorts of knowledge:  job skills, communication skills and street-smarts.

2.     Be forthcoming in a cover letter and interview. Explain why you took a job outside of your desired field or for less pay because you gained 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 the hiring manager you didn’t want to stagnate. And tell them you have a work ethic. It was all part of your growth professionally and personally.

3.     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!

4.     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 entry-level retail or fast food job.

5.     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.

6.     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.

7.     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 connect on LinkedIn. You will feel less powerless and it could lead to something down the road.

8. Finally, watch what you post to social media. If you think that no one in a position to hire you isn't looking, you’re wrong.

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 go. History teaches us that there is no permanence in this fast-moving world.

You’re lucky, 2020 grads. You’re already ahead of the game based on the random luck of graduating during this turbulent time. Make the most of it, and know you are not alone!

Gloria is a retired career counselor now in private practice. She is also a playwright and equine volunteer at HorseAbility, a therapy center for disabled children and adults. She can be found on LinkedIn at: http://linkedin.com/in/gloriaschramm

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