New Grads Learn How to Navigate the Job Market Amid the Coronavirus

New college graduate smiling
Recent college grad

There are stories popping up all over these days about virtual graduations ceremonies and celebrations. Everyone from Barack Obama to Oprah Winfrey is giving commencement addresses. But once these much-publicized virtual events are over, new grads are going to face a tougher job-search environment than graduates have faced for a very long time. What are some of their biggest fears and how can they make the most of this time to best prepare for what might be a long job search?

I know several families whose kids are just starting to embark on this first step in their adult lives — and they’re all feeling very uncertain and unnerved. And rightfully so.

On April 29, CNBC reported that new college graduates are entering the worst job market in over a decade, with lower starting salaries and increased competition for openings. And nearly a quarter of employers are considering revoking offers that have already been made to the class of 2020, the story said.

No matter how positive all of the virtual speeches and celebrations might be, they’re not a great replacement for actual interviews and job offers these young adults had been preparing for and expecting.

“Beyond not being able to find a job, grads are worried about finding a job that they are excited about,” says Genevieve Ryan Bellaire, founder of Realworld, an online platform that helps new college graduates and young workers prepare for a career search as well as for challenges related to managing personal finances, health insurance and other ‘real world’ tasks.

“Not only have certain industries stopped hiring — overnight — but some sectors might be skewing toward hiring more experienced talent than entry-level candidates. This isn’t just a short-term problem, as many industries require you to follow a pre-set path to rise up within an industry or organization. New grads will be delayed in this process if they aren’t able to get started down that track right after graduation.”

In recent conversations with these young adults, Ryan Bellaire discovered that they also are concerned about being unable to interact with their employer once they’ve been hired.

“Some grads have shared that even if they have a job, it might be hard to make a good first impression so they can keep it,” she says. “Learning new skill sets and onboarding into existing company platforms is a lot harder when it’s virtual than when you have someone by your side.”

Those saddled with student loan debt feel even more pressure.

“For the nearly 70% of graduating seniors who have student loan debt, the financial picture is about to get more complicated,” Ryan Bellaire adds. “While the government has added additional protections for federal student loan borrowers given the impact of COVID-19, those loans begin to become due within the first six to nine months after graduation. That means even if you’re living at home with your parents to save money, getting an income ASAP to be able to start making those payments is still top of mind.”

As dire as the hiring situation may be, Ryan Bellaire says there are steps these young adults can take to keep the search process rolling so they’re in the best place possible when hiring heats up again.

“Even if you don’t have a job, now is a great time to do two things: build your personal brand and ‘get your life together,'” she says. “No matter what industry, building your expertise in that space is a great way to make yourself a more attractive candidate when applying to jobs.”

Ryan Bellaire suggests creating a portfolio of projects (maybe even your own website), taking courses to build new skill sets, and building your network by reaching out on LinkedIn to people in industries you’re interested in learning more about to get their perspective.

“If you aren’t working, it’s a great time to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success when it comes to your personal finances, health care, and other ‘real world’ considerations,” Ryan Bellaire concludes. “We’ve broken down these complex topics into bite-sized playbooks at Realworld. Taking time to learn about these subjects and make sure you’re on track will bring real peace of mind as you’re waiting to land a job.”


(Article written by Kathleen Furore)