Tips for graduate students trying to launch careers during pandemic

Posted at 12:23 PM, Apr 15, 2020

By now, graduate students who are approaching commencement ceremonies usually have new jobs lined up as they prepare to launch their careers. The coronavirus pandemic put most of that new hiring on hold.

Patrick Rosenberg is an MBA candidate for the class of 2020 at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. He went from thoughts about his cap and gown to trying to figure out whether he wanted a delayed or virtual commencement.

While disappointed, he's not alone. He joins most recent college grads and graduate students in worrying about future job prospects.

There are friends he may not see again, as he and his classmates naturally go their separate ways.

“An important part that needs to be considered is international students need to have a job to stay in the country, so when those positions or internships are postponed, there’s more serious consequences for those students,” Rosenberg said.

And what do you do when all your prospects are paused because of a pandemic?

“Right now, I would expect to be working part-time,” Rosenberg said. “Expect to sink in with a team as I’d be working come June, and now, I have to pivot a bit, trying to stay as productive and as positive as possible.”

He's taking online classes, getting creative with virtual networking, while learning about how to be the best candidate he can be- on sites like Zoom.

“Eye contact. We all value eye contact. If I was to do that now it would like this, but that’s not good for interviews so I have a big sticky note next to my webcam that reminds me to look at the camera because that insinuates eye contact,” he explained.

Beth Hendler-Grunt is the President of Next Great Step, which provides career guidance to college students and recent grads. She says that is exactly what you should be doing.

"Those who use the time now to prepare and network are ahead of those who don’t, because it will be a competitive market when we start hiring again.”

She recommends students focus on what they want to do, get clarity about their professional self, identify what they're good at, what skills they have to offer. And then, target the people or companies with whom they want to work.

She also says don't panic. She likes to remind students to take a breath. Turn that stress into motivation.

“You’re going to be a very successful candidate, what you need to do is assess the market,” she said.

Hendler-Grunt encourages new grads to use this time to figure out the best way to set themselves apart from others. If you focus on you, and your long game, you'll be miles ahead.