By Allie Grilland Matthew Rousu
This past week Susquehanna University conferred degrees on the class of 2020.
We weren’t able to properly celebrate this with a commencement ceremony – although we’re hoping to do this in August – but many have officially graduated. The lack of a commencement ceremony (for now) is just one thing of many graduating college students have lost.
One thing that COVID-19 has taken from these students is a robust job market.
A few months ago, the economy was arguably the best in the world’s history.
Now we have unemployment rates that haven’t been seen since the Great Depression. Some firms are still hiring, and some students secured jobs prior to the downturn. For them — congratulations!
But many will find job prospects more difficult than before, naturally. Here are a few recommendations for recent college graduates to consider:
Clean up Social Media
With social distancing guidelines in place, many are flocking to social media to connect and gather information.
Employers will also go to social media to research you before offering an interview or extending an offer.
In an age where we’re used to displaying everything online, it’s beneficial to decide what you want public versus private and adjust your privacy settings accordingly. Consider your digital brand—what are you communicating about who you are online? In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has produced lively political debate.
Be mindful of everything you post, comment on, like, and share. Your network, some of whom may be your future employers, are watching.
Build (free) skills
Many sites are offering free or inexpensive modules where you can gain additional skills and earn certificates of completion. Take advantage of this downtime by learning something new, especially technical skills employers want evidence of. Some options that will make you attractive to employers are certificates in Microsoft Excel, search engine optimization, Python (or any other type of) coding, and Adobe Creative Cloud.
In addition, listening to podcasts offered in your field can provide sophisticated, and free, information to advance your industry and technical knowledge from the comfort of your own home.
When you interview for a job, you’ll want to speak the language of the industry, and podcasts offer a window into that world.
Consider graduate school
While some skills can be gained for free, perhaps a more time-intensive (and more costly) program is worth considering. If graduate school was always in your post-graduate plans, it might be the right time to enroll.
One of the big costs of graduate school is lost wages. If you don’t have a job and think getting one is less likely this year, a one-year graduate degree becomes much less costly.
A graduate degree can help you build your professional credentials, making you more marketable to future employers. By the time you graduate the job market will likely pick up with lower unemployment rates.
Many members of the class of 2020 are entering an unlucky situation. But there are actions individuals can take to help improve their career prospects in both the short term and the long term.
Allie Grill is associate director of the Career Development Center at Susquehanna University and Matt Rousu is dean of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University.