Written by: Amy Cailene
With many people losing their jobs due to the spread of COVID-19, CSU families are understandably expressing concern over their students’ chances of finding internships and full time employment this summer. Although it is true that the job market has become tighter, there are strategies, resources, and people available to help CSU students shine, even in this turbulent economy. The CSU Career Center is open virtually, ready to assist students and alumni with all their professional development questions. Here are some common questions we are receiving, followed by our recommendations:
Question: What do we know about the job market?
The stay-at-home orders have had a direct and dire economic impact on hotels and lodging, event venues, restaurants, travel, tourism, and non-essential goods such as floristry and jewelry, to name a few. However, it is important to remember that in all economies, there are businesses that thrive. Some stable and hiring industries include manufacturing, delivery companies, technology companies, organizations that are online-based or can move online, health care, and public services.
Therefore, job seekers should target organizations that provide necessary goods and services over organizations that are not essential. Since other candidates will be doing the same, you can encourage your student to take some necessary steps to stand out among the competition. They will need a polished resume and cover letter, a professional LinkedIn profile, ideas on how to build relationships and connect with employers, job search efficiency, and excellent virtual interviewing skills.
The CSU Career Center is available to help them with all these aspects of their job search! Students can find us at www.career.colostate.edu to access virtual drop-in hours Monday-Friday, 10am- 2pm, or by calling the Career Center Front Desk at 970-491-5707, where they can leave a message and receive a call back to discuss their questions. Additionally, students are highly encouraged to set up a Handshake profile, where they can search for jobs and internships offered by employers who are still hiring, as well make an appointment with a Career Educator.
Question: Should students currently searching for internships or jobs pause their effort?
There are still opportunities to land internships and full time jobs, although it may require more tenacity, patience, and flexibility than it did a few months ago. To increase the chances of landing a position in this economy, job seekers should:
- Be open-minded about the kinds of job they are willing to accept. It may be that their starter job is not their dream job, but it can help pay the rent, grow their professional network, and add new skill sets to their resume. Then, when they can pursue a more desirable position, they will be ready.
- Identify the Career Competencies they have learned in college that will be desirable to employers across all industries—be sure to include those on resumes and cover letters, and be prepared to give specific examples in interviews. These Career Competencies include: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Verbal/Written Communications, Inclusive Teamwork, Digital Proficiency, Leadership, Career Development, Global Context, Personal Accountability, Self-Reflection, and Creativity.
- Conduct an efficient job search by not wasting time on positions that will no longer be offered. Since some positions may have been posted before the economy changed, job seekers should reach out to organizations of interest to confirm that they are still hiring.
Question: What can families do to help the student with their job search in this turbulent economy?
There are definitely ways that a family can support a student’s job search during this time! Here are a few:
- Be supportive and remember that this economy is not the student’s fault. It may take longer for them to put a plan into place due to circumstances beyond their control.
- Help them build connections with potential employers. People who prioritize building relationships as an integral part of their job search will be much more likely to land jobs than those who don’t. Assist them in brainstorming all the possible people they can contact to build professional relationships, including peers in classes, student organizations, CSU cultural centers, professors, staff, and alumni. Be sure to also include family members, friends, neighbors, coaches, and former teachers.
- Help them to establish a quiet place to work on their resume and cover letter, build their LinkedIn profile, search for positions, and have virtual conversations, including online interviews.
- Encourage students to reach out to CSU’s excellent campus resources, such as the Career Center.
Question: Would you recommend a gap year for students graduating in May as a way to help shield them from potential under-employment?
Taking a gap year may make sense for some students, whereas others may need or want to land a job. Both options are viable, depending on the individual circumstances. Gap year options can help students develop additional skills sets, experiences, and knowledge. Options include:
- Taking free online courses available through providers like Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Codecademy
- Developing independent projects that expand a student’s skillsets and demonstrate initiative
- Volunteering remotely with local organizations
- Service learning organizations such as Peace Corps, City Year, or Americorps
- All of the above! The more students continue to build new and marketable skills, the more competitive they will be when they return to the job market.
Question: Should first or second year students at CSU consider changing their major to increase their chances of employment in the future?
Like all big decisions, changing a major is not something that should be taken lightly. When selecting a major, there are usually many factors at play, including the student’s interests, passions, values, strengths, and yes, employability. For some students, this economic upheaval may be enough motivation for them to prioritize employability over the other factors. For others, adding highly employable skill sets, such as computer or business classes, to their current major will be a reasonable balance. Others may consider adding a minor, or double majoring. Alternatively, students can learn many skills outside of school to boost their chances during their job search.
Families should also consider that Career Competencies, internship and work experiences, campus involvement, and skill sets are often much more important to many employers than a student’s major. Furthermore, as the culture and the world of work evolves, majors that are not currently as appreciated by employers can become much more highly valued. Many employers aim to review their candidates holistically and they seek well-rounded individuals from a wide variety of majors who will positively contribute to their team and organization as a whole.
Question: How can students and families stay optimistic about the job search during this time?
Remember that this won’t last forever. The economy will eventually rebound, and students will have more professional options. In the meantime, they are adding to their experiences and skillsets by learning resiliency, online collaboration, and new digital platforms—skills they should mention to prospective employers!
During this time when so much feels out of control, students should focus on what is in their control and resolve to take action. For example, they can reach out to the Career Center for help, and commit to following through on the advice. In all economies, there are people who flourish, and we will do everything we can to strategize individual job search plans so that those who flourish are CSU students and alumni.