A guide to post graduation during COVID-19
Despite hope for a final semester of normalcy, students of the graduating class of December 2020 will have to face the job market while dealing with the extra barrier of COVID-19 on businesses.
According to CMU’s graduation statistics, 2,171 students had to face the economic devastation of COVID-19 when they graduated in May of 2020. While the pandemic was a challenge for everyone at Central Michigan University, the Career Development Center has been able to provide adaptable opportunities for graduating students.
There is some good news in 2020 for grads: There are jobs out there.
Julia Sherlock, director of Career Services, said that the job market continues to stay robust for entry-level professionals. She has not seen empty markets in any career, just a shift in the platforms they have demand for.
“There is every opportunity if students engage and are active participants during this creative time,” Sherlock said. “Flexibility, engagement, creativity in terms of thinking about things you have never thought about before, and doing research. I think you will still have a good chance of getting an internship or full-time employment.”
Sherlock recommends every CMU student – especially those graduating – log in and familiarize themselves with Handshake, an app to help students discover jobs and internships. Students have Handshake accounts through CMU and will continue to have access to this resource, even after they graduate.
Employers are screened and connected directly with CMU students through their Handshake account. Along with that, students are able to share and apply for job postings and attend career fairs at CMU, along with other universities and businesses. Sherlock said Handshake is comparable to LinkedIn, but allows employers looking for CMU students to connect with them directly.
The Career Development Center can also help students discover their major, set up one-on-one career counseling and hold mock interviews to prepare them for the workforce.
Alumna Katie Sergent graduated in December 2019 with a bachelor's degree in Broadcast and Cinematic Arts, before the country had a full understanding of how quickly COVID-19 would spread. After graduating, she began applying for jobs once a week. By March, Sergent said she saw job postings go down from 100 a day to fewer than 30.
Through August, Sergent said she worked different jobs, one of them being a Guest Relations Specialist for Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort. She was laid off from that job in July due to COVID-19.
An job opportunity at 9&10 News came across her Indeed account and decided to take a chance on it. Sergent knew the hiring manager after meeting at two different career fairs and was hired on the spot.
“That is something very vital for students at CMU these days: Have a relationship with the companies you are applying for,” Sergent said. “You will have better chances if you already know the people to get a job there, and that is what happened to me.”
The need for networking is not a unique experience, and during COVID-19 when it is difficult to meet in person and go to career fairs, many students found it vital to reach out to alumni. Kendall Reid graduated from CMU in May of 2020 with a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Integrative Public Relations and Communication and found LinkedIn to be her best resource. She used the app to reach out to other CMU Alumni to ask them questions and expand her own personal network. She had started her job hunt in May and began working in June.
Alumna Sara Strohschein, who also graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Arts in IPR, said she had a difficult time finding employment, applying for over 100 jobs before being offered a position. The hardest part for her was getting into the interview phase, after receiving tons of rejection letters.
“Having a strong resume and cover letter will help, get people to look over them for you and see if it looks good,” Strohschein said. “What my employer liked was that I had a website on my resume that had articles I had written and classes that I took, so having an online portfolio really helps.”
All of these alumni agreed the process of applying is daunting and takes patience and a lot of time. They were able to adapt to the new circumstances under COVID-19 by using resources like LinkedIn, Handshake, reaching out to other alumni and networking through their time at CMU.
“It’s okay to be angry at the situation you are in after working so hard,” Reid said. “Take the time to perfect your resume, meet with your advisors and figure out your passions. Connect with CMU (alumni) any way you can. Set up informational interviews with them and pick their brain. Ask them what worked best for them and what advice they have for you. Every alum I reached out to ending up helping me.”