It’s been over six weeks since seniors in college began to realize that the Senior Spring they had been dreaming about since their first semester wasn’t going to happen. No darties, no senior week, no thesis presentations, no more wine nights with your roommates, no more chances to shoot your shot with that guy in lecture, and no walking across the stage in a cap and gown to tie it all up. For a lot of seniors, this news hit hard because, aside from all of these losses, it felt like the world was telling them they needed to become full-grown adults a few months before they were ready (if any of us can really be ready to enter into the real world). In March, rather than May, they had to face the inevitable truth: college actually does end.
As April comes to a close, and as some of us have maybe gotten into the swing of online classes, virtual graduation dates are fast approaching. So what does life look like when college actually ends during a pandemic? Many seniors are feeling the weight of the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression and the impending recession pressing down on them. Many have had start dates pushed or jobs offers rescinded altogether. All in all, it’s a clusterf*ck, leading many to wonder: what the hell should we do? Betches spoke with career expert Joy Altimare for suggestions on how new graduates can prepare to enter this now-f*cked-up workforce.
Do: Use This Experience To Your Advantage
me, turning my wifi off & on again: i am a woman in STEM
— Karen Chee (@karencheee) April 23, 2020
Recent grads can and should use this online term to their advantage. “Recent graduates have an advantage,” Altimare told us, “The new normal in the workplace will look a lot like how they have learned during the last four years.” So basically, all that time you spent on social media during class was not time wasted, and simply knowing how to set up a video chat puts you ahead of the curve. (If you think I’m exaggerating, ask your parents to make a Zoom call, and realize that’s what most companies are dealing with.) Altimare says, “virtual and tele-learning are very similar to how professional environments will operate moving forward.” Wow, I can’t wait to tell my mom that I actually learned something useful in college (how to open a bottlecap with a spoon does not count, apparently).
Altimare also advises new grads to tell companies what you learned from online classes, and apply that to a professional environment. She says, “now more than ever, employers are looking for very smart individuals who are energized to help navigate this new normal.” So, we should “tout that as a skillset unique to the existing workforce and provide examples to demonstrate how you can apply this approach to add to the success of the company.” This could mean showing off that you know how to change your Zoom background, or explaining how you can stay efficient and motivated in any environment. If you’ve figured out how to manage your time during these insane past few weeks, that is definitely a skill you should want to share with future employers.
Don’t: Forget About Networking
I feel like as far as social media goes, LinkedIn is definitely the awkward middle child. In the midst of a pandemic, it feels even more forgotten. Like, when was the last time you actually thought about logging on? Even though it may be the last thing on your mind, it’s still super important to keep networking. “Continue to use technology to network,” Altimare tells us.“Do not go dark on your LinkedIn and make sure your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter do not only contain videos of you doing a #dontrush challenge.” I guess I’ll keep my challenges to TikTok, since I’m pretty sure nobody is networking on there.
What you put on social media is just as important as ever, so before you go posting all the pictures you’ve had stashed of you chugging alcohol underage, Altimare advises that “It’s super important that you use this time to demonstrate resilience and positivity across your social platforms.” She recognizes that it doesn’t necessarily fit into everyone’s aesthetic. “You don’t have to begin a daily gratitude post,” she says, but “it is important to show you’re using this time to stay focused—are you helping the elderly in your neighborhood? Ask others to join you vs. just posting you delivering meals. Are you organizing a virtual yoga class for your friends? Show that instead of the virtual happy hour on your feed.”
Don’t: Spend All Your $
I’m a huge “add to cart, check total, close window” girl, but quarantine has led to more than a few “treat yourself” moments, which I justify by telling myself I’m saving so much money since I’m not eating or going out. Since we can’t have nice things, apparently this is not the move, according to Altimare. “Start saving your money… in fact, massively start saving,” she says. “You are probably not in the dorms, not going to the movies, not buying your food and not going to any of the activities that you would have had to contribute to for your senior year.” Okay, you didn’t have to rub it in like that, but I see the point. Even more, Altimare says, “if you are really lucky, you’re staying with your parents, so you’re not paying for rent. That is a huge lift to your bottom line—save that money.” I mean, she’s right considering the job market is unstable right now… I just want my tie-dye loungewear.
Altimare warns that if you’re imagining all the ways you’re going to indulge once you can leave your house, you might want to think twice: “when the country begins to re-open, do not spend that money on a trip with your girlfriends.” Altimare suggests “look to creating a nice nest egg—something around 3-months’ worth of expenses—so that when you finally find that job and move out into your own apartment, you have a bit more comfort.”
Do: Start Working From Home
What’s the age where you transform from ‘young professional’ to ‘professional’?
— U Up? (@uuppodcast) April 17, 2020
Altimare’s last piece of advice for new grads is “if you can, try to start working from home.” Everyone has so much time on their hands (especially when school is over and you don’t have a job), so “use your creativity to turn a hobby into a lucrative side-gig while we’re all quarantined.” If you’re looking for ideas, Altimare proposes to “try to get published on a weekly blog, or begin selling your wares via a marketplace.” And then, of course, “save that money!”
The prospect of starting your adult life right now does not sound appealing to anyone. However, if you can make a few proactive and productive decisions during this period, you might be able to save yourself some stress later on when we finally get out of this mess (BTW can someone tell me when that will be?). Hopefully, these tips can help you get a head start on where you want to be and what you can be doing to help your future.
Images: Pang Yuhao / Unsplash