Career Advising in a Paused Economy

This piece was written by a student at USC, Andrea Klick, an editorial intern at Open Campus.

Rather than quoting the many pieces out there now by career professionals (and I was one for 11 years at Johns Hopkins-SAIS), I thought it would be as relevant to cite what a current student is hearing — and it’s simple and straightforward: Don’t be idle. Reach out.  It’s a zig-zag. The pandemic is having an uneven and unequal impact. While this is always true, I think the weight on low-income minority students is especially heavy. Advice like this can sound glib, albeit well-intentioned, when a student needs to take any job they can find to support themselves.

I think the point about “zig-zagging” is especially important for grads. The economy is going to improve slowly, unevenly and perhaps without a clear pathway into different sectors. So, yes, you’ve got to be flexible, manage your expectations [i.e. lower them to match the reality we are in] and look in new directions [find roles where the skills you have will provide unexpected value to an employer]. Klick writes:

As unemployment rates climb and companies freeze hiring, recent graduates are struggling to find work and current students are suddenly finding their internships and summer jobs canceled. Colleges are scrambling to try to help. They’re moving services like resume editing and interview practice online. They’re teaching students skills like how to make interpersonal connections while talking through a webcam. And they’re connecting students with alumni, parents, companies, and local organizations to try to help them find new jobs or shorter-term projects and internships. 

In the midst of change and uncertainty, Neil Burton, who runs Clemson’s Center for Career and Professional Development, is focused on building students’ confidence. He’s reminding them that even if they hear a lot of “noes” they should keep trying—even now.For recent graduates and current students whose opportunities are drying up or being canceled, Burton says there are always ways to build job prospects. Here’s what he advises: Don’t be idle. If students can’t find work right now, Burton encourages them to continue building skills through online classes or self-run projects. When the economy picks up, they’ll be able to show experience they gained rather than a large gap in their education or work history. Reach out. Communicating and building relationships can help students find opportunities down the road. With many employers working from home, Burton encourages students to reach out and talk with people in positions or companies they like for informational interviews. It may not lead to a job tomorrow, but expanding their network could help in the long run.  It’s a zig-zag. Especially now, students’ first jobs likely won’t be at their dream company. Burton says to remember that careers often change, and most people’s paths aren’t simple. Don’t get bogged down if you’re offered a less-than-ideal job. Students and recent grads should take advantage of the opportunities they have, to build skills and connections however they can. 

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