Graduating During a Pandemic: How to Cope

By Mili Dhru, Contributing Writer

March 4, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has created one of the largest public health and economic crises that America has ever experienced. States began mandating social distancing and lockdown procedures in March of 2020, and although they proved beneficial in minimizing the spread of COVID-19, these measures triggered a severe economic downturn. Unemployment rates rose to 14.7% in April of 2020, and people from all employment backgrounds, from part-time teenage employees to seasoned full-time professionals, were struggling to secure and maintain their positions as the pandemic progressed (Congressional Research Service, 2020). 

The economic instability and uncertainty that has accompanied COVID-19 has also further precipitated feelings of anxiety, depression, and mental health issues particularly in young adults and new graduates who are just entering the workforce. Job hunting in a relatively stable market can be a stressful, confusing, and discouraging undertaking in itself, but factoring in a global pandemic undoubtedly makes the endeavor more challenging. During this time of unpredictability, it is important to remember that you are not alone in feeling anxious about entering the workforce as a new graduate during the COVID-19 pandemic. By being mindful of the following points and sufficiently preparing yourself to begin a new job under these special circumstances, you might be able to navigate your job search with greater ease and confidence. 

  • Acknowledge and accept your feelings and maintain perspective of the situation. Remember that at the end of the day, you are still a human being who is worth more than any position of employment could ever define. Your body is naturally reacting to a highly stressful and unprecedented event, and feelings of anxiety and depression are completely valid. Keep in mind that companies are having to make difficult hiring and staffing decisions as a result of the pandemic, and these do not reflect your capability, potential, or worth as a candidate or as an individual. (Mayo Clinic, 2020). 
  • Be flexible and open to short-term work or unexpected job opportunities and projects.  Although remote or part-time positions may not have been the type of jobs you were expecting to secure post-graduation, having an additional income during the interim period could be a practical foundation to start with, and gaining experience through these ventures could serve as valuable updates to your resumé. Even positions that may not directly correlate to your desired field should be an option to consider, as these might help develop soft, transferable skills that could be effectively leveraged when applying for future positions in your chosen industry (Indeed, 2020). 
  • Continue networking and preparing for remote hiring opportunities. With an increasing number of companies shifting to a work-from-home culture, many interviews and networking events have been occurring virtually. Practicing mock and phone interviews, reaching out to experts in the field for mentorship, requesting informational interviews, and establishing a professional digital presence can be advantageous during this transition to remote employment. Connecting with university alumni or friends and family working in the field you are looking to pursue can also make the initial approach less daunting (The Muse, 2020). 
  • Continue updating your skill set and remaining mindful of your progress. If investing in graduate school is an option for you, an economic recession might be the ideal time to start; braving the workforce in its current state could result in lower lifetime earnings because you are starting at a reduced base salary. Even if you are not looking to continue your education, enrolling in online courses to bridge any gaps on your resumé by developing highly sought after skills could prove favorable in the long run. Most importantly, remember that you belong to a generation of youth facing the brunt of the economic recession caused by COVID-19; you have been presented with challenges as a new graduate entering the workforce that many others before and after you have and will never need to overcome. Be proud of your resilience and your courage, and take care of your health and the well-being of your loved ones as we all collectively continue tackling the pandemic. 

The economic downturn that has resulted from COVID-19 has been projected to be tougher than the recession America faced in 2008, and even more so for the Class of 2020. The implications of this virus and fallout from the pandemic will continue to impact many aspects of your lives, so it is important to focus on what you can control and change to continue moving forward, successfully forging your own paths. 

References 

Carter, J. A., Nicchitta, I. A., Nyhof, E. C., & Romero, P. D. (2020, December 7). Unemployment Rates During the COVID-19 Pandemic: In Brief. Retrieved January 10, 2020, from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R46554.pdf

COVID-19 and unemployment: How to cope. (2020, May 19). Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coping-with-unemployment/art-20485976

Roepe, L. (2020, June 19). How New Grads Can Look for Their First Jobs During the Pandemic. Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.themuse.com/advice/college-seniors-first-job-search-coronavirus

Tips for Graduates Entering the Workforce During COVID-19. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/new-graduates-entering-covid-19-workforce

Published by Counseling With Leslie

Leslie Stevens, M.Ed., LCMHC is a North Carolina and Virginia board-certified licensed professional counselor. She co-owns a successful practice in Carrboro, North Carolina. Leslie specializes in helping adults navigate stress, depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. Additionally, she is a life strategist, spiritual coach, and writer.

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