Starting Your Career During a Global Pandemic – Tips for Getting Strategic

As many students returned to college campuses to attend in person classes for the first time since the start of the pandemic, some seniors are feeling behind in preparation for life after the tassel turns. Many have had nearly half of their college experiences throttled back by pandemic-related shutdowns. From lost internships to virtual classes and office hours, it is easy to see why many are feeling behind the eight ball.

If you are a new grad, or a student trying to stay on track with the launch of their career, we have got you covered. Here are a few pointers for getting your career started on strategic (and timely) footing:

Recognize that things may have changed from what you JUST studied.

Overnight, industries have had to evolve and change course. Priorities and processes have had to evolve to accommodate the internal needs of the shifting economy and need to protect employees. Take time to talk to those who are working in the field so you can walk into your search with clear eyes.

It is OK to not know what you want to be when you grow up.

Some people know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Others don’t, and that is TOTALLY ok! Right now, the world is turning upside down in ways that could not have been predicted when you started college. There are industries dying out, being born and evolving faster than ever, which can create a lot of analysis paralysis. Don’t let that stop your job search in its tracks.

If you are struggling to find clarification around the long-term vision for your career, think about the skillsets you have and want to utilize. Then focus on what types of jobs you could target that align with those strengths. Careers are rarely linear, so building a variety of skillsets and experiences can help uncover a clearer picture of the road ahead.

If what you want isn’t available…   do what you can with what you’ve got.

Finding the balance between long term goals and short-term needs can be tricky right now. While you might know what the path of least resistance is to get to your ultimate career goal, the options might not be as clear.

If you find yourself taking on a role that seems like a deviation from your ultimate path, try to find ways that you can build skillsets that will help you long term. Vocalize your long-term vision with your current employer and jump at “resume building opportunities” that can help you in the long run.

Think like you have the job… even while you’re still a student.

I am a big proponent that you are not a blank slate when entering the workforce after college. After all, you are earning a degree during a global pandemic. That must count for something, right? The key is recognizing what the skills and accomplishments you have that will apply to your first job out of college. Start looking at group projects, degree capstones and other initiatives as if they were paying you to do it. What impact have you made in the work you have done?

Start your search early.

Winter and Spring internships are already starting to be posted, and summer internships and entry-level roles may be posted as early as January. Waiting until the end of the semester or school year to search will only delay the process that much longer.  Certain industries, like finance, have very specific hiring seasons. Get ahead of the pack by starting your search as early as possible.

Expand beyond job boards.

Recruiters are reporting a massive influx of applications at all career levels. This makes applying online significantly harder. To break through the noise, work on building out connections with professionals that can help. University career centers and student advisory offices are wildly underutilized on average – these are great places to connect with opportunities and gain some much-lost face time with those that have worked in fields you are interested in. Beyond campus, seek the support of others in your community – don’t be afraid to start talking about what you want. The more you vocalize it, the better the chance you will find someone who is interested in listening.

Overall, the major theme is resiliency. You have been through a lot in the last 18 months. Even if it has taken you off course, use it as an opportunity to describe how you can overcome challenges. You’ve got this!


Holian Associates provides strategy, resources and coaching for every stage of your career. If you need help with personalized career coaching, job search strategy, career transition, resume creation, LinkedIn development, interview preparation,  professional strengths coaching, salary compensation & benefits coaching, or navigating your job search as a college student or recent college grad, email us at or give us a call at (925) 451-3183.

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