Backpacks to Briefcases: Advice for Recent Graduates on the Job Hunt - America's Future Foundation

July 24, 2020

Career Advice

Backpacks to Briefcases: Advice for Recent Graduates on the Job Hunt

By: Katy Gambella

When I graduated from college in 2010, I had the pleasure of entering one of the worst job markets in recent history. Finding a job was difficult and daunting….almost as formidable as Macroeconomics with Dr. Pongracic. But much like econ, I was determined not to fail! After months of waitressing and coaching soccer, I eventually landed an internship in the liberty movement that quickly turned into a full-time job.

Many budding professionals have found themselves in a similarly harrowing situation, and this time with a pandemic, social distancing, travel restrictions, and all sorts of other unimaginable difficulties.

As such, we’ve heard from many recent college graduates and young professionals who are unsure how to navigate job seeking during these turbulent times. The good news is that I found a job in less than ideal circumstances, and so can you! Here are several things to keep in mind as you approach the job market in the coming weeks and months.

1. Go ahead and apply! First and foremost, you should absolutely apply for jobs right now! Don’t stop to “wait out the storm,” as it were.  Your dream job might be posted right now, and if you aren’t looking, you could miss it.  Also, with the government expanding at an alarming rate, now is not the time to sit on the sidelines! We need you in the game!

2. Stay busy. Get involved. It’s true that landing a job may take some time in this market. But that doesn’t mean you should fill your days with Dr. Phil and Rachel Ray. There are more productive things to do. Intern. Volunteer. Attend webinars.  All of these things will beef up your resume and help organizations understand how passionate you are about advancing liberty.

3. Don’t default to graduate school. It’s tempting to think of graduate school as a safe harbor right now, but don’t get a graduate degree unless you really need one for your career. Definitely want to be a lawyer, CPA, or academic? Yes, go to grad school. But if you’re thinking of getting a graduate degree just to make your resume look all fancy, that may not be a wise move. You could find yourself deeper in debt and without work experience that could prove more valuable than an advanced degree.

4. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot as you take the first step. When applying for a job, make sure to follow directions. Given that you may be hired sight-unseen and that you might be working remotely to start your job, your application is a very critical first test. So, be sure to include everything that is requested when you apply! Tailor your cover letter to that specific role (yes, you do need a different cover letter for every job to which you apply), and be sure your one page resume is immaculate. And, for the love of Pete, proofread, proofread, proofread!

5. Patience is a virtue. Be ready to give lots of grace in response times. The hiring process is rarely quick, and with the added layer of a pandemic, things are moving more slowly than usual. So, don’t follow-up with the hiring manager right after you apply for a job. Consider waiting a week or so. Follow-up is good, but be sure that you aren’t pestering.

6. Questions have never been more important. If you make it to the interview round, congrats! Now is the time to ask many, sometimes tough, questions – especially about the organization’s financial health. With a recession looming, you want to be sure that the organization you’re considering working for is prepared. You can also do your research – Guidestar and Google will be your friends.

7. Understand how the pandemic has impacted virtual/office expectations for the opening. Some organizations are allowing for location flexibility up front, with the expectation that you will work in the office once it is safe again. Other organizations are allowing roles to become permanently virtual. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with what the organization expects both now and post-pandemic.

8. Related to the above, demonstrate that you have the maturity and disposition to work remotely. Because there’s a good chance the position will be virtual (as least to start), organizations now have a keen eye for finding young professionals who can handle the demands of working from home. (Hint: you won’t have the luxury of bingeing on Judge Judy or sitting by the pool…working virtually means working your tail off, but doing so in the comfort of gym shorts and tennis shoes.) Provide examples of your ability to work with little oversight and provide evidence of your self-motivation.

9. The competition is tough, so be the ideal candidate! When the job market shrinks, the competition usually expands! A big part of making yourself stand out is demonstrating why you are an awesome candidate for the specific role at hand. This means you need to demonstrate how your skill translate – not just that you have them. And, you need to explain why you are passionate about the organization’s mission and work.

10. It is a strange, new world out there, but we are all navigating it together. The economy and the job market are in flux. Hiring managers and candidates are navigating unchartered waters. Networking is now screen based and handshakes may have gone the way of the dodo Bird.  It’s a crazy world…but you are not alone! You are surrounded by your fellow free-marketeers, and, of course, Talent Market is always here to help. We’ll get through this!

I hope these tips are helpful. Remember, after serving up countless plates of fish and chips at the Pink Pony on Mackinac Island, I eventually landed an amazing job. And you will do the same.

Don’t believe me? Well, in the midst of this pandemic, we just helped place an incredibly talented Buffalo Wings N’ Rings server in a great entry-level position – his first job in the free-market nonprofit world, no less!

So, stay busy and don’t forget to send your updated information to Talent Market so that we can help get you where you want to go!