Tips for Graduates Entering the Workforce During COVID-19

By Indeed Editorial Team

May 12, 2021

If you are a new graduate feeling uncertain about your future, you are not alone. New and soon-to-be graduates have experienced significant and unexpected disruptions to their plans due to the impact of COVID-19. However, there are actions you can take to empower yourself and make informed decisions about your future in this ever-changing landscape. Learn how to prepare to enter the workforce as a recent graduate affected by the novel coronavirus in this article.

The impact of COVID-19 on recent graduates

The novel coronavirus has impacted or interrupted how graduates are preparing to leave school. Some graduates have been searching for jobs or are waiting to hear back from employers about their applications, while others may have already been accepted for internships, seasonal jobs, or full-time jobs after graduation.

In a recent Indeed survey of 755 students graduating this year, 93% of new graduates feel their preparedness for graduation has been impacted or somewhat impacted by the pandemic. With lockdowns and layoffs impacting what were once exciting post-grad career opportunities, it’s no surprise that 62% of graduates entering the workforce actively searching for job opportunities believe it’s harder to find a job in the current job market compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

41% of new graduates believe the impact of COVID-19 has shrunk employment opportunities in their desired field with 31% feeling worried because of the competitive job market. And following a year of unprecedented change, 62% of graduates entering the workforce and searching for a job think it’s harder to find a job in the current job market compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Uncertainty about job opportunities and disruption to regular routines can make an already stressful job search even more challenging for recent graduates. While some specialized students may not be affected yet, other graduates planning to enter fields like hospitality, retail, food, and technology may have to overcome unexpected obstacles.

In a world rattled by the pandemic, stress has been a common theme in the lives of recent graduates as their education and career plans shift due to the coronavirus pandemic, with 60% of new graduates feeling some form of anxiety about finding a job after graduation. While it may be difficult, there are measures you can take right now to help you navigate this situation to the best of your ability. Resources and information are available for you. Above all, take care of yourself, your health, and your loved ones during this time. Follow the Public Health Agency of Canada for official guidelines and updates on the development of COVID-19.

How to prepare to enter the workforce during COVID-19

New graduates can prepare to leave school and find a job during the COVID-19 outbreak by following these steps:

1. Apply for federal, provincial, and local relief efforts available to you

Start preparing for graduating by finding the federal, provincial and local coronavirus relief efforts available to you. Reach out to your local representatives, community leaders, and school officials for local information, as well as staying updated on the latest government measures.

Potential support could include:

  • Individual financial aid

  • Food and meal support

  • Community and grassroots efforts

  • Delayed rent and mortgage payments

  • Pausing evictions and foreclosures

  • Deferred student loan and debt repayment

If you have been laid off or have had your hours reduced due to businesses closing in response to the coronavirus, additional financial assistance could be available to you.

2. Consider short-term or unexpected work in the interim

Depending on your financial situation, it may be necessary to consider short-term work or work outside your area of expertise while public health restrictions remain in place. These jobs may not be the type of work you may have anticipated, but having an extra income can help you navigate this uncertainty after graduation with more confidence. Remote and in-person jobs actively hiring right now could include customer service representatives, warehouse distribution, grocery inventory, and stocking and food delivery.

If you are able to work during this time, adding experience to your resume could help improve your resume and give you an advantage in the long run. Showing employers that you were able to adjust to this challenging situation could make your application more competitive.

When looking for job opportunities, prioritize transferable skills and soft skills that could support you in your chosen career path. Even if a job is not in your ideal industry, there may be opportunities to develop skills that you can leverage later when applying for future jobs. For example, complex problem solving, remote software use, defusing conflict, and communication are experiences that could be added to your resume in the future.

3. Prepare yourself for remote hiring and online networking alternatives

Whether or not you are searching for jobs in your intended field, becoming comfortable with remote hiring and online networking alternatives could improve your ability to get hired. Virtual interviews are likely how you’ll interview. Meanwhile, remote networking and professional social media accounts may become more important as professionals move increasingly online.

Practicing mock video interviews and phone interviews with one other person and in a group with other people you trust can help prepare you for real remote hiring. Remote interviews and conferencing can have unexpected quirks that are not present during in-person interviews. For example, social cues to know when you can speak without interrupting someone during a video call may be different than a face-to-face conversation.

Creating a professional presence on social media and on remote networking groups may also help you find opportunities and meet professionals in your chosen field while social distancing. Join professional interest and industry groups online and interact with similar professional social accounts to expand your network and improve your online profile. Networking, mentorship, and informational interviews can be done remotely and could help better prepare you to enter the workforce after graduation.

4. Prepare yourself for slower-than-normal hiring and onboarding at this time

You may want to prepare yourself for slower-than-normal hiring and onboarding as employers have likely adjusted how they hire candidates for jobs. Tempering your expectations as you graduate and enter the workforce could help you as employers adjust to this new environment.

5. Consider more professional training and education, but be wary of added debt

You may want to consider more professional training and education during this time instead of entering the workforce right away. Some graduates feel that the opportunity cost of attending school may be lower as their chosen industry may have fewer opportunities for entry-level positions at this time.

It may help to open to different types of educational opportunities, as some options may be more costly in energy and resources than others. Professional development training, online certifications, and skill-specific classes can be helpful for recent graduates and require less investment than enrolling in a new degree. Or, if you are feeling uncertain about your short-term plans, it may help you to explore other opportunities that may feel more secure to you.

If you do choose to pursue more education instead of, or in addition to, entering the workforce, it is important to be wary of unnecessary added debt. This is especially important if you feel unsure about your current and future financial situation. These might be important decisions about your future that could require time, space, and energy that you may not have available right now.

6. Be ready and informed to increase your earning potential in the future

Some fresh graduates may be wondering whether leaving school in this circumstance may negatively affect their lifetime earnings as employers adjust to the new coronavirus. Depending on your area of expertise, you may be offered a lower base salary for an entry-level position than you may have planned when you start your career. You may want to take extra steps to reduce the chances that this base salary will reduce future pay in your chosen path.

It may help you to keep your options open as your work experience grows and your career develops. Searching for better opportunities in your chosen field will help increase your career mobility. Updating your job alerts, researching competitive salary ranges, and actively networking are simple ways to keep opportunities open. Career mobility may help compensate for potentially lower income immediately after graduation.

7. Be proud of yourself for facing challenges that many people will never experience

No matter what you decide to do, it is important to acknowledge that you are facing challenges as a new graduate entering the workforce that many people will never experience. Above all, take care of yourself and the people around you as we navigate this situation together.

This survey was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Indeed among 775 post-secondary school students graduating in 2021. The survey was conducted in April 2021 using an online panel. The confidence interval is 3.52, which equates to a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.