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College Seniors navigate job market amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted at 6:55 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 07:22:53-04

GRAND RAPIDS — College Seniors are facing a difficult job market right now, on top of having to complete the rest of their semester online and missing out on a graduation ceremony.

Many companies are on hiring freezes or even laying off current employees, so what should students be doing right now to be prepared or get that first job?

It’s a situation one senior at Grand Valley State University says is frustrating and challenging, but is also putting a lot of things into perspective.

“Everyones kind of in a state of limbo,” said Grand Valley State University Senior, Rachel Azule.

This semester has been anything but what she pictured for her senior year.

Azule said, “I never expected how hard online learning would be. I’m just trying to keep my head above water, finish senior year, apply for jobs whenever and however I can.”

That’s proving tricky.

She said, “The biggest thing that I’ve been doing is trying to call every single place that I apply, just confirming ‘Are you still accepting applications?’ and most times when I have done this, their answer is more uncertainty, they don’t really know either.”

Azule is not alone.

TaRita Johnson, the Director of the Career Center at Calvin University said she’s getting a lot of questions.

“We’ve got a lot of nerves and anxiety around ‘Will I be able to find my first job? Should I still be looking for a job, what should I be doing now?”

Johnson said COVID-19 is affecting every company differently and that’s something students and job-seekers can’t control.

“Some of them are on a hiring freeze or on a pay-raise freeze. We’ve seen a variety of things. Others are branding and still recruiting, so it’s kind of mixed depending on where that company is.”

Johnson suggests students focus on what they can control, and that includes how prepared they are when hiring kicks back into gear.

She said, “I think this is a great time to leverage your social media branding, your presence, make sure that it is professional. Leverage your Linkedin. Linkedin is a wonderful tool, they also have a resource called Linkedin Learning where you can go on and if there’s skills that you want to enhance or learn new things, maybe it’s some computer skills you haven’t had before, you can do it through that platform and get a certificate. That service is free through a lot of local libraries.”

Many West Michigan college career centers are still operating virtually for any student who needs it.

Johnson said “I encourage you to keep those networks alive. Connect with people, update your resume, but really utilize these centers and the coaches that can help you get to where you need to be.”

Azule said it’s a lot of pressure right now, but knows she’s not the only one impacted and this uncomfortable time won’t last forever.

“I think remembering that everyone right now is struggling with something, is missing something, is trying to accomplish something during this quarantine. I think, keeping the faith, knowing that this will end eventually and trying to do the best to stay prepared, stay on top of the things you’re supposed to be doing. I think that’s all that we can do.”

Johnson said this hiring situation is reminiscent of the recession in 2008, but on a global scale. She’s reminding students to take care of themselves right now and to reach out the their respective career centers for help.