A letter to the Class of 2020…

Dear Seniors,

As your undergraduate experience nears its end, we know it can be scary to embark into these uncertain times. Whether your dream is to be a teacher, biotech engineer, social worker, attorney or technologist, the beginning of your professional lives will be marked by this current crisis. Your ability to succeed, however, can be enhanced with insight, resources and a bit of creativity about how to approach your next adventure after Whitman. Below are a set of steps we recommend to help you move forward. Congratulations on your significant accomplishment!

1. Build your professional connections

While online boards are a great and necessary tool that will make your search more efficient, if you limit your efforts to online only you will miss incredible opportunities to learn, meet new people and access upcoming openings. It’s estimated that up to 80% of new jobs are either filled internally or via networking. Reach out to people you know who are already employed – both in your personal network and across the Whitman alumni network – to learn about organizations, graduate programs, and new opportunities. Neighbors, family friends, and your current professors can help you connect with professionals the fields you’re interested in pursuing.

2. Research your job options

In a depressed job market, it can be tempting to apply to everything and accept whatever is offered to you, but this can lead to frustration and disappointment as you slog to a job that is not the right fit for your skills or values. Before moving forward with an application, pay attention to how the organization articulates what they are looking for in the job description, how they talk about  values on their website and how they are covered in the news. Use online networking tools like the Whitman LinkedIn directory to seek out alumni in those organizations for informational interviews. Once you have applied, use what you’ve learned to highlight the ways that your skills and experience will benefit the organization. You will feel more confident about your decisions and you will stand out as a candidate.

3. Customize your resume and cover letter

It takes time to create a resume and craft the perfect cover letter, so it’s logical that you’d want to nail this process once and not have to rework again during your search. The problem with that approach is that every job is different – even those by the same title – and every organization is different with priorities, values and a culture that are unique. While you don’t need to start from scratch each time you apply to a new posting, you must ensure that your resume highlights your skills and values most relevant to the position and that your cover letter addresses why you’re the ideal candidate for the organization. Reach out to our career coaches or your new connections to ask for their insight on what you have created.

4. Prepare for your digital future

Everyone is working online right now. Online classes and work from home requirements have thrown us all into a deeper relationship with new digital tools. As you access online lectures and digital work sites, take this time to get comfortable with new platforms that allow for virtual meetings like Google Meet & Zoom, quick conversations are made easy with Swivel & Slack, and project management is super slick with tools like Trello and Asana. With a capacity for online work in your “toolbelt”, you’ll stand out as a candidate that can jump right in as a productive contributor in a digital world.

5. Brush up on your interview skills

Job and grad school interviews can be intimidating, especially if you have limited experience going in. To put your best foot forward during those interviews, spend some time honing key interview skills like articulating the connections between your college experiences, thinking critically about the information an interviewer is seeking, and using inquiry to better identify the expectations of the organization. Taking the time to practice and get feedback for improvement can make a significant impact on your ability to successfully navigate the interview process. Read up on the most commonly asked questions and practice your answers in advance. Practice interviews are available by scheduling an appointment through Handshake with one of our career coaches. Or consider seeking the help of a friend or mentor to run through a few questions.

6. Consider alternative options

When the job market is tight, many candidates will look for non-traditional routes to their ideal position. Temporary work, alternate industries and continued education are all effective options for gaining workplace knowledge while building your professional network during an economic downturn.

  • Many organizations will use temporary staffing to help meet increased workload during a hiring freeze. Once the freeze is over and hiring resumes, those temporary employees with a proven track record in the organization are often the first to be place in a full-time role. Contact the HR or recruiting team of your favorite employer(s) to ask who they use for temporary staffing, then register with those agencies – you might just get placed with one of your target organizations.
  • If you dream of a career in an advertising agency but struggle to find any agencies with early career openings, consider a marketing job in a thriving industry that will help you build skills to transfer into that dream job once the economy rebounds. Healthcare, online learning, consumer products and tech organizations that support remote work are all industries with immediate need for talent in the midst of the current crisis. Consider extending the search for your first job to these areas now and what you learn will help you take the step into your next role.
  • When the economy is in a slump, many people use that time to extend their learning in areas that support their long-term professional goals. Taking classes at a community college or through online programs and bootcamps while you work a part-time job to pay the bills can help you build technical skills that will compliment your liberal arts background and help you enter a recovering organization in a more advanced role.

Need to talk through your plans? Schedule a Senior Check-In appointment for an online meeting with one of our coaches.

With warm regards,

The SEC staff

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