Can College Graduates Still Find Jobs during the Coronavirus Shutdown?

As a college senior, your summer job outlook has likely turned on its head because of coronavirus. In January, you were looking forward to finishing your last round of finals and celebrating with friends and family. Now, social distancing has canceled graduation ceremonies and shut down most businesses across the country.

I want you to know that there are many people who want to help you, Class of 2020. There is hope!

I was recently joined by Chelsea Williams to talk about the best strategies for landing an early career job during the pandemic. 

As the founder and CEO of College Code, Chelsea supports national organizations in developing and retaining diverse early career talent.  She is a frequent speaker at national conferences and leadership summits on talent development and diversity, equity, and inclusion at work. 

As you’ll see, finding a job in this economic environment might take some creativity. But if you follow our advice, you’ll gain job seeking skills that will benefit you throughout your entire career.

Craft Your Story

Chelsea recommends that the first thing students need to do is to craft their stories. Stories are the most effective tools for demonstrating your unique passions and talents, especially in challenging times. 

To tell your story, you want to list more on your resume and LinkedIn profile than your general academic major. Describe the tangible skills you’ve developed during your college career. Describe one or two of your favorite class projects, along with key results. 

These details will then paint a clear picture in recruiters’ minds where they’ll be able to say, “That college project sounds a lot like what we do in our office. You might be a good fit!”

In the end, recruiters want to hire people, not resumes.


Get Clear on What You Can Offer

I understand that job hunting can be very stressful. Your bank account is running low, your parents keep asking about your applications, and you want to start your career. There’s a real temptation to get a job, “just to get a job.” 

“I’ll do anything!” you say. 

Saying this is a mistake and a resume killer. Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. Would you rather hire someone passionate about a specific position or someone who seems desperate and only wants a paycheck? I understand that might be an unfair representation, but that’s how you come across when your resume says you have a long list of skills and would “do anything.” 

You have to be very clear about what you can offer an employer. Apply for the job that specifically matches with your skills and explain how your unique story will bring value to the company.


Broaden Your Job Search

This might seem to contradict my point about getting clear on what you can offer. But these two points go hand in hand.

As you get clearer on what you offer, your potential job opportunities can multiply. Core skill sets like graphic design, computer coding and data analysis can apply to numerous industries. Now is the time to think creatively about the types of employers you might want to work for. 

Chelsea tells a story about sitting down with an Ivy League student studying economics. He mentioned that he wanted to go into public policy and work at the government level. While acknowledging this was a great idea, Chelsea also encouraged him to consider some other sectors and industries to increase his chances of landing a truly fulfilling job. 

She asked him about the skills he had developed as a junior economics major. He started thinking and said, “Well, I’m very analytical. I can take data and I can analyze it. I’ve also been doing research since my freshman year, so I’m very good at being able to do market research and to be able to create conclusions.”

Just from those two pieces of observation, Chelsea noticed how the student had opened up a whole new category of opportunities. They started discussing how data analytics also applied to marketing and finance. By defining his core skills, the student was able to broaden his job search to include new industries he found just as interesting as public policy.

Unfortunately, it might take a few months for hiring to pick up again. I encourage you to have patience and grace toward yourself. This economic downturn is not your fault, and it will come to an end.

In the meantime, you might want to check out my “What Should I Do If I Think I Am Going to Lose My Job Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic?” blog post. Included in this post are resume and job hunting tips that will apply to you as well.


For more job hunting tips for college grads, my book Getting from College to Career is the perfect fit to help you during this time.

In the near future, I will be offering public webinars and online courses. To find out more details, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Share this post

hi, i'm lindsey!

Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


Learn 25 Practical Ways to Manage Across Generations