The process of finding a job can be daunting. As a college student, the pressure is magnified. Between balancing coursework, a social life, and working to make ends meet, charting a career path can prove overwhelming. Add a global pandemic into the mix and you’ve got an entirely upended experience. So, how are college students moving forward?
With unease and uncertainty, but also resilience and grit.
In August 2020, Riddle & Bloom surveyed over 1,000 college students across North America to better understand how COVID-19 has affected students’ short- and long-term career plans.
When the Spring 2020 semester abruptly came to a halt, 20% of students suddenly found themselves unemployed while 17% saw much-needed, experience-building summer internships canceled.
Gen Z Has Proven Resilient
With 43% pursuing gig work and professional development opportunities to sustain forward motion. From online courses and certificates (47%) to webinars (42%) and side hustles such as selling clothes, driving for Uber Eats, etc. (31%), students are finding ways to make money and further their careers. While 58% of students noted they were doing this even before COVID-19, Gen Z is clearly not a generation to take a back seat.
As students look towards spring semester and graduation, Gen Z is taking note that the work of their parents and older siblings, and even their own work, has transitioned to a remote setting. Forty-six percent (46%) report that they are more inclined to seek a job that offers the ability to work remotely. Of these students, 52% cite concerns over COVID-19 as the primary reason, with relocation costs (21%) and no commuting time (18%) standing out as secondary factors informing this preference. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of respondents are indifferent toward in-person versus remote positions.
The pandemic hasn’t seemed to deter students’ chosen trajectory, however, 94% of students believe their current major is preparing them for a successful career, and only 12% are considering changing their major in light of COVID-19’s effects on the global economy.
Krystal Hicks, founder of JOBTALK LLC, notes that despite this there is a sense of skepticism and a feeling of “swimming upstream” as Gen Z attempts to navigate this new normal. She reminds us that,
“…To a certain extent, we saw 2007 coming. We didn’t see this coming. We had it better than they do. The economic downturn we’re experiencing now is 2007, plus isolation, plus anxiety about the health of friends and family members. The restaurant sector has completely shut down. When I graduated in 2007, I got by and made ends meet by bartending. They don’t have that.”
Krystal’s firm provides job hunting advice and recruiting insights for students, educators, businesses and professionals. Together with Riddle & Bloom, we have identified the following insights to help students navigate the current job market. For our Gen Z college student readers out there, yes, the situation seems dire, but your resilience is evident and, frankly, necessary. Here are a few things to consider as you keep an eye on your future.
COVID-19 Has Fundamentally Changed Where People Work or Can Work From
Remote work will be a constant as a vaccine is developed and until people and organizations feel confident in the safety of common work facilities. Take advantage of this. Broaden your search, don’t be bound by geography, and look at companies and opportunities that wouldn’t have previously been on your radar. Things won’t always be this way and you can re-assess later but, for now, open your consideration set to job prospects that will provide valuable experience, opportunity to build personal brand equity within the company, and offer a steady paycheck.
Now’s the Time to Go All In
When looking for jobs or internships, utilize your college career center for 1:1 coaching, virtual career fairs, and networking with alumni or others in your field of choice. Join professional collegiate organizations (such as the American Marketing Association) that align with your career goals. Use LinkedIn and build a network that’s relevant to your major and interests. Connect with people, advocate for yourself, get creative, and build YOUR brand.
Remember That, During These Uncertain Times, All Industries Are Pivoting
To better understand the industry you’re pursuing, it’s important to talk to the right people: those who are in that industry right now. Do the homework, read up on industry adaptations and trends, talk to insiders. Be ready to have informed conversations with hiring managers around how you can provide value given what you know about how companies within that specific industry are charting a new path forward.
Uncertain Times Mean Challenges – and Opportunities
Just as all industries are pivoting, remember everybody else is also going through the same thing you are – a pandemic. It’s a shared experience. Future employers will understand the uniqueness of the times but, more importantly, will place value on what you do during these times to help break away from the pack. Staying resilient, being adaptable, and cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit will help shape the type of employee you can be. Start a side hustle. Pursue a passion project. Volunteer. Take that part-time job now rather than an internship later. Hicks notes that the particulars don’t matter in the end, and employers will care less about your traditional intern experience and more about how you used this time for self-improvement and growth.
About Riddle & Bloom
Riddle & Bloom is an IDEAS AND ACCESS company focused on creating meaningful brand experiences for the Next Generation of consumers. Working hand in hand with client partners such as Amazon, Comcast, HBO, Microsoft, and Vera Bradley, we develop unique solutions and leverage exclusive access to engage Millennial and Gen Z audiences.
Riddle & Bloom’s capabilities include online and offline peer influence programs, campus activities and programs, experiential activations, consumer insights, social media strategy and execution, and digital marketing campaigns and e-commerce. We offer our brand clients unrivaled access to the Next Generation through exclusive relationships with the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA), the National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS), NIRSA Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, and State High School Athletic Associations. For more information, visit: www.riddleandbloom.com.
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