It’s normal to experience a fair amount of uncertainty during your senior year of college, but COVID-19 is introducing a whole new level of unpredictability into the lives of soon-to-be-graduates. With many universities suspending all in-person activities for the spring semester and transitioning to online learning, it can feel frustrating to finish what you once assumed would be a ‘victory lap’ at school from the kitchen table of your childhood home.
Although your frustrations (and all of your emotions surrounding this uncertain time!) are valid, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone, with hundreds of thousands of college seniors facing the same looming question marks as you are. It’s equally important to realize that there are proactive steps you can take while quarantined that will increase your post-graduation success. We’ve come up with 9 practical things you can do right now to finish your last semester strong from wherever you are.
If you have a job or internship lined up, connect with your manager
If you’re lucky enough to have a job or internship lined up for after graduation, now is a great time to connect with your hiring manager. Reassert your interest in the position, your eagerness to become part of the team, and ask about resources like reading materials or online courses that can improve your preparedness for the job.
If you’re feeling worried about the state of your job as COVID-19 uneasiness continues, don’t be afraid to ask for updates and transparency regarding your position—just make sure you come across as understanding and empathetic, versus demanding and hysteric.
Make a list of ‘dream companies’ to work for
No job lined up for after graduation? No problem.
Now is the perfect time to create a list of dream jobs, and dream companies you could see yourself working for in the future. Set some time aside and imagine yourself in 10 years: What does your ideal professional life look like? Whatever you envision doesn’t have to be a position you’d secure immediately after graduation, but writing down your goals on paper is helpful for two reasons.
By imagining your career trajectory, you can start to take proactive steps towards establishing a roadmap for how to get there—which in turn helps determine what types of positions you should apply for post-graduation.
Thinking about grad school? Start studying for the GREs
Without your regular undergraduate extracurriculars, you might be finding yourself with some extra time. If graduate school is potentially in your future, now is a great opportunity to start researching the prerequisites required for programs you might be interested in and start studying for whatever standardized test your program might require. Prospective graduate students will likely need to take the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, or TOEFL—so if you think higher education is in your future, check out resources like Kaplan, The Princeton Review, and Magoosh for prep materials like online courses and practice tests.
Look for remote internships
In the wake of being kicked out of their dorm rooms, many college students have retreated home to finish out their spring semester from their childhood homes. Rather than seeing this as a setback, you can use this time living rent-free as a chance to take advantage of a part-time remote internship, research gig or another professional opportunity you wouldn’t otherwise be able to take on. Many companies provide internships in exchange for school credit, meaning you could boost your GPA, add to your resume and gain valuable experience all at once.
Attend virtual conferences within your industry
Just because you can’t physically network at this time doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the countless virtual conferences, webinars, panel streams, and forums that are available online. Take some time to research what’s available in your industry of choice, and if a particular conference or webinar topic interests you, sign up to virtually ‘attend.’ Those interested in digital marketing can take advantage of Adweek’s free upcoming webinars while technology buffs can stream videos about Saas, big data, virtual reality and more from leading tech conferences via TechEvents.Online.
Even if you can’t connect with others in real-time, a nicely-worded email to speakers and presenters thanking them for their time and including your own personal insights and questions is a great way to make valuable connections.
Create or revamp your resume, LinkedIn profile, and personal website
One of the first things your potential employer will do upon receiving your resume or job application is Google you—so if you want to impress them, now is a great time to polish your resume, and create or revamp your online presence. If you’re feeling totally lost, Indeed has a variety of free resume templates to choose from, and you can even consider sending your resume to people you know in your industry and ask for feedback. When it comes to your LinkedIn profile and personal website, feel free to model your own after other professionals in your target field—just make sure to add your own unique spin. When in doubt, remember to keep it professional, straightforward, and true to you.
Take additional courses that interest you
If you’re like most seniors, you’ve probably already completed the most important and vigorous classes of your college career. Challenge yourself by taking a free online course from one of the eight Ivy League schools: Brown, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale and Columbia. Yale University’s most popular course, The Science of Well-Being, might be especially useful at this time.
Brush up on your video interviewing skills
While we can all hope that life returns to normal within the next couple of weeks, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is real—and has emphasized how critical video calls and Zoom meetings are, and will be in our future. Now is a great time to brush up on your video interviewing skills in case you need to virtually connect with companies before you can connect IRL.
Recognize this time as a learning opportunity
So much of our college career is predictable. We have a curriculum that chooses most of our courses for us, assignment deadlines provided weeks ahead of time, consistent class meetings, and designated time off. Yet the working world can definitely be a bit more uncertain, and it’s important to recognize this period as a learning opportunity for reacting to situations beyond your control in the workplace. You may not always have a say in circumstances in the professional world, but you can control how you react to them—and rise to the challenge of whatever comes your way.
No matter how bummed you are about missing your final semester, remember that there are actionable steps you can take to stay positive and make progress during this time.
We want to hear from you! How are you handling these changes to your final semester of college? What are you doing to get ahead and stay busy while quarantined? Do you have any questions about your professional future in a COVID-19 world?
Leave your comments and questions below and we’ll do our best to answer.