Job Hunting in the Time of Coronavirus: How Fresh Graduates Are Coping and Expanding Their Options Online
They discuss rehashing career plans, making the most out of quarantine and the art of ‘diskarte’ for this year’s job search
The class of 2020 will forever be bound by firsts that no other graduating class is likely to experience. The first year of a pandemic, a first taste of online graduation rites, the monumental first dip into the real world during a bleak time for society: this collective trauma is still going. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t just stop because of this (and nothing says “welcome to the real world!” like this stinging realization).
The job hunt is daunting enough in itself. And fresh graduates today all find themselves in a pretty unique and tricky situation.
In the time coronavirus, what does embarking upon adulthood and searching for their first jobs look like? I spoke with four fresh graduates to find out. Meet Carese Serra, Cha Ancheta, Thea Lucas and Jhaz Reoma, who have spent the last few months figuring out what’s worked, what hasn’t and what parts of their original career plans they let go off.
Carese Serra, 21
AB Management Economics, Ateneo de Manila University
On original career plans after graduation: I really wanted to enter the retail or fashion and apparel industry. E-commerce was also a possibility. Some of the companies I had in mind before graduating were H&M, Uniqlo, Lazada and Shopee.
On using her college years to beef up her resume: It wasn’t only during my senior year that I prepared for working life; I tried to do it across all four years of college. Most especially in my junior year, I was active in a number of organizations. I took a “rest” from that in my fourth year because I wanted to focus on my academics and thesis. By the second semester, I was already looking for jobs and companies that I could apply to.
On graduating during the coronavirus pandemic: From the announcement of the suspension of classes during the first few days to shifting to online classes and eventually ending the year in just a snap, it was all overwhelming. My university, during the first few weeks of April, decided to give all college students a “P” or passing mark and just end the semester already in May. The graduating students, on the other hand, were given the option to pursue our remaining requirements given by the respective professors to earn a numerical grade. But we also could not do that. We had to settle with the “P” mark on our records. I chose the latter with almost the majority of our batch.
On celebrating this milestone on lockdown: During the last few weeks of 2019, my family and I were planning my graduation party. Even with my friends––we were already planning our graduation trip. Unfortunately, all these things couldn’t happen. My family only celebrated this milestone by having a simple dinner, capturing the moment in photos.
On changes in career plans: Before the pandemic, I told myself that I should be able to get a job by July. The case is very different now. I accepted the fact that it might take more time than planned. Instead of being eager to apply for jobs, I began looking at possibly starting a small business as well as taking up free courses online.
On trying to find work during the pandemic: One major difficulty I’m encountering is that the companies I’m applying to are currently on freeze-hiring. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, there were a number of companies continuously emailing and updating me regarding my applications but eventually told me that they stopped hiring altogether (this was during the last few weeks of April).
On new job-hunting strategies: I used to only rely on LinkedIn and campus job fairs. Now, I also look at sites like Jobstreet and Neuvoo. I also utilize my existing network to ask for contacts from people that I know.
On maximizing the quarantine period: During this time, it’s about utilizing the resources available and maximizing your time: You can learn a lot from courses online while still looking for jobs that suit you. It’s also important to continue beefing up your resume.
Cha Ancheta, 21
Bachelor of Secondary Education major in Social Studies, UP Diliman
On the new format of graduation: My actual college graduation rites are postponed to next year, but the university will be hosting a virtual one slated for July 26. Our practicum was cut short and we were tasked to submit a portfolio synthesizing our experience as a final requirement instead. We were not able to finish the required hours as classes were already suspended.
On technical difficulties: One major concern is internet access. Will those with internet issues be able to attend the virtual graduation? To celebrate a milestone in this pandemic is very limiting and privileged. I don’t think it is a bad idea to just postpone it to a later date. If I try to picture the virtual graduation, something will always be missing and that is actually shifting the Sablay together with your batchmates in the amphitheater.
On initial career goals: As someone from the education sector, I really plan to push through with teaching and to be in the academe. While there are schools that accept fresh graduates, I specifically plan to be employed in a progressive school.
On preparing in senior year: Initially, in the last semester, we were in practicum, which is like an internship program offered by the college. This was a preparatory stage for me as I was able to join the faculty of UPIS. I handled students in the fifth grade and taught Araling Panlipunan. Here, I allowed myself to grasp scenarios in the working world and learn skills that I could apply inside and outside the classroom. I also involved myself in seminars and workshops that tackled effective classroom management, and read articles that give tips on acing interviews and resume-making.
On the pandemic affecting her career plans: I think being part of the academe is a dream delayed but not a dream denied. Having that teaching position in these trying times will be more challenging as schools freeze their hiring, too. For now, I plan to learn new skills that would help me thrive in other related fields.
On difficulties while finding work during the pandemic: The requirements set by the recruiters such as college clearance, transcript of records and other related documents are harder to obtain given the skeletal workforce in offices. I think it’s also a difficulty to even get a reply from the recruiters––as to whether they received my application or not––since there is no on-ground hiring at the moment.
On lessons regarding the job-hunting strategy: The job hunt during the pandemic has allowed me to explore different skills that suit the work-from-home set-up. I’ve decided to take this time to revamp my resume and cover letter into something focused on my ability to conduct remote-learning and develop learning modules.
On expanding career options: I make myself available for webinars that I know will improve my skillset. I also join Facebook groups where active-hiring and job postings are available. I explore and revamp my LinkedIn account from time to time. However, it is really a challenge for a teacher to look for a job in these trying times.
On what ‘diskarte’ looks like today: For me, diskarte in the context of the 2020 job-search is adapting to the work-from-home set-up. Diskarte is making ends meet while knowing that your safety from the virus is also a priority.
Jhaz Reoma, 21
BS Business Administration, UP Diliman
On contemplating which companies to apply to: I wasn’t very particular about the industry I wanted to enter. I knew which industry I didn’t want to join––banking and finance. I could say there were industries I was relatively more curious about than others––tech, communications and media––so I was eyeing companies operating in those sectors. But I’ve established even before I graduated that my main determinant in choosing where to apply would be if the actual program the company was offering seemed promising, not so much the company and the industry.
On the one career factor unchanged by the pandemic: Even with the emergence of the pandemic, my primary career plan to get into a good management trainee program remained intact. But I did condition myself into thinking that it would be harder to secure a job in these trying times. So I decided that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself in case I don’t find a job as quickly as I thought I would.
On dealing with scarce job opportunities: There are fewer job opportunities in various industries, especially with the pandemic negatively affecting the economy. I was well-aware that expanding the workforce was most likely not a major priority for a lot of companies that were trying to wade through the unfamiliar situation. It was especially harder for me to find promising training programs, seeing as most companies were focused on adjusting to the new normal.
On the long waits to hear back: Recruitment processes are also relatively longer––with greater lag times in between stages. I was fortunate enough to undergo a recruitment process that was well-paced despite the situation, but I know some batchmates who weren’t entirely sure if the company had let them go or the pandemic was just prolonging the waiting times in between. The recruitment processes itself has also changed because of the pandemic. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a difficulty, but it can be quite intimidating, especially if you’ve been primed in the past to attend physical interviews and go through examinations on-site during recruitment. I had to make sure that I wouldn’t be distracted during online interviews and examinations, despite doing them at home.
On utilizing the World Wide Web to expand her options and making sure she stands out: I became a lot more aggressive in searching for available programs, scouring major job search platforms and university job portals, and I invested time in fixing my CV, resume and all other supplementary job application documents.
I was also able to improve my skillset by working for an online tutorial center (Rainbow Nook Learning Hub), where I’m primarily in charge of the center’s marketing. Regardless of the industry you wish to work in, I believe it’s smart to gain experience in online services right now, especially since virtual solutions are currently thriving and there is no actual assurance that the pandemic will come to an end anytime soon.
On resourcefulness and, again, the art of ‘diskarte’ in 2020: Right now, this is being able to know and understand the implications of the current pandemic to your 2020 job search and therefore be able to do something about them with the resources you have. If you have so much free time on your hands in the midst of a job search, you may utilize the time to fix your resume, take a course or improve your skillset. You should proactively look for opportunities given the current situation. When deciding on a job offer, you should take into consideration the company’s response to the pandemic, in terms of how they have handled the welfare of their stakeholders. Right now, it is important not to dismiss COVID-19 as a temporary factor in the job search, because we will not be going back to the normal we once knew. Diskarte is being able to understand that and translate that into your job search.
Thea Lucas, 21
BS Legal Management with a Minor in Project Management, Ateneo de Manila University
On making the most out of her senior year: I constantly updated myself with company information sessions and job fairs. I created my own tracker which shows companies I was interested in and how to apply (including a timeline of when job fairs were and when I should send in my resume). I also made it a point to stack my resume by taking on an internship, extracurricular activities, org work and volunteer work. In college, I took a minor in Project Management, which is something I’d like to pursue in the future.
On Plan A not pushing through: The timetable I had obviously can’t be followed anymore. Realizing this was when I started looking for job opportunities online. That was the first big change. Instead of relying heavily on job fairs and company information sessions, the internet was now my number one source for a job.
As I was still grasping onto the concept of not having any prospects and going completely blank, I scrambled for job opportunities. It was in the first few days of looking that applying for startups came into mind (one of my friends brought it up). And it made sense. Some startups thrive in this kind of setup and with the ultimate goal of wanting to have my own business in the future, working for one would allow me to see how a company grows and expands. That was my next big change.
I suppose my career plan has not completely changed. Rather, I had to tweak it. My goal to eventually have my own company is still there and eventually land a Management Trainee position, but I’ve also opened myself up to other opportunities where I can learn.
On struggles while finding work: In my years in college attending resume-writing talks or preparing for work, the number one advice they always give is to get a job that you love so it won’t feel like work. However, with the limited job opportunities during this time, it’s really hard to look for companies that fit your values and offer what you’re looking for. At the same time, there’s also that pressure to get a job so as not to be left bumming around the house.
Another struggle would be doing interviews online. Although facing employers through video calls is less nerve-racking, it isn’t the best setup. It’s hard to gauge what your employers are thinking. I think this is mainly because eye contact is difficult given this kind of interview.
On using the internet to find extra options: Instead of using job fairs and physical company information sessions to look for a job and extend the reach of my network, I relied on job sites and groups. These include LinkedIn, Jobstreet, Indeed, and the Ateneo Jobs and Internships Facebook group.
My friends and I have also created a support system wherein we post job opportunities we believe one of us could be interested in. I think this is something that has helped me cope with the rigor of job searching in this pandemic––knowing that I am not alone and that some people share the same struggle. Sometimes, it’s enough to know just that in order to power through.
On focusing on skill-building: I started taking online courses through various learning platforms like Coursera. This mostly took up my free time when I was not job hunting or working on my personal business. Learning is something I believe should be constant. So having these resources that help stack one’s resume be made available to us is definitely a blessing.
On considering a side hustle: While looking for work, I set up my own online business. With so many platforms available right now like Facebook, Shopee and Instagram, starting your own online business becomes easier. I set up an online shop mainly selling preloved clothes in the hopes of advocating and promoting sustainable fashion. I believe that putting this business up has helped me in coping with hunting for a job in this pandemic. Earning through the business boosted my morale as it showed me that I can still get income, although not as big and as stable as a company salary, without a job.
RELATED: Our Startup Is on Lockdown
A message to the other fresh graduates and even the class of 2021: Know that no one is exempt from being hoisted into uncertainty. It’s okay not to have it all figured out right now.
If you have questions related to the job search or want Wonder to cover another segment to help shed light on this topic, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art Alexandra Lara