Typically, this is a time of celebration. Most colleges would have held their graduation ceremonies by now and high-school graduation season should be in full swing. 3.3 million high school students and 4 million post-secondary students are set to graduate this year. If you’re included in that group, we want to first start off by saying congratulations. Graduating is a big deal and even if there isn’t an in-person ceremony or celebration, you should be very proud.
Under more normal circumstances, you'd most likely be making plans to celebrate, move to a new city, start your job search, or start a new position. Maybe you still are, as we know that despite the craziness happening around us, life hasn’t stopped. Still, there are others of you who may be unsure, uncertain, and needing to move onto a plan B, and you know what? That’s ok. No one could have predicted these circumstances. The class of 2020 will be remembered for its grit, determination, resilience, and flexibility in the face of hardships. Remember that you’re not defined by what happens to you—we often have no control of that—but by how you react and move forward.
Graduation is a time to celebrate, but even in less-challenging times, these transitions can be tough to navigate. Here’s our advice to the Class of 2020 as you move on to the next steps:
- Work Hard- Sometimes clichés are clichés for a reason. “Nothing beats hard work” may be a cliché, but it’s also true, and this is the time to set the precedent that you have a strong work ethic. You could have the best ideas, be the most charming person, and learn quickly but putting in the hours is what helps establish a strong base, gets you noticed, and moves you on to bigger or better things.
- Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help- More clichés, but also more truths: there is no such thing as a bad question, especially when you’re starting out. Ask them all. If you don’t know how to do something: ask. If you don’t know what something means: ask. Almost every employer would rather you ask for assistance rather than make a mistake because you were afraid to get clarification. This goes doubly now. Ask others how they’re staying safe and sane during these times. Ask people you know how they dealt with tough economic times. Ask industry leaders what you should be doing.
- Be Flexible- We’ve been talking about this time and time again. Expect the unexpected. Expect the world of work you’re entering to look vastly different from the world you’ll be working in 10 years from now. Jobs and industries come and go. At some point a blacksmith needed to find a new way to make a living. Netflix made Blockbuster employees do the same. It’s the way the world works. The more adaptable you are, the more valuable you’ll make yourself and what’s coming now is one of your first tests.
- Find Value in Every Job- Maybe your dream job isn’t on the table right now. That’s fine. Many first jobs aren’t dream jobs and no one expects you to stay at your first job forever. Our video library is filled with professionals who’ve taken the circuitous path to success. Remember that if you’re able to learn something from every job you work and can articulate the value of what you learned to future employers, you’re setting yourself up for success.
- Embrace Failure-Editor’s note: Nothing you’re going through right now is a failure. Let’s just get that out of the way. This is advice we would’ve given the class of 2019, 2018, or even 2005. This advice is evergreen. If you’re able to learn something from a mistake or a big swing that became a miss, there’s value for you there. Sometimes a lack of failure can mean a lack of trying.
- Use Your Time Wisely- This is especially relevant now. Maybe you’re about to find yourself with too much time on your hands. Pro tip: there is no such thing. A lot of us have spent the pre-pandemic times bemoaning all the things we’d do if we just had the time. Do those now.
- Show Initiative- There will be people who don’t use their post-graduation time wisely. Don’t be one of them. Learn a new skill. Build your personal brand. Research your plan B. See who you can speak with about your professional ambitions. Ask for help. These are all contingent on you being the one steering the ship. People notice people with initiative. They don’t have to be managed. They don’t have to be worried about. They come up with solutions and solve problems because they’re always looking forward.
- Identify How You Can Help- A common mistake not just many new job seekers, but many job seekers in general make, is to try and wow potential employers with a list of achievements, a lengthy resume, and multiple recommendations while neglecting to illustrate how they could be a tangible asset to that employer. Tailor your cover letter. Tailor your resume. Identify your strengths but make sure you say why these strengths will benefit that particular role. Letting employers know how you can help them will always serve you well.
We also asked our VirtualJobShadow.com team members to weigh in with their own advice to either high school or college graduates (or both!). Here’s what they shared:
- The class of 2020 is graduating into challenging times, socially, politically, and economically. You may feel that your plans for the future are being derailed or disrupted. My advice is to roll with whatever life hands you in the moment. The choices you make today about career or continued education define your next steps but not your entire life. The important thing is to do your research, make the decisions, and get started in a direction. You can always adjust based on personal growth and future circumstances. - Liza Clechenko, HR
- Going into my freshman year in college, I wish someone told me how powerful it is to be involved in on campus activities whether it’s a club, sport, or even student government. I went to a massive commuter school, so I saw a lot of my peers just come to class and go and then say, “man this place sucks, it’s boring,” without ever even trying to be involved in campus life. Whether you will be commuting or are living on campus, do your part in being intentional about building relationships with the community. Your experience will be what you make of it. – Alex Adams, Account Manager/Customer Service Specialist
- It’s ok to not get your dream job right out of college. As a high-achieving student, this was one of my most frustrating realizations. Take a deep breath and know that this is not a reflection on how hard you worked or your self-worth. Give it some time and you will find that job, it just might take some time and experience gained. – Lily Shaw, Sales Assistant
- Don’t feel pressured to finalize your decision on a specific career path. You can explore different fields as you go and choose one later on once you figure out what you’re passionate about. Even then, you can always switch to something else if it doesn’t work out. - Evan Magor, Account Manager
- Don’t think that you need to have it all together now. Remember that you are just figuring it out. Every success and every fail is needed to make you the person you want to be. - Venicka Girtman, Customer Service Specialist
- Get out of your comfort zone and push yourself allowing YOU to discover who YOU really are. Great things never come from comfort zones. Begin building your network of people now. Find what you want to do. Find who is best in that area, discover what has made them successful, and follow their lead. – Melinda Spivey, Sales Representative
- My advice to the Class of 2020 is to learn to become fully independent as soon as you can. Almost anything you want or need to learn can be found online, for free. There’s going to be a lot more uncertainty ahead, so don’t sit around and wait for someone to tell you what to do next or how to act. Don’t let “I didn’t know how” ever be your excuse or your regret. You can always figure it out yourself. - Kim Celentano, CEO
- You are going to fail at something, but that failure is an event and not a person. They should never give up on something that they believe in or want to pursue. If you run into obstacles or challenges you just need to search for alternative ways to reach your goals. - Shelly Dunnavant, Sales Manager
- Be willing to admit you don’t know everything. Because surprise, not knowing everything is perfectly ok. Find mentors. Ask questions. Put yourself in new situations. Learning is not just for school, but forever. - Cheri Hoffman, Marketing Director