After last year’s challenges finding internships and job opportunities, you may be worried about how college student will fare this year in their search. The news is mixed –but not hopeless.
Read on for the latest and to find out how you can best support your student in staying on track to achieve their goals despite finishing school during such a chaotic time.
Is anyone hiring students and grads?
Due to the pandemic and all the changes it’s brought to college and offices, internships and entry-level jobs are harder to come by. But there are already signs of improvement over last year.
Data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) shows that hiring of college grads dropped significantly in 2020. Not a surprise given the economic uncertainty and how challenging it was to manage a workforce that was largely moving to remote work.
The good news: For 2021, those numbers are projected to rise. Nearly one-third of responding companies said they expect to hire more new college grads than they did last year, with another 63% saying they will maintain the number of new grads they hire. (Only 8% plan to reduce hiring of grads.) But those numbers are still below 2019 levels.
Pros and cons of virtual roles
Companies are still expected to largely rely on virtual interviewing and remote internships/work for the time being. Some are slowly transitioning to on-site work while others have no plans as yet to return. So your kid should be comfortable with idea that their next internship or job might be done remotely. That may not be their ideal set up, but it has some benefits.
While a virtual job won’t give them the same kind of casual contact in the office that can help forge professional relationships, it offers other opportunities. For starters, an intern isn’t likely to meet the CEO of a giant company or a big-name client – but they just might be invited to a virtual meeting those people are also attending.
Plus, remote work means you can expand your job search without having to move or incur massive travel costs. That dream gig with a company on the other side of the country (or the world) might be less of a stretch now.
On the other hand, remote work means companies also have expanded talent pools to choose from, so the competition for those plum roles is also going to be tougher.
All that time spent working online could have a long-term benefit as well. Most experts think companies will increasingly embrace remote work. Having sharp virtual conferencing skills could be an asset in future employers' eyes.
How you can help
Whether your kid is feeling the pressure to look for a job or not yet realizing that their chances might be harder this year, there are a few things you can do to support them.
Share your experiences
Virtually everyone has had one period in their life of having trouble landing a job. Remind your son or daughter that this is normal, common, and doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them or that they chose the wrong field. It’s just how the job market goes sometimes.
Make use of all resources
Colleges may have cancelled job fairs and other networking events, but chances are they’ve substituted other virtual events so students can still explore options and make connections. If your child hasn’t already, make sure they check in with the college office that manages these events to ensure they know all their options. In a year where things changed a lot, some schools have done a better job than others of letting students know what resources they have available this year.
Tap your networks
No matter what field you work in, you may be able to help your child land an internship or first job. No, we don’t mean full-on helicopter parenting—that’s not appropriate at this stage. But simply asking if anyone knows of any opportunities for a new/soon-to-be grad who’s looking for work in your child’s field can be surprisingly effective. Not comfortable asking someone one-on-one? You might be surprised at the connections that can flow from a simple, general Facebook post or Tweet. A neighbor’s cousin might not be the obvious place to look for a job lead, but if it works, it works.
Discourage panic applications
If your child is worried about getting a job, they may feel like they need to apply for every position they see —from dog walker to Alaskan cannery worker and everything in between—just to ensure they get something.
It’s understandable. It’s also likely to backfire. Just like with any other job search, internship-seekers and new grads should tailor their search to companies and/or roles that will benefit their long-term career goals.
The harsh truth is that most of the jobs they apply for are going to reject them. It’s better to send out carefully thought out and impeccable resumes/applications to 20 companies all of which they’d be happy to work for than to waste time with a scattershot approach and three acceptances from companies that will do nothing but provide a short-term paycheck.
Review ‘Zoom etiquette’ for interviews
Many companies are keeping some or all of their recruitment process virtual. If you thought a regular job interview was tough, imagine the pressure of having to do multiple rounds of them (with multiple people) online.
The good news: A successful virtual interview isn’t that different from a traditional interview. But just in case, you can share this guide to effective virtual interviews with your kid.
What if they still can't find a position?
Some fields have more open positions than others. If your child is looking for work in an industry that’s been harder hit by the pandemic, they’ll be competing with experienced professionals —and they may not land a spot.
That doesn’t mean they can’t still build their skills. Using the summer to continue to look for work and take additional (probably virtual) classes can keep their knowledge fresh and make them an even stronger candidate for future internships/jobs.
That doesn’t necessarily mean graduate school or even a full certificate program. Coursera offers tons of no- and low-cost educational options, from coding to economics, graphic design to robotics. Your child can also check with any professional associations in their chosen field –they often have professional development courses available to members, and sometimes the general public. (And student memberships usually have a minimal fee, so it’s a good way to check out the organization on the cheap.)
Carol Katarsky is a contributing writer for Nitro. She is an award-winning journalist with extensive experience writing about both finance and education. Her corporate and non-profit clients include AIG, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Project Management Institute. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, son, and one cat more than she should. Read more by Carol Katarsky