Guest Post: COVID-19 Effects on Students Career Growth in the US

COVID-19 Effects on Students Career Growth in the US

 “Are you nervous about your career growth and placement prospects due to COVID-19?”

The US has climbed and stayed at the top of the list of all countries affected by COVID-19. With average 50k new infections every day, containment of the virus seems far off. As a result, students, job seekers, placement cells in universities, and employers are evolving and identifying alternatives to adjust to the “new normal.”

41% of students who had plans to pursue their careers in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are searching for alternative career paths. Remoteinternships.com says, “Perhaps they want to go into more lucrative industries?”

For the short-term, 22.6% of students are opting for a gap year or sabbatical – deferring school (their current university or one they’re entering as a freshman), or forgoing school for the time being. Out of those who are looking to take a year gap –

  • 5% said they’ll get a job
  • 1% state that they’ll take online courses
  • 2% plan to travel
  • 1% aren’t sure yet
  • 9% suggested “other,”
  • 9% said they’ll improve skills in programming
  • 3% say they would want to find an internship
  • 4% say they’ll indulge in the family’s business.

Predictions: For those taking a gap year or for the recent grads, getting a job remains critical:

  • 1% said that a large number of workers would return to office later this year
  • 18% said this summer
  • 7% said when a vaccine becomes available – 17.2% cite next year – whereas the remaining responded “never”

According to another study conducted with 2,000 students in the US about the impact of COVID-19 on their plans to obtain a college degree, 61.6% saw no impact, 34.6% weren’t sure, and 3.8% decided to no longer pursue their course. 72% weren’t anticipating any change in their career path, whereas 28% were planning a change.

In this article, we investigate the impacts of COVID-19 on students, graduates, and job seekers, and how they can keep themselves ahead of the game.

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects on the Career of Students and Jobseekers in USA

COVID-19 will have both short-term and long-term impact on career development, and it is important to prepare yourself for both. Some of the effects based on the research of current trends in the US are –

  • Increased focus on digital learning – As countries including the US scrambled to contain the virus, an estimated 90% of schools and college campuses were shut down in March to flatten the curve. This would require students and graduates to become well versed in identifying online channels to network, learn, and grow.
  • Impact on placements – With university campuses shut down in the prime of graduation and recruitment season, there is uncertainty among students about the future. Depending upon their financial plans, companies are putting recruitments on hold, deferring the joining dates, or even revoking the employment letters.
  • Education loans – Many students and graduates take education loans to fulfill their studies. With a reduced job market, there’s fear about repaying the loans. This may put increased pressure on them to identify alternatives to repay the loan.
  • Decreased salaries for entry-level jobs – Employers will increasingly look for the best talent that’ll be available in abundance due to current scarcity in jobs. Quite understandably, the salaries offered may be lesser than normal. But there is no reason to worry. For those candidates who show good talent, the day they start getting paychecks at par with the previous industry-standard may not be far. However, the competition will be tight and only those who keep upgrading themselves will have the edge.
  • Increased unemployment rates – According to a report by Pew Research, the unemployment rate in the US which was at an all-time low of 3.8% in February’20, rose to 13% by May’20 due to COVID-19. The same report also concludes that the unemployment rate in the US was lowest among those who had a bachelor’s degree or higher. An alternate report by The Guardian finds that 40% of low skilled workers earning less than $40,000 a year lost their jobs by May 2020 due to COVID-19. Cleary, the skills you gain now will help you in the future.
  • Recruiters in a state of limbo – Companies are dealing with a reduced scale of operations, delayed payments from clients, lost contracts, and fixed operational costs. Most of them are trying to optimize as much as possible to sail through these times, which is keeping them in a state of limbo about hiring or retaining talent.
  • Possibility of reduction in university fees – On a positive side, universities are choosing to charge a reduced fee from the students and even waive off the boarding and meal charges completely for the duration the campuses are closed. Universities are also helping students facing financial and emotional issues that connect with social welfare programs in the US.

Even though many statistics have shown a future full of gloom-and-doom for the students and job aspirants, there is indeed a silver lining.

“Companies are being cautious about hiring right now, but it doesn’t mean they won’t hire ever. You just need to be ready for that moment.”

How You Can Stay on Top of Your Game and Prepare During the Pandemic

  • Consider various opportunities and be flexible – Industries such as IT, gaming, software engineering, networking, and cybersecurity have shown remarkably higher resilience during COVID-19. With the world going online for their daily needs, education, and business requirements, the use of technology will see a substantial rise in the future. Businesses with high manual touchpoints will undergo technological transformation to optimize their costs. If you are interested in gaming, a career in video game design could also be a good option.
    “Find sectors that are more resilient than others during COVID-19.”
  • Develop professional network – MentorMatch is helping students pair with industry professionals over online coffee chats to give career advice, feedback on the resume, mock interviews, and more. Keep your resume and online profile up to date, and keep applying for jobs. Various organizations such as Harvard Business School are helping students master for virtual interviews which may become a norm in the future.
  • Focus on developing your skills in your area of expertise – According to the TechRepublic survey done in the US, 48.1% of graduates believed that majority of workers would get jobs or return to their previous place of work later this year. This number will rise as we come closer to finding a vaccine and a positive sentiment takes over the masses. This makes it important to keep honing your skills even during difficult times. While colleges and universities are already switching to online classes, there are many existing certification-based programs available on websites such as Coursera, Udemy, edX, and upGrad.
  • Contractual projects, freelancing, and internships – This is a great time to go online and get your foot into contractual projects or long-term freelancing in your area of work. If you start working with an organization now on a freelance basis and can show your skills, they may hire you full time when the economy rebounds. Good talent is hard to find, and employers wouldn’t want to let it go.
  • Volunteering – In addition to knowledge of the subject, employers also look for your interpersonal and leadership skills, soft skills, and ability to work in teams. Volunteering will help you develop these. This will give you an edge over others in the future. Organizations such as the UN, Catchafire, Smithsonian, Project Gutenberg, DoSometing.org are providing online volunteer opportunities.
  • Opportunities for entrepreneurs – COVID-19 will give rise to newer demands in the market. This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs who can identify and fill these gaps. For example, video conferencing technologies have seen multiple times rise in their business during COVID-19. Retail and e-commerce platforms are practically overloaded with new business. Trainers who have online courses that add value are seeing a dramatic rise in enrolments. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, this may be the right time to gain ground early on and implement your idea.
  • Focus on mental health – It is as important as physical well-being. Allow yourself to grieve because your plans may not have materialized as you wanted them to. It is important to give yourself time and invest in mental health even more rather than being on autopilot and floating through the days. There are numerous text and phone helplines in the US, online groups, video chat support groups, and resource material to help you.

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Implications of COVID-19 Situation on H-1B Visa Holders in USA

International Students in the U.S. under Coronavirus Outbreak


Search for Jobs That Can Be Done Remotely

As we mentioned before, not every industry is impacted by COVID-19. Some industries are more resilient than others. Some of the examples are IT, software, networking, cybersecurity, healthcare, pharma, and retail.  If you keep developing your skills, you will be ahead in the job search as compared to the masses that keep waiting for better times to start their job search. Some of the jobs that are easily available online in the US are –

  • Web and software developer
  • Copywriter
  • Proofreader
  • Graphic designer
  • Virtual assistant
  • Social media manager
  • Transcriber
  • English teacher
  • Customer services representative
  • Video producer/ editor
  • Tutor/ trainer

Conclusion

Even though the US is at the top of the list of countries affected by COVID-19, the future is not as grim as it seems for those who find opportunities when others wait for times to change. You cannot time the market for you never know when it will boom, but you can take each day like a marathon rather than a sprint. Keep investing time in developing skills, networking, and fine-tuning your profile, and you will be among the few who recover the fastest. We hope the information and practical action points mentioned above leave you more confident and better prepared than nervous about career growth and placement prospects in the US.