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Senior Perspective: Applying to Jobs in a Pandemic

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Photo of the University of Massachusetts Amherst with text reading: “Applying to Jobs Remotely, from the Perspective of a UMass Amherst Senior"

As I enter my last semester of college, the inevitable search for my postgrad job has finally begun. However, much like the rest of America’s class of 2021, my application process is a bit different than previous classes — we’re in a pandemic. As I look for jobs now, I am finding more and more positions offered entirely remotely. 

The Pandemic’s Impact

Although it is just the beginning, my job application process thus far has been pretty similar to what it would have been pre-COVID. The only interview I’ve had so far was conducted in an online forum not unique to the pandemic — I was sent a link by the company, and asked to record answers to five questions (each recording being about two minutes long). I know people who had to do a similar style, “on-demand” interview before the pandemic, so I would say that was a pretty standard first round of interviews. None of the questions they asked were related to the pandemic, either.

However, I’ve been told by UMass Career Counselors to include how I spent my time during summer 2020, and during the pandemic as a whole, in my cover letters. For example, my summer internship was supposed to be at a brand agency in Connecticut, where I would have done data analytics and writing — which was unfortunately canceled due to COVID. Luckily, the employer recently extended an offer for the same position, this time for the winter. These are all some things I mention in my cover letters. The inclusion of these small, yet significant, details are what I would say, is the biggest change in applications right now. Companies are interested to learn how potential job candidates maneuvered the pandemic, and how they spent their time (since we had so much free time on our hands). 

A lot of the jobs I’m applying for right now as a communication and journalism major are remote positions. Some are remote indefinitely, and others only until businesses are welcome to reopen their offices again safely. As more companies are able to conduct jobs remotely, there is financial incentive to end their commercial real estate leases, making for a new reality for the working class. As a college senior entering this new reality, I’m a little worried about securing a job — although I’m excited to see what the future holds.

In terms of the job market itself, there is a huge need for digital communications experience right now, so I am grateful for my communication and journalism degrees. However, competition is fierce. This has been recognized by UMass Amherst, as they have begun to promote their one-year intensive graduate programs offered on both the Amherst and Mt. Ida campuses. I made a last-minute decision to apply to one of these graduate programs, and I recently found out that I was accepted! I’m excited to have the opportunity to pursue a master’s, and am spending some time before the end of this semester deciding whether it is ultimately where I will go. 

My Tips

Much like my study process during COVID, I think the most important aspect of the remote interviewing process is staying organized. Having strong organization skills is what helped me through my remote semester at UMass, and I’ve definitely relayed those skills into my job hunt now. I have a folder on my desktop that’s home to all things career-related: cover letters, resumes, my unofficial transcript, and more. I rely on this folder as a method of keeping track of where I apply to, when I applied, and where I ended up getting interviews.

As I said earlier, the job market is competitive. To offset this, I apply to whatever I think I’d like and be a good fit for — even if my qualifications don’t entirely match the job listing.The worst outcome is that the company says no, right? My acceptance into graduate school has mitigated a sense of stress for me, in that I now have an idea of what I will do come graduation, but the job application process has made me realize something: it’s okay to not know. I’ve spent so much time worrying about what I am doing when I graduate, that I’ve allowed it to offset and, in a way, taint my experience because I’ve associated the job search with stress. It can be hard to get a job, of course, but it is also an exciting new chapter in my life that I should look forward to beginning! I have made a conscious effort to do this as I continue my search. 

It is equally as important to maintain a positive attitude about the process as it is to stay organized. When I applied to colleges I was told I would end up where I belong. As a high school senior, that was merely cheesy advice that I refused to accept — I was adamant on going to one certain college, and none other would suffice. Now that I am about to graduate from UMass, I realize that cheesy advice is true, and I'm carrying it with me as I look for jobs: I WILL end up in the job that's right for me. Especially since we are still living through such an unprecedented time, I am taking my job application process seriously, but with a grain of salt — if I am declined from a position or do not hear back, I am trying to not let that deter myself from applying to others, and I am also trying not to take it personally (which can be hard because I’m sensitive). 

All in all, the process has been stressful, and it’s just begun. I’m trying though to not let it be a negative thing — it’s exciting to see where my future can end up. Above anything else, I am looking forward to enjoying my last semester of college in Amherst and am grateful to spend my last semester with my closest friends. 

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