et’s face it--your graduation year did not go as planned. A lot of things you were looking forward to had to be put on pause or cancelled altogether. You’ve probably spent the past couple months missing everything you weren’t quite ready to leave behind as you move into the post-graduation world, but it’s time to figure out how to thrive despite the pandemic.
Graduation always comes with new challenges which is why we already have a post-graduation survival guide to help graduates figure out how to adult. Since COVID-19 has changed the way things work, let’s adapt that guide to make a pandemic version. We’ll talk about:
- Financial security
- Healthy lifestyle
- Making this into an opportunity
Financial Security During the Pandemic
Finding a Job
Finding a first job is a major stressor for college graduates in a normal year and the consequences of COVID-19 have made that process even more confusing, complicated, and difficult. There are still some great things you can do to find and prepare for your first job during the pandemic.
1. Use your time wisely.
Use the time you have right now to perfect your resume, update your LinkedIn, and write cover letters.Think about how you can show potential employers all of the amazing skills you’ve gained throughout your education and training.
Once you start thinking about it you’ll probably be able to relate a lot of the skills and experience you’ve gained to the trials of the pandemic. Get ready to talk about your quick thinking, problem solving, communication, and any other skills that will demonstrate to potential employers that you’re ready for anything, even during a pandemic.
Questions about overcoming obstacles and facing challenges are popular in job interviews and you’re in the process of overcoming an obstacle right now. How did you adapt to life during the pandemic?
Now is also a good time to do some networking. Networking is essential for any job industry--people you know can tell you about job openings, recommend you to employers, give you advice, and introduce you to other people who can do all these things as well.
Reach out to anyone you can think of who has connections in your industry. There’s a good chance the people you contact are also sitting at home trying to fill extra time.
Don’t make your conversations all about you trying to get a job. Check in, ask how they’re doing, and then see if they have any advice, suggestions, or leads for you as you enter the workforce.
You can also contact employers to introduce yourself and ask questions about the company or the profession in general. Open the conversation by asking how the company is dealing with pandemic restrictions and then move on from there.
A few well written emails with a potential employer can set you apart from all the other resumes and cover letters while giving you a chance to advertise yourself and learn more about the company.
3. Don’t limit yourself.
You’ve probably had your dream job in your head for a while but now isn’t the time to be picky about your first job.
This doesn’t mean you’re giving up on the perfect job you’ve been working towards, you’re simply altering the route you’ll take to get there. The important thing is not thinking of this as a setback but rather an opportunity to further prepare yourself.
If companies in your field aren’t hiring right now explore the ones that are and see how your skills and experience fit those jobs. By working these jobs you’ll make yourself a stronger candidate with more experience when you are able to apply to your dream job.
4. Don’t get discouraged.
Not having a job during the pandemic is not your fault. The world is trying to recover and figure out how to come back as safely as possible. The economy and job market are in bad shape and those things have nothing to do with how much you did or didn’t spend working on your resume or applying for jobs.
If you’re not having any luck finding jobs, spend your time continuing to learn and hone your skills for when you can find one. Take an online class, practice a skill, or re-read a freshman year textbook you partially slept through the first time.
When you do officially enter the adult world you’ll be more ready to thrive than you would have been otherwise. You will get through this exceedingly challenging time and if you dedicate some time and energy you can come out of this stronger.
What to Do About Student Loans During the Pandemic
What does graduating during a pandemic mean for your student loans? Don’t panic--there are answers.
- If you have federally-held loans principal and interest payments have been automatically suspended through September 30, 2020 as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. You can find more information on suspended payments here.
- Beware of scams. The federal government is not charging fees for suspending payments during the pandemic. If someone contacts you requesting a fee to suspend your payments this is a scam.
- If you have non-federally held loans and are not able to make payments due to financial hardship caused by the pandemic, you should contact your loan servicer immediately. Your servicer will be able to explain your options.
To sum up: take a breath. There are options available for you that mean you don’t have to scramble to make your payments right now. Contact whoever is responsible for your loans to get the information you need.
Healthy Lifestyle During the Pandemic
This is a very stressful time for everyone which makes caring for your mental health a necessity. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends:
- Paying attention to how you feel.
- Taking a break from news and other content related to the pandemic.
- Getting plenty of sleep and exercise.
- Staying in touch with people.
- Seeking help if you feel overwhelmed or unsafe.
Moving on from college and everything that comes with it before you were expecting to is hard and sad. Allow yourself to work through those emotions along with the stress you’re feeling from the uncertainty of the pandemic. Talk to other people going through the same thing, your family, and mental health professionals to help yourself figure out your feelings.
Just because you can stay up all night and wake up in time for dinner does not mean you should. In fact, establishing and sticking to a daily schedule is extremely important for coping with the pandemic. Giving your mind and body some structure right now will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the pandemic.
- Make a sleep schedule. This is a tough one for college students who had little or no regular sleep schedule before the pandemic, but it makes a big difference. You don’t need to assign yourself a strict bedtime like when you were a child but you should try to avoid long strings of late nights and set your alarm each day.
- Work out. Exercise is essential for your mind and body. Scheduling exercise each day will help you stick to a schedule and keep you on track fitness wise.
- Get ready for each day. Not putting on makeup or shaving is nice for a little while but staying in sweatpants for months is not good for a healthy lifestyle. Your getting ready routine will probably look different now, but stick to whatever modified self maintenance you come up with.
- Plan “work” hours. If you don’t have a job once classes ended you probably had a hard time finding structure in your day--you have to make that structure for yourself with no assignments due or meetings to attend and that’s not easy. Choose a set time during the day for reading, writing, job searching, networking, or whatever else you need to do. This schedule will help you feel better and make you more productive.
Trips to the grocery store have totally changed during the pandemic. Everyone is trying to stock up and go less frequently while grocery stores are struggling to keep up with demand. You can keep healthy eating habits during the pandemic despite the empty shelves and new rules.
- Beware of stress eating. Binging on a giant bag of chips might make you feel better in the moment but you’ll regret it later.
- Stay hydrated. Sometimes we eat when we’re bored and boredom is sometimes inevitable during a pandemic. A good way to avoid eating when you’re not really hungry is to drink water instead. This will keep you on a good meal schedule and improve your hydration.
- Avoid processed foods. This is tricky when you’re trying to get your pantry supplies to last as long as possible but there are still some better snack choices you can make. Get fruit and vegetables when you can and stock your cupboards with things like nuts and whole wheat crackers instead of excessively sugary, salty, or greasy foods.
- Order consciously. Supporting your local restaurants by ordering takeout is great but you don’t want to end up eating french fries every day. Find some healthy menu options so you can stay healthy and keep your favorite restaurant in business.
- Eat at the table. Keeping a meal routine instead of always eating in front of the TV will help keep your eating under control during the pandemic.
- Pay attention to portions. Paying attention to how much you’re eating will help you stop overeating. Wait a few minutes before going back for seconds or thirds to see if you’re actually still hungry.
How to Make Graduating During the Pandemic an Opportunity
Time for Reflection
Whether you just finished undergrad or a postgraduate degree, your past few years have been busy, exciting, exhausting, and full of learning both academics and life lessons. Normally you’d have to rush straight from college life to working life and switch one type of chaos for another--however you might feel about it, that’s simply not the case this year.
This means you have a moment to pause and reflect on everything you’ve experienced so far and think about how you’re going to move forward. Everything you’ve done and learned has shaped who you are as a person which is an amazing thing to think about.
Take some time either journaling or sitting quietly to think about how you got to the point of graduating. Even though you didn’t walk across a stage this is a huge accomplishment and now you have a chance to be truly proud of yourself and decide where to take yourself next.
Time for Planning
No college graduate has ever had this much time to think about what they want to do next. Although your plans have probably been delayed, perhaps indefinitely, you can still use this time to make a plan for success post-pandemic.
If planning for the next few months is impossible, try planning for five years from now. There’s no guarantee your plan will work out because as 2020 has reminded us you never know what will happen, but it’s good to have goals.
Long-term planning can be exciting and make you feel like you’re moving in a positive direction even though you can’t take any large steps quite yet.
Graduating during a pandemic isn’t what anyone expected, but if you spend your time taking care of yourself and preparing for post-pandemic life you’ll be able to thrive. Remember, your post-graduation life isn’t cancelled, just paused. Use your time planning for your ideal life with a slightly different path than you had originally thought.