by Stephanie Joynes
Everything was going so smoothly. There was a plan and an order in which to do things: Spring Break, Greek Week, submit a resume to Hire a Tiger, commit to the job search, accept an offer, and celebrate at Commencement.
That is not what happened.
When I speak to students, they commonly think their career path will be linear, when it often ends up feeling like a game of Chutes and Ladders, forcing students to reassess their personal strategy and goals. There is no doubt that college students and recent graduates faced a vicious curve ball these past few months, and even the most disciplined and motivated students didn’t know what was coming next.
So how do you relaunch a job search that has stalled?
Use Your College’s Career Center
The job search can seem daunting and complicated, so students often use a combination of offerings from the Ferguson Career Center, including resume reviews, mock interviews, industry information, virtual events, and salary negotiation tips. To work with a career advisor, make an appointment through Handshake or reach out to us at email@example.com. As we learn about opportunities through our alumni-based Hire a Tiger program, we consistently email students through Handshake and update the Hire a Tiger blog in order to share timely resources with students.
Plan Early and Know the Hiring Timelines
The hunt for high-performing, entry-level, college-educated students starts far earlier than people realize, and for recent grads who now have time to focus on the job search, it can be even more frustrating to understand that these timelines have shifted due to COVID-19. The average time from applying to a job to being officially hired is 13 weeks.
If you were in the middle of a job search and it feels like you’ve hit a wall, this is the time to network so you can get the inside scoop on who is hiring and when. As states re-open, companies are evaluating and revising their hiring plans. Checking in periodically with your contacts will keep you fresh in their mind when they are ready to hire.
Networking can include friends and family, but LinkedIn also offers a useful Career Insights tool that helps students identify Hampden-Sydney alumni. A quick note introducing yourself and asking for a 15-minute introductory conversation via phone or Zoom can plant the seeds for a relationship that might lead to mentorship, advice, or opportunities. But do not take advantage of alumni simply for being alumni! Do your homework: research alumni in the fields you find interesting or promising, prepare questions, have a goal in mind, and when you feel comfortable enough to reach out, do so. Use this option judiciously.
If you are a rising junior or senior, keep in mind that some industries require applying a full year prior to the internship or job due to the competitiveness of the program or required background checks, as for federal intelligence agencies. The deadlines for these programs are critical, with no wiggle room once they close.
Start as an Intern
Companies are increasingly using their internship programs as onboarding to full-time opportunities. Think of it as the audition. Companies use internships as an evaluation of an intern’s professionalism, ability to learn and adapt, and fit with their organization. Even if an internship is virtual, a candidate can prove his ability to communicate effectively and adapt in real-world scenarios.
H-SC’s Alumni Network and the Hire a Tiger Program
In case you haven’t heard, Hampden-Sydney has a really strong alumni network. Our alumni step up through mentorship, networking, and sometimes with opportunities for students within their own companies. The Ferguson Career Center has collaborated with the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement to create Hire a Tiger, a formal program that delivers resumes directly into the hands of H-SC alumni in over 20 cities and regions. Year after year, Hampden-Sydney students secure opportunities from direct interactions with alumni through Hire a Tiger, LinkedIn and our in-person and virtual alumni events.