Faced with uncertainty, seniors navigate job search virtually

by Ben Korkowski | 11/2/20 2:00am

career-fair

Students network at an in-person career fair prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

by Sophie Novack / The Dartmouth

With three weeks remaining in the fall term and graduation quickly approaching, some seniors have already secured post-graduation jobs, while others are still deep in the search. Amid the pandemic, this year’s recruiting process has been very different than in years past.

In the hunt for their first job post-Dartmouth, some students have been able to secure return offers from their internships, but others who are still searching for a job have had to adapt to pandemic restrictions — from attending online recruiting and job fairs to rethinking their career paths.

Some students began to feel the pandemic’s effects as early as last spring when their internships were canceled or, if students were fortunate enough, moved into a remote format. As a result of remote work, some full-time return offers were eliminated or became conditional on criteria such as whether the office would be back in person by the job’s start date.

Grace Dorgan ’21, who is majoring in computer science, interned at Facebook this past summer and secured a return offer, though her internship was fully remote.

“Coding can easily be done remotely … yet the same cannot be said for many other sectors and smaller firms,” Dorgan said. She noted, though, that not all internships have Facebook’s resources and added that some of her friends’ internships had been canceled altogether.

Although happy to have been accepted as an intern at Facebook for the summer, Dorgan began her internship uncertain whether she would accept a return offer were she to receive one. However, by the end of the summer, Dorgan said she realized the value of a guaranteed job as the pandemic has persisted.

“I really wasn’t sure if I wanted a return offer, yet as the pandemic progressed, I really wanted the job offer because who knows who else will be hiring,” Dorgan said. “I need a job.”

Nathan Camilo ’21 had planned to intern at a public policy consulting firm, but his internship was canceled once the pandemic hit, forcing him to change gears. He chose to take the pandemic as an opportunity to try something new and interned with LookUp.live, a Concord, Massachusetts based nonprofit focused on youth relationships with mental health and technology.

The new position allowed Camilo to see the unique opportunities posed by a virtual work environment.

“A lot of jobs transitioned to virtual … opening up numerous positions in the U.S. and across the world that may have not been previously possible,” Camilo said.

Gabe Onate ’21, who is majoring in Italian and minoring in education, plans on working for Teach for America in the Los Angeles area upon graduation. For Onate, his job search began with an initial information session last winter that piqued his interest, leading to an application process that has spanned from last winter to mid-October of this year, when he received his formal offer.

Despite Teach for America’s lengthy application process and the uncertainty surrounding the future status of remote learning, Onate was quick to accept the offer both due to a passion for teaching and the stability that the job would provide. He does not yet know whether the job will be in person.

“I’d rather just focus on a job that I knew would be a bit more stable,” Onate said, noting that he chose to apply for Teach For America rather than pursue other opportunities, such as a potential Fulbright scholarship, that have been affected due to the pandemic.

Those still on the hunt for employment have had to be creative in their search this year. Center for Professional Development director Monica Wilson explained that many employers are waiting to see how the pandemic affects business this year and next year before confirming new hires. Therefore, reaching out to potential employers or applying to jobs is sometimes not enough to secure an offer or even just an interview.

In addition to using DartBoard and LinkedIn, Camilo said he has been trying to network with alumni and other connections as he continues looking for a job in fields like public policy or politics.

“I’ve realized that things like referrals really help you stand out,” he said.

Wilson said that she realizes the differences this year may bring, but she still sees numerous opportunities and ways of succeeding. Despite the pandemic shifting all interactions online, Wilson said that CPD employees have been working to provide the same quantity and caliber of resources for all students, replacing in-person advising with phone calls and in-person job fairs with events on Zoom. 

For example, Wilson said students can now schedule one-on-one Zoom or phone appointments and attend virtual job and internship fairs, spread over multiple days with each event hosting around 25 to 30 employers, rather than a larger, one-time event.

Sabrina Li Shen ’21, who is double majoring in neuroscience and government, said that the career fair was “better online” than it has been in person because it was “much calmer and easier to talk with representatives.” She noted that the online format “prevented a shouting-filled fair,” which led to “less stress and more meaningful interactions.”

Despite many events this year appearing to depress the job market, there are still some positives, according to Wilson. She noted that the remote job hunt may be leading students to pursue less traditional paths after leaving Dartmouth.

“In a normal year, you would be seeing a parade of seniors in suits coming for an interview at the CPD in the fall,” Wilson said. “And of course, you are not seeing that now, and it may be leading to less pressure on following the path well-worn and rather becoming more open and reflective on their experiences, strengths and their interests and thinking about a wider range of opportunities.” 

Onate and Li Shen are former members of The Dartmouth staff.

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