To the Class of 2020, Now What? 

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Hannah Lindsey, Wisconsin-Madison ‘20 

Today, I woke up to three alerts on my phone: “unemployment rate falls to 13 percent” from the Washington Post, a video of a 75 year-old protester being pushed to the ground by police from Twitter, and a Snapchat from my best friend. 

To myself and other members of the Class of 2020 college graduates, the country appears to be on fire, literally. So far, 2020 has given us a global pandemic, an essential rebirth of the Civil Rights Movement, and a troubling feeling of uncertainty in the job market for the foreseeable future. When will states and businesses fully reopen? When will the police stop shooting innocent black people for no reason? When will I be able to get a job and start my life as a real adult? 

These questions plague me everyday. I want life to go back to normal. I want black people to not be judged by their skin color and have every right that is guaranteed to them by the U.S. Constitution. I want my life as a 22 year-old to be as fun and exciting as the life of a 22 year-old should be. 

For the hundreds of thousands of college graduates, preparing to enter the real world, I am you and understand your anxieties and stressors. I too am trying to navigate how to find a job in one of the worst economic climates since the Great Depression. I want to offer you advice and inspiration, but how can I give you this advice? I have never had a real job, I do not have experience in the communications field, and I have only been hired for one “real” job in my life. However, I do know how to handle adversity, so I feel I have some wisdom to share with my fellow graduates. 

Being a former collegiate swimmer, I have had a uniquely challenging college experience. On top of being a double major in Political Science and Communications, I trained more than twenty hours a week in the pool. I have battled my way through workouts, heavy homework loads, and injury and somehow made it out alive. 

To my fellow Class of 2020 graduates, I offer two words to adopt and embody given the firestorm that surrounds our gradation and post graduate plans: resilience and persistence. I have found these two words to be my guiding lights when it seems like I am applying for job after job after job and either not hearing back or getting a rejection email. 

Resilience means being able to bounce back from things that do not go your way; I understand resilience as a measure of how tough and adaptable you are. You are not going to get callbacks for every job you apply for. You will be rejected from a “dream job” or “dream internship”. It happens. For every twenty jobs, ranging from internships to public relations associates positions, I maybe hear back from one of the employers. With each rejection or no response I receive, I reevaluate my resume, cover letter, or any supporting materials I submitted for the job. In addition to not letting any single rejection dampen my spirits, I take a step back from all of my materials and view everything with the perspective of a third party. 

I ask myself: does it look professional? Am I accurately displaying and conveying the professional skills I have? Are there any typos (please dear God let there not be any typos)? Viewing rejection as an opportunity to adjust and reset sets you up to be resilient given adversity. Whether it be the world of sports or the job market, the people who succeed are able to quickly bounce back after something doesn’t go their way. 

Persistence is another word and idea to embody when embarking on a job search, especially during the age of “corona”. We hear it all the time on the news: people being laid off, furloughed, and unemployment being higher than ever. 

How is the Class of 2020 supposed to find a job when no one is hiring? I suggest being persistent in contacting and making connections with potential employers. Whether a company is actively hiring or not, reaching out to people at the company every two or three weeks helps get you on the radar and in their sights. Repeatedly taking that first step, which means sending in resumes, cover letters, or emails explaining your interest in the company, will build a relationship between yourself and the company. 

Another tactic that helps establish bonds between yourself and a company is to not explicitly ask for a position when you initially reach out to an employer. In my experience, seasoned professionals are always glad to offer advice to young professionals. Asking for advice over a job right away will help you get connected with more people in your career field, in addition to signaling your commitment and desire to grow as a professional in your perspective field. 

Having confidence in yourself, your abilities, and your portfolio is essential, especially in the age of “corona”. Using quarantine to really focus on one’s own resilience and persistence is one of my ultimate suggestions for my fellow Class of 2020 graduates. Yes, this time of nationwide shutdowns and life coming to a stand still is incredibly stressful and unprecedented. Like you, I am trying to navigate this job market and desperately trying to get hired by a public relations/communications firm. 

Ultimately, I ask of you, and of myself, to practice resilience and persistence in your job search. As cliché as that sounds, I assure you that focusing on these two skills will not only help you during the coronavirus pandemic but will also benefit you in the long run throughout your career. 


About the Author: Hannah Lindsey is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she double majored in Political Science and Communication Arts. Hannah was also a student-athlete on the UW-Madison Women’s Swim Team for 4 years. She is currently pursuing and exploring career paths in collegiate coaching and public relations/communications. 

1 Comment

  1. Danny Selnick on at 1:28 PM

    This is an amazing piece — so well-written and so thoughtful. It’s a piece that every 2020 student (and beyond) should read, digest and think about — it’s about real challenges, but it also offers hope by doing the right things. Hannah, while it might be a bit difficult right now, I’m going to guess that you will have wonderful career and with a great future. I can’t wait to hear more about it!

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