Career response to crisis? Plan, learn, broaden your skills

In the economic climate caused by COVID-19, many summer 2020 internship programs and full-time offers will likely continue, but some companies have already rescinded job offers. And it sucks. I know.

I am here to offer a few words of encouragement and share advice from my 18 years in talent acquisition. Start with this perspective: We’re in the midst of a pandemic that has ravaged the global economy while sickening and killing tens of thousands.

I survived the 2001 and 2008 recessions. When it comes to looking at a resume and identifying employment gaps, for some industries, recruiters practically expect to find gaps in those years. The same is true now.

Yes, work history is important, but what matters more to a recruiter is what you did with your time. How you tackled the job market in 2020 will be what defines you.

Creating a parallel plan

Have you considered creating a parallel plan? A parallel plan is simply an alternative plan. Creating one helps you reduce stress by preparing for all possibilities and diversifying your options after the school year or graduation.

The benefit is that you will identify your transferable skills and increase your understanding of the job market and your career goals.

Consider Pralabh Garg, MBA ’21. He originally came to Olin to pursue a career in consulting. After fall interviews did not work out, he decided to go back to his roots and looked more into technology companies, which reminded him of his passion for creating solutions using technology.

This was the catalyst to apply for the summer entrepreneurship stipend program through the WCC. His application was accepted, and he will work closely with Professor Doug Villhard to pursue his business plan for an event planning app.

Pralabh recognized that instead of the traditional summer internship, he could refine his entrepreneurial skills to position him well for full-time recruiting in the coming fall.

Broadening options, increasing knowledge

There is always going to be work that needs to be done. Can you volunteer your talents at a nonprofit? Even if you decide to answer a “help wanted” sign for the summer, drive for Uber or take extra classes, your “job” will be worthwhile.

Broadening your options is one way to create a career parallel plan. Can you expand your geographic preferences? Or, have you thought about different industries? Your goal should be to increase your skills or knowledge.

This would be the perfect place to mention the new 1.5 credit course offered through Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Students will have the chance to work on a team-based consulting project with a corporation, nonprofit or startup organization (contact the CEL directly for details: CEL@olin.wustl.edu).

When thinking of your alternative plan, take a deep breath. What’s the worst that could happen? I would say doing nothing. And if I know our WashU Olin students, doing nothing is not an option.

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