The economic news may be grim, but Donna Sosnowski is quick to dispel one persistent myth: Contrary to what you may have heard, many companies are still hiring.
“There are more positives out there than one would expect,” says Sosnowski, director of Babson’s Hoffman Family Undergraduate Center for Career Development. “There are economic sectors that are thriving and continuing to hire.”
Of course, some industries are facing severe challenges, particularly retail and hospitality. But Sosnowski rattles off a host of industries that are still seeking new employees: health care, life sciences, consulting, edtech, accounting, finance, businesses offering virtual platforms, large technology companies, and data analysis across all sectors.
Sosnowski and Cheri Paulson, senior director of Babson’s Graduate Center for Career Development, are doing everything they can to make sure graduates are ready for the job market. Both the undergraduate and graduate career centers have shifted their operations online, offering meetings with advisors and a variety of events virtually. Grad students even recently took part in a virtual career fair.
“We can help them help themselves,” says Sosnowski. “It is a challenging time, but there are still opportunities.” For soon-to-be graduates still looking for work, Sosnowski and Paulson offer the following job-hunting tips.
Many students are understandably anxious about the future. Being stuck inside the house, with plenty of bad news blaring from phones and TVs, doesn’t help. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of getting into your own head,” says Paulson.
To counteract nervousness and negativity during a job search, Paulson says to seek out support and positivity. The graduate career center, for instance, has organized teams of students into what it calls sprints. For four weeks, they meet online with an advisor and talk about their job searches. The sprints give students a sense of community and hold them accountable to whatever tasks they should be undertaking to find work.
Now is not the time to be laser focused on finding the ultimate fit for you. “You can’t have a dream job and only go for that,” says Paulson. Instead, students need to be flexible in terms of a job’s location, industry, function, and title. All options must be open. “Activate your plan A, B, C, and D at the same time,” says Paulson.
If students really want a job in retail, perhaps they can pivot to another industry, gain experience, and then try for a retail position again once the economy improves. “Take a look at the skills and competencies for the role you wanted,” says Sosnowski. “Could you be working in other sectors?” Skills in which Babson students excel—problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork—can apply to a range of jobs.
Work Your Network
Not surprisingly, Sosnowski and Paulson stress the importance of networking. In fact, they say that companies are eager to hear from students. “I think they are sensitive that it is a challenging market,” says Paulson. “There is empathy about how hard this is for people graduating.”
When reaching out to people, though, Paulson warns that students should be respectful. Do your research. Personalize your correspondence. “You can’t just spam your network,” she says.
“Take a look at the skills and competencies for the role you wanted. Could you be working in other sectors?”
Babson alumni, in particular, are happy to assist students. “We are hearing from many of our alumni,” says Sosnowski. “They want to know how they can help.” Alumni are offering to be mentors and providing internships, which are often conducted virtually now.
Joe Campanelli ’79, CEO of Needham Bank, had reached out to Babson requesting undergraduate interns because he anticipated a rush of small businesses seeking loans under the recently passed CARES Act. He soon hired a dozen Babson interns, and within days, they had processed more than 300 loans.
“Our students have the opportunity to secure an internship and make a difference in people’s lives, and the bank gets Babson talent at their fingertips that can produce results,” says Sosnowski.
If the weeks go by and graduates haven’t landed a job, they still need to stay active and productive, says Sosnowski. Eventually, when they land an interview and are asked the inevitable question about what they’ve been doing during the pandemic, they need to have an answer.
To stay busy, Sosnowski suggests that students help in their communities. By volunteering at a nonprofit, they can give back while also making connections and learning about other career options. “You never know when any of these opportunities will lead to a job,” she says.
Taking time to learn new skills or perform research for a professor or investigate graduate school are other options. “It’s a great time to invest in yourself,” says Sosnowski. Students also can contact companies and propose working on a business project for them. A company may not be hiring at the moment, but a project allows students to demonstrate what they know.
“You get to show off,” says Paulson. “You get in their network and get in their queue.”