All together now: Advice to seniors from the career center

Don Kjelleren

​As the world shelters in place from the horrific health effects of COVID-19, our 2020 graduates now face the job-devouring effects of the virus. The spring semester started with seniors reveling in the prospect of graduating into a job market defined by the lowest unemployment in 50 years. And now? Almost surrealistically, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week alone.  

Having spent the past two decades helping seniors secure their professional futures I have seen repeated recessionary cycles including the famous “Great Recession” of 2009. If the past is a predictor at Williams, we can anticipate a reduction in Handshake postings from its recent peak, a slowdown in our employer partners recruitment activities, canceled/delayed interviews and an increase in rescinded offers. 

Facing the twin dilemmas of a global health pandemic and the specter of a global recession, what can we do? The same as always at Williams, we turn to our collective community for help in the most difficult times. “All together now” is the soul and strength of our college’s legacy through previous pandemics, wars and economic boom/bust cycles since June 22, 1793. As such, here are four practical tactics our graduating seniors can tap today: 

First, take the time you need for yourself and your family. Searching for a job can wait until you are ready.  

Second, if ever there was the time to activate your network, this is it: friends, family, faculty, coaches, peers, and perhaps most importantly, Williams alumni. Three years ago, the college invested in building a global mentoring network, now known as EphLink. Today, 1607 current Williams students have activated their EphLink accounts, 2798 alumni have registered to help, and 14,487 messages have been exchanged with a 77.8% response rate. Seniors, use the power of the Eph network to gather information about the “hidden job market,” create critical connections, and build a team of advocates to support your search.  

Third, make an appointment now with a Williams Career Advisor through Handshake. Work with your advisor to build a career action plan that includes self-assessment, networking strategies, resume review, interview practice, and an understanding of the role, timing and cost of graduate school. Working closely with an advisor will increase the likelihood of taking small, but persistent, daily actions towards your goals.  

Finally, seniors, stay patient and fluid with your post-graduate expectations. You don’t need the entire job market to turn around; you need one solid entry-level opportunity that gets you on the path. As our “Great Recession” 2009 graduates learned, eventually things turn around. Liberal arts degrees are durable and impart broad skills that stay relevant indefinitely. Your Williams education and network will be there when you need them, as you will be there for those who follow. All together now.

Don Kjelleren is the Director of the ’68 Center for Career Exploration.