My job search thus far has been interesting, frustrating, draining and most surprisingly, hopeful.

As a senior at Penn State amid a pandemic, searching for a job was something I was already anxious about, even before the world came to a standstill.

I have seen my friends who graduated last May experience hiring freezes, lack of communication and various hiccups in the hiring process, which didn’t give me a good feeling on what I was up against in an already competitive market.

When I say that looking for a job feels like an extra three credits on top of a full class schedule, I am not kidding.

This process takes work, from refining your resume, cover letters, portfolio and demo reels in my case as a broadcast journalism student.

Checking job and career specific sites each morning has become a part of my daily routine, finding new positions available each day to apply to.

I also have to make sure I am constantly updating my LinkedIn page, connecting with those in my field of work to schedule networking calls, and sending multiple emails daily.

The challenge the pandemic proposes, however, is that on top of the things that already need to be done when conducting a job search, there is a whole new way of communicating with companies and showcasing your skills.

Instead of meeting employers in person at a job or career fair, I have had to use chat rooms and video calls to make an impression on others.

It can be difficult to explain who I am as a person just through email or through a Zoom call, as I have always found speaking to others virtually a little awkward.

I have been forced to adapt the way I give a pitch on myself, and the questions I ask now include ways a company has adapted to the pandemic and how it is helping employees through it.

To keep myself feeling positive, I have made sure to lean on others during this time.

I continually update my mom on all things related to the job search and use networking calls as an opportunity to talk to others in the industry about how they found their breakout position and ask for any advice or tips they have regarding my portfolio. 

I have learned that it is okay to reach out to others, especially Penn State alumni, because they are happily willing to help students like us navigate this process.

 I have also found that when having conversations over the phone and via Zoom, it is important to still dress up and make that first impression, even though it may feel like an extra step. 

However, the most important piece of advice I’ve received came from Bob Martin, the College of Communications assistant dean for internships and career placement.

Martin told me that keeping myself organized during this time will help immensely, and I can say that is 100% true. 

I have an excel spreadsheet that lists every company I have applied to, people I am networking with and those who I have been in direct contact with.

I keep important contacts, a schedule of meetings and what step of the process I am in with each company, including dates of contact.

This has helped me know when to reach out again if I don’t receive an immediate response, mark down things that haven’t worked out and keep notes about my search overall.

While I sometimes feel defeated or frustrated searching this semester, the overall feeling I have is hope.

I am hopeful that as more vaccinations are distributed across the country and more companies begin to allow their employees to return to the office, I am not far off from finding my first job.

We have been lucky to be able to have in-person courses this semester and we have been lucky to have a school that has worked so hard to still provide opportunities for those looking for internships or jobs, even if it is virtual. 

As the semester winds down, I think all seniors need to remember that we have worked extremely hard to get to this point, and adapting amid a pandemic is a great skill to show off in an interview.

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