Life after college: the job hunt journey



With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the process of finding a career after college has become a bigger challenge than before.

ELLE OLTHOFF, Guest Columnist

Finding a job after college can seem like a daunting task, especially in today’s trying times, but it doesn’t have to be. These experts and real-life sources offer their tips and tricks to success after college, sharing how they found work during a worldwide pandemic.

Recent 2019 Iowa State graduate Mason McGrauth knows all too well just how hard the job hunt can be leaving college. As a criminal justice and sociology major, McGrauth was looking to go into the law enforcement career after college but felt that his degree hadn’t really prepared him for what his real life job would be like.

“I feel like a lot of the classes I was forced to take did not actually apply to my career choice at all, or even my degree for that matter. The professors teaching most of my classes did not ever do my job choice; they only studied it, so they really had no idea what it is like,” McGrauth said.

On top of all that, he was entering the workforce at the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to deal with the additional stress while simultaneously applying for jobs. In fact, one job he applied for was cut, and they decided not to hire anyone at that time. Job opportunities he thought he had were eliminated right in front of him.

McGrauth is not alone in his search and struggle; every student leaving college will have to face the task of getting a job at some point. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in the months of March to April of 2020, unemployment rates rose from 4.4% to 14.4%. This increase in unemployment stemmed most directly from the rise of the global pandemic.

With the pandemic still affecting people all over the world, students leaving college for years after 2020 may still feel the effects of this situation. However, all hope is not lost. There are still many things students can do to find jobs after college, and there are many ways to overcome them during this time.

Matthew Nuese, the Associate Director of Career Services at the UNI, has many pieces of advice to help students prepare for life after college and offers insight on how to remain positive amidst the coronavirus.

“What most people do wrong in their job search is they go to a job board and type in a title plus location. By doing this, the job seeker is passive, waiting for an opportunity,” said Nuese. “My advice for any student entering a tough job market is to broaden your search from a specific location. So, if you were thinking of just Des Moines, you might also consider Minneapolis. In addition, if you are trying for a very specialized career path, you might broaden that slightly.”

Nuese also laid out a timeline of when students could begin to do certain things to improve their job search success. If a person is set to graduate in May, then they should begin the process the October before. They should start in October by discovering interests, attending job fairs and building a network. After doing that, they can begin to apply and interview throughout the winter months.

If by February they haven’t received an offer, they should extend their search. By April, the person should expect to have received an offer, and if they haven’t, they should begin to look for short term work to take over until they can find a full time position.

For Sarah Solt – a former UNI student who graduated this past December with a degree in elementary education – her process hadn’t looked exactly like that. Graduating after finishing up her final round of student teaching, Solt hasn’t found a job yet, but feels confident about her abilities in the field.

“I haven’t done a whole lot of job searching since I am still in my student teaching, but some advice I’ve been given moving forward is that looking for a job is a whole lot about connections, who you know, how you act and treat others in your internship, student teaching and taking initiative. People will notice and they will want to vouch for you moving forward,” Solt said in December.

Solt also feels that COVID-19 pandemic has even helped her in her job search. Since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for teachers, substitutes and paraeducators has gone up due to sickness or early retirement. Solt believes that this will help her in her job search since most schools will be in search of people to either take over or do long-term subbing and she would be happy doing either.

It also appears that Solt’s approach to get a job after graduation may ring true for many other young students graduating soon. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 60% of new hires in the last 12 months were to new graduates. Coming right out of college may be the best time to find a job. Although the process can be daunting and scary, it is entirely possible.

McGrauth has now found a police position in the small town of Pocahontas, Iowa, where he has been able to learn and grow within his field. Although he faced job cancellations, the COVID-19 pandemic and feeling underprepared by his college courses, he overcame those challenges and found the job he was looking for.

“I did a lot of ‘pros and cons’ lists and took advice from other people that were in my field,” McGrauth said. “I would say that my biggest tip would be to start looking for jobs now. You don’t have to apply yet, but start looking. Also, go do internships and shadow people at their jobs. You never really know until you do the job yourself, but watching other people do those jobs definitely helps give you a better idea.”