You know that feeling when you fall flat on your face and the initial shock of pain isn’t too bad, but then it’s dragged out over the next few days? Oh, and when you fell, it was in front of the whole world and it was utterly and incredibly embarrassing? Well, that’s not dissimilar to what graduating in 2020 felt like.
Though the metaphor is just the teeniest bit dramatic, 2020 seniors have indeed felt the repercussions of the pandemic in severe, and stressful ways. Graduating students were robbed of in-person ceremonies shared with extended family and lifelong friends, champagne popping & toasts at the grad party, cap throwing, and the ultimate recognition of completing college, which is no small feat I might add. Sure, we were given the option to watch a virtual ceremony (as if anyone was interested in that, c’mon). We were shouted out a few times on Facebook maybe, or even received a text from the somewhat estranged Aunt down in Florida, but ultimately, we want to be recognized not only for graduating, but for the fact that we simply missed out on something that we watched so many others before us experience.
Beyond the lack of celebration, economic uncertainty and mass layoffs left us college graduates fearing for our professional lives; shaking in our slacks, if you will. As if graduating college, applying for jobs, and entering the workforce isn’t intimidating enough, let’s add in a global pandemic resulting in panic, chaos, and financial loss to the mix! Why not, right? Sheesh. Some of the lucky business majors or medical students were able to find jobs at the start of the pandemic (you know the ones who had thirteen internships by the time they were age 11). However, the majority of us were just beginning the job search when COVID-19 hit us like a brick wall.
I can’t begin to know everyone’s experiences, but I can certainly speak to my own. When I began the job searching process, it became acutely apparent to me how difficult it is to get my virtual foot in the door. Email after email, day after day, with little to no response. This process, though painstakingly slow, has forced me to think about the ultimate interview question-Why me?- Out of all the other ambitious, and terrified, job-seeking graduates who are also interviewing for this position, why should I be the one to get it? I don’t think I am the only graduate in 2020 who is struggling to answer questions like this. With so much uncertainty in the world, how are we supposed to even be certain of ourselves?
Over the last couple of months I have been the poster child for cliche answers to this question. “Because I’m hardworking, organized, and enthusiastic.” “Because I am different from the other hundred people you are interviewing, I promise!” (Yeah, “different” more like “underqualified.”) Interview questions are tough. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that these questions aren’t designed to see you fail and then laugh in your face after. The questions are important, just sometimes slightly bland. My interviews truly feel like out of body experiences, where I am looking down at some nervous girl playing with her hair and staring at the ceiling while she desperately tries to come up with one last weakness that won’t completely derail her chances of getting the job.
Sigh. Anyways, going back to the looming question. Why me? At first I didn’t know (thus the cliche answers). However, each botched interview, unanswered email, voicemail, and unopened resume brought me a little bit closer to discovering why it should be me.
I’ll start with what I am not. I am not the 5 AP class, Honors Graduate. I’m not the D1 athlete with a full-ride scholarship. I’m not the neuroscience major or the president of the student body. I’ve never been the valedictorian, the ring leader, or the loudest one in the room. I’m not the computer genius or the secret Van Gogh and I am nowhere near the choir star or the lottery winner. I’ve never even been close to these things, and so many of us graduates aren’t.
But let me tell you a little bit about what I am. I am the decorations for every birthday, airport ride home, and best 2am phone call listener. I am the handwritten thank you note, Sunday breakfast with grandparents, 15 minutes early to everything, and lean-on-me best friend. You can’t pry a book from my hands, and you can always find me on the sidelines cheering on my brother’s sports games. I’m there when you need me.
Us graduates are so much more than a name on a resume, or three strengths in an interview. We might not be the best players on the team, but we are certainly the ones you’ll want on yours.
If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that we youngen’s are resilient. We are looking at a job market that’s been completely turned upside down and we are finding the hidden solutions. Many of us are shifting our plans and career paths towards industries that we originally wouldn’t have pursued. A whopping 89% of us are taking temporary roles, and even some of us are letting timing take over, waiting for the right moment to make our mark (Fast Company, 2020).
So to my fellow graduates: We did it. *virtual cap throw* I salute you. We might be entering the workforce at a fragile time, but we are doing it with integrity, strong work ethic, and our heads held high.
To hiring companies: look out for us, because we are the good ones. We have proven ourselves in a time of utter chaos. Give us a difficult task and we will accomplish it. We will make strides, as well as make names for ourselves.
We also want to know YOU. We want to know that you care about our experiences, and that when you ask us “Why should we hire you?” It should be because you genuinely want to know why we believe in ourselves, and why we think you should too.
In times of uncertainty, we show up. That is our character. That is who we are. And that is why you should hire us.
I learned, after five months of job searching, that there is a place for everyone. That there are companies who genuinely care about who you are, how you are doing, and the experiences you have been through that brought you to their interview today. It is not an easy process, but you will find people who you not only believe in, but who believe in you. I know I did.
I am so excited to start my new journey at Explore Communications, and I know that all my hard work led me straight here. I couldn’t imagine a better place to work, and beyond all of Explore’s many successes, I truly know that I work for great people whose values directly align with my own.