Survival Guide for New College Graduates in the Year of COVID-19

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz on

Dear Readers: I'm hearing from lots of students and recent grads about how uneasy they are about entering the labor force in this difficult economic climate. With unemployment numbers at a record high, it's no surprise that the estimated 4 million new college graduates will have a particularly challenging time this year. But all is not lost, especially for those of you who are determined and smart about your search. Here are a few tips.

Be Aggressive in Your Job Search

I'm not going to sugarcoat it. Looking for a new job is hard, even under the best of circumstances. And it's really hard right now. While you may have a lot of talent to offer, the competition will be extra fierce.

Understand that your most valuable asset is what economists call your "human capital." That is the ability over time to convert all of your skills, energy and talents into work that will generate income and can build financial wealth. In other words, don't just think about your major when considering who might hire you. Think of all the skills and experiences you have to offer an employer.

But realize that no matter how qualified you are, your job search could take weeks or months longer than usual in this environment. Don't have an updated resume? Get busy. Not sure who's hiring? Aggressively follow every lead. If you think commuting or relocating is for someone else, you might want to reconsider. And if you're short on experience, look for internships, unpaid opportunities or part-time jobs. Some of these positions may be temporary, but others may evolve and wind up permanent.

Be Conservative With Your Spending and Liberal With Your Savings


Now isn't the time to adopt a "YOLO" attitude about your finances. Don't have a budget? Start putting one together. Prioritize and decide where you can cut expenses. Cheaper phone plan? Unneeded subscriptions? Put it all on the table.

Make savings a big part of your budget, starting with an emergency fund. Your goal is to eventually build this fund to cover three to six months of essential expenses, but any amount you're able to set aside is a plus. If you find an employer who offers a 401(k) match, take full advantage of it. But make the match the minimum. Save more when and if you can.

Be Sure to Have Health Insurance

Don't try to get away without health insurance. You can stay under a parent's plan until age 26, even if you live in a different location. You can also shop for plan coverage through if you don't have coverage through a job or a parent.


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