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Entering the workforce? How to navigate the pandemic job market

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A recruiter from Moss Construction speaks to students during the University of Miami's Spring 2020 Career Expo.

South Florida college students will graduate into a volatile workforce — remote work, inflation, supply chain disruptions – and lots of resignations.

It's also a good time to find jobs as employers are eager to fill openings.

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Christian Garcia is the Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Toppel Career Center at the University of Miami. WLRN asked him what students can do to navigate some of the obstacles — and opportunities. 

RAMOS: Now that we're facing another surge in COVID-19 cases, and given all the upheaval across industries, what is the biggest challenge students are facing now as they look for jobs?

GARCIA: The challenges is the unknown, right? Is there going to be another variant? And if there's another variant, how is this going to affect my ability to find a job? I don't think that finding the job is going to be necessarily the issue. It's going to be: Will it be in-person once you start, once you get that job? Is it going to be virtual for the first few months? Is it going to be in-person but then has to switch to virtual because there's another strain out there that we're not aware of? I think the key is flexibility and being able to adapt and not let all the unknowns get in your head and prevent you from moving forward in your job search.

What are employers looking for nowadays? Have staffing shortages affected what recruiters are looking for now?

By and large, employers are looking for candidates who will grow with them, who they can train but who really are committed to the work they're doing. Because at the end of the day, a company will train you, and should train you, on the actual work. What they cannot train you on is being dependable, being a critical thinker, being a team player — those things you either have it or you don't.

And how have you adjusted your services to changes brought on by the pandemic? 

We had this program called Career Crawls, where we take a group of students to a specific city to meet with companies, sometimes in a specific industry or in a variety of industries. They get to ask questions, they get to meet with alumni in those organizations. Well, obviously with COVID, that's not happening, right? So what we did was we transitioned to online. Before we were limited to about 15 students, [now] we're now increasing access to these kinds of programs, which is great.

How have employers adjusted their workplace culture to fit the realities of the pandemic? 

What the pandemic has helped to do is help open up the minds of these recruiters of these companies because now you're not traveling anywhere. It doesn't affect your budget. Yeah, it's more time, but now you can really cast your net wider to open up your recruiting.

How can students make the most of a virtual interview or working virtually? 

We would still tell students to put themselves in the mindset of it being a professional setting, no matter what. So I don't think that changes. I think when it comes to working remotely. We have folks who live alone who had just moved to this city from another state. So I felt it was our duty to keep them engaged and make sure they knew that we cared about them, that they felt that they understood that they were not alone if they needed anything. So I think that's really important for companies to do. And I think it's important for employees to do the same.

Are there mentors to help me as I begin this journey? There are employer resource groups, so employer resource groups could be based on race, ethnicity, LGBTQ. These kinds of groups really help, especially when you're in this kind of virtual environment because it helps to make that connection.

What advice do you have for those who feel either so much anxiety or hopelessness right now about the job hunt?

The word career comes with a lot of anxiety for anybody — almost everybody, no matter how many years they've been doing this. It's important to understand if you're feeling a lot of anxiety, there's nothing wrong with speaking to a mental health professional about these things. Often career and mental health go really hand-in-hand. And the sooner you can get a handle on that, the better. You want to launch your career in a positive way as much as possible.

There are many jobs out there. Many internships out there. Graduate programs are still accepting students, but you have to focus and not let all of that psych you out to a point where you're not doing anything because you're so worried.

This generation of college students, they're not only going to have multiple jobs, they're most likely going to have multiple careers. So we want to empower them to be able to do this over and over for the rest of their lives.

Alyssa Ramos is a multimedia producer for WLRN’s Morning Edition.