Zareen Wajid, Talent Acquisition Specialist
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If you haven’t heard by now, the United States recently diagnosed its first Ebola patient. It has been a couple of weeks now, but the topic is still very much new. Of course, there have been challenges containing the Ebola virus worldwide, but there have also been plenty of lessons learned. Before I dive into the lessons learned, let’s take a moment to list the various crisis management aspects that have surrounded this horrendous virus.

    1. Sudden fear and panic
    2. Limited knowledge of the virus
    3. Lack of resources to combat the virus
    4. Lots of pointing fingers, negativity, and the blame game
    5. Slow response to understand the virus and situation

Interestingly, new graduates face similar crisis management aspects surrounding their career search prospects.

Now, to be fair, the sudden fear and panic can set in at any time in the job search process. Obviously, it can set in the moment you realize you are graduating with no job prospects. It can also set in 10 minutes before your very-very-very important interview to your number-one dream job. Not to mention, it can set in when you don’t get an offer for your fallback job as well. The point here is to be prepared. Be prepared to graduate. Be prepared to interview. Be prepared to be rejected (and to move forward). Of course, you cannot predict everything, but preparation will help you calm your nerves, focus logically on the situation at hand, and help you take next steps wisely.

A friend recently reminded me that everything is 20/20 in hindsight. Looking back, I can see how easily avoidable my mistakes could have been. I can see the perfect (and straightest) career progression ladder. I can see the positive vs. the not-so-positive consequences of my decisions. Well, I can’t “see”, but rather, I know. Anyway, I am not saying you can be knowledgeable of everything now. You can’t. You can, however, obtain more knowledge about your major, about the job outlook, about companies, etc. For example, did you know that AirBnB is really particular on hiring those that are active on their site? Knowing stuff like this can really help you stand out and land a job. Don’t be afraid to learn (and learn continuously even after you get a job).

Now, the lack of resources is …you will see. Yes, it’s true, bachelor prepared graduates are a dime a dozen. It’s great you spent 100K and many sleepless nights over a piece of paper, but really, you need a way to stand out. You need to be impressive, network, and get your foot in the door. I apologize- your degree is highly valued. But, so is your personality and passion. Is your resource Career Fairs, Networking Career Events, Connections with Family and Friends, Advisors from your Student Organizations, College Career Services, Professors, etc? Figure out what works for you (personality/passion), and then, utilize those resources. Also, don’t be discouraged by the catch-22. Okay, maybe you don’t have the technical #-of-years type of experience, but you do have a lot to offer. You just have to figure out a way for your offer to be heard.

Ahh.. the blame game. The time for “he said, she said” is long gone. The time for accepting your current predicament is here. For example, most companies do not reject applicants solely based on a low GPA. If granted an interview and you are asked about your GPA, don’t panic. Answer truthfully. Did your GPA increase as your partying decreased? Did you discover a major that actually meshed with what you wanted to do in life? Did you work 40 hours/week to pay for college? Another example, you have a marketing major, but you never undertook marketing internships or apprenticeships. How do you explicate your qualifications? Maybe through organizations you were a part of, maybe through video editing or drawing, or through marketing software classes. Don’t blame other aspects, and please, don’t be the Grumpy dwarf. Accept what is happening, but focus on the big picture: getting a job.

Don’t wait to start your career search! Slow responsiveness is not something any company is looking for, so why bother practicing? There are opportunities to avail an internship from Freshman year. There are opportunities to seek a mentor and gain guidance prior to Freshman year. Really, there is no excuse for a slow response to understanding the competitive job market. None. Zilch. Aside from the obvious motives, another reason you can’t afford to be a slow responder is because industries and jobs are constantly evolving. And, you must evolve with them. Be proactive in your networking. Be proactive in your application submissions. Be proactive in your interviewing technique. Be proactive in your job security.

Unfortunately, crisis management is a part of life. Every once in a while, it likes to drop by to say hello. Essentially, this is the lesson that can be learned from the first Ebola diagnosis, which refocused on the big picture: containment and treatment. When you are in college and things seem to be moving 180 mph, you too can take a second to step back and refocus on the big picture: getting a job.