The Struggle of the Senior Job Search

If you’re a senior this year and looking for a job, you know how frustrating and time consuming it can be. You probably thought that you'd know exactly how to look for and get your first job out of school. But now, being in circumstances we’ve never been in before, the job search can seem hopeless. Especially with interviews and events still being virtual, it’s a lot harder to make those vital connections. If this sounds like you, don’t worry because you’re not the only one. I can’t help but wonder, do we need a new strategy?

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I’m a senior in engineering and I’ve been on this search all year. My degree is very valuable and will continue to be. It’s not that there aren’t enough jobs out there, but applications can be time consuming. I've attended career fairs, resume reviews, company info sessions, you name it. I hoped it would make it a lot easier to get a job by now. Since I am also the Secretary of AIChE, our professional chemical engineering chapter, and a member of SWE, there were conferences we went to. I gained such valuable connections at these previously in-person events. Without that face-to-face aspect, the connections felt weak and opportunities are uncertain.

It seems like online applications get sent into the void, never to be seen by an actual person or a recruiter. The number of no-responses us students get is shocking. Do we still believe that simply applying online works? I’m convinced that unless you have internal referrals or something, it’s a straight shot in the dark. Speaking of internal referrals, half of what I do is message people on LinkedIn or reach far out to my family connections. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with others, especially with features like filtering through employees, companies, and universities. I have made some great connections and gotten advice through messaging, but it hasn’t helped with the actual job part yet. I haven’t had luck with the family connections either. The other day, I found myself at the end of an email chain with my mom’s client’s ex-husband’s coworker’s boss. I was trying to figure out how to get someone five people down the line to make a referral without asking for a referral. What is the best move?

I’ve also had many interviews for internships over the past few years. All have been in-person and I thought they went very well. Even for the ones where I didn’t get the internship, I still felt confident in my responses and how I demonstrated myself. I had one full-time job interview in fall, and of course it was on Zoom. It was bad. If I’m not basically bragging about myself and why I’ll be the best engineer (respectively,) then I probably did not do my best. That’s how that interview went. If you’re like me and you thrive by being out and about, being at home and speaking to a device about why you want to work for them can be hard. I’m more nervous and I feel like it's difficult to present myself through the screen.

Between virtual events, hiring freezes, and questionable online applications, it’s hard to know the best way to go about getting a job. With different circumstances will come different ways. With many of our strategies previously being face-to-face human interaction, what works second best? As one of my professors said, "it’s not time to panic, yet." With a few more months left until graduation, maybe one of the shots in the dark will hit the bullseye.