I Just Graduated College During a Pandemic, Now What? (Part 2 of 3)

As I sit at my childhood desk with my family’s dog on my lap while I type, I have a heavy heart. My last semester of my senior year ended without graduation, without saying so long to my professors, without the last drinks at my favourite college bar, without the last good-byes, without the last spring break trip to Mexico and without soaking up the last moments with my best friends. My last semester of my senior year ended with an email notifying students that Syracuse University would not return after their initial period of online classes.

As the entire world is flipped upside down from Coronavirus, I try not to feel sorry for myself. I try to remember that I am of the demographic that is most likely to survive COVID-19 that’s sweeping the world. I remind myself that fortunately since I work remotely, I can still get paychecks, unlike many people who have been forced to close their doors during this period of quarantine and social distancing. I have access to healthcare and broadband Internet. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t text my friends, also recent graduates, multiple times a day reminiscing and commiserating together that basically our lives as we know it are over. 

job ready

Although I knew to move on from Syracuse would signify the end of my college life, I was excited about what lay ahead after graduation. I knew I had April and May, basically, 8 weeks for celebrating graduating seniors. I knew after April and May, with many memories made, I would be ready to leave Syracuse University as a proud alumna. 

I would squeeze the last drop out of my internship, my career services, the technology and software, and the opportunities on campus. I feel like I’ve been robbed of the pinnacle of my college experience. Essentially, as I sit at my childhood desk, I realize this is where I’ll be until I get a full-time job. 

As I attempt to shut my pity party down and try to be productive during this looming, undefined stay-at-home order, I realize this affords me time to rework my resume, add to my website, edit videos and everything else that has been written on my to-do list. Now, I have more time than I could ever want to bulk up my portfolio. In today’s digital age, I can send my resume to my career counsellor in a blink and take her corrections. As I described my networking roots in part 1 of this reflective series, I get back to making and strengthening professional connections. I can message networking connections on LinkedIn and maybe even give some potential prospects a phone call. I can update my networking spreadsheet, changing all of the dates in the ‘last contacted’ column to today. I can make my application fresh and exciting, packaged with a bow. And I better. Because it looks like I am graduating into a recession.

Economic experts forecast our economy only to get worse during this time of uncertainty and focused attention on Coronavirus. I always thought it was interesting how every graduate of 2008 always mentioned ‘the Recession.’ It was like a badge of honour declaring that they made it through such a turbulent time and eventually found a job. Now, I will be of the next generation to say yes, I graduated in 2020. Yes, I did finish my final semester with online classes. No, I didn’t walk at graduation in May as planned. Yes, I did get my senior year taken away. And yes, I did graduate into one of the worst global crises that we can remember. 

As I mentioned before, I am fortunate that I can work remotely. I am a young American writing for an Australian-based online learning organisation. Just like this pandemic, our workforce is globalised. I can work from the safety of my own home.

The skills of the future working world stress creative problem solving and the use of technology. Coronavirus has taught me that flexibility and efficient communication are of the utmost importance for working remotely. Typical meetings become emails or Skypes, projects morph into a feasible idea given the conditions. Collaborations now come from a living room or personal study room but ideas can be sent and voiced across the world with the luxury of some WiFi and capable technology. 

For Leaders of Evolution, my writing will continue on with the same workflow before COVID-19, using technology and remote connection to integrate my work across the world to Australia. Beginning this spring, I took on a new role at LoE as talent for a leadership course, planned to be shot in studio at Syracuse University’s student-run TV station. But the show must go on and this quickly changed to a Skype interview in my study with my laptop propped up by a few thick books and a gaming system headset that had a microphone. Although much less glamorous, we must still deliver results during a crisis. 

Reflecting on my previous leadership experiences for this course, I am reminded of my potential for future development, as I am just beginning my professional life. While I work amidst Coronavirus social distancing protocols and stay-at-home orders, particular skills are being tested and further developed. Self-awareness has become all the more important during this time. My actions consequently affect those around me. Staying at home and social distancing are perfect examples of self-awareness. I aim to transition this growth into my leadership abilities, being aware of how I make direct impacts on the people around me. 

Leadership during remote work has manifested to taking charge of my own will, my own decisions and actions because that is all I can control right now. I can only prepare for the uncontrollable and do my part to show up every day. In my own personal experience, the uncertainty and feeling of helplessness in the face of Coronavirus has pushed me to take ownership of what I can control. I can actively decide each day to be a leader from my own home in terms of the content I produce. 

I do admit working from home requires a certain self-motivation. Taking initiative from the comfort of my own home, I write, post, email, collaborate and fortunate for me, I still tell the stories of others even while we are hundreds of miles apart. Coronavirus has presented its many challenges, but this pandemic has shown just how resilient we can be as humans, fighting through the face of a crisis with great emotional intelligence, making the best of the situation. Coronavirus has also highlighted the importance of being empathic. My gratitude for my privilege in this world has been re-inspired and I would like to thank all of the health care workers risking their lives to combat COVID-19. 

If you’re in high school, recently graduate university or a c-suit executive I would love to continue the conversation, please comment below or contact me via our Leaders of Evolution platforms. 

You can also connect with me via LinkedIn

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Leaders of Evolution are passionate about education. We expertly design and deliver technology enhanced e-learning courses focused on leadership, social and emotional learning, career readiness and sports coaching for students, teachers, athletes, coaches and the wider community.

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Emma Henzes

Enjoys telling stories through digital media and loves to travel trying the local food. While she is out of her athletic prime, Emma still loves to stay in shape and watch live sporting events with her family and friends. If you can’t find her at her laptop working for Leaders of Evolution, she’s probably at the beach.

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