By Lloyd Harris | May 6, 2020.
For most 2020 I.T and computer science graduates, receiving an array of congratulatory messages from friends and families is a dream come true. As a 2020 computer science graduate, I am proud to extend my personal congratulations to all!!. We’ve earned it. This was no walk in the park!. With the classroom in our rearview, our new challenge has now become, breaking through the COVID19 job market. Howbeit, the hard fact remains; how does a new IT graduate break-through in an economy that is already losing jobs, cutting wages, and clearly experiencing a peak in unemployment claims?
Expectations vs reality
It is no secret new graduates (I.T and Computer Science), generally have high hopes and expectations. Like our predecessors, college and university career advisors constantly remind us of the glamorous job market with its endless silver-lining opportunities. We are repeatedly reminded how our chosen majors are generally well sought after by employers, and how we are in short supply to fill the market needs. To a large extent, these are true and valid expectations. After all, who wouldn’t want a dream job that pays high wages and provides advancement opportunities?
Here’s the thing, you are probably better off setting a more realistic expectation. while the basis upon which these expectations were set are valid and well-grounded considering the hard work and sacrifices, the stark reality of the COVID19 curse has forced businesses to pump the brakes on increasing IT spending. Current ADP data reported by CNBC is showing a 20.2 million pay drop for April. The kiss of death (aka COVID19 virus) has not only proven to be fatal, but has also cast a spell on the economy.
What is this COVID19 Curse?
As if it wasn’t hard enough to compete with experienced professionals in the IT industry, COVID19 has made it even more challenging for new graduates to score an interview or land an internship. As an avid consumer of daily posts on sites like Blind, Reddit, and Quora, it is heart-wrenching to read a countless number stories that tell of experiences from veteran software engineers and other I.T professionals on abrupt layoffs, interview cancellations, and pulled offers. Even more concerning, is how this is turning out to be a new norm.
One of the feedback that stands out for me is how hiring agencies are ghosting prospective employees after the first, second, and in some instances third face-to-face interviews. The negative and longterm impact on a “ghosted” job seeker cannot be overstated. Understandably, employers cannot be blamed for the pandemic. However, maintaining communication and level setting a job seeker on outcomes goes a long way in establishing trust and instilling hope.
COVID19 has indeed landed a blow to everyone fresh out of college. It is a known fact that gaps in employment history reflects negatively on prospective employees. Coming out of college at this time and not landing a job, internship, or even an opportunity to volunteer at an agency puts a real dent in the success factor that could lead to better future jobs, and ultimately prepare a new graduate to face life’s challenges. Dreams of paying off hefty student loans, building a family, buying a home, or even building a financial nest for the future seem far fetched.
The COVID19 Blessing
“There are two sides to a coin”, is a phrase I find both refreshing and full of hope. There is no dead-end (at least for now and the foreseeable future), when it comes to a career in technology. I have already covered a bit of this topic in my “Who is an Information Technology Help Desk Technician”, article.
None can deny that the COVID19 pandemic accounts for closure of major operations by business entities. Nevertheless, the need for continuity of essential business functions has necessitated that entities employ frontline personnel to keep their intrinsic operations afloat. Moreover, short term projects and initiatives undertaken by federal and private institutions to fight the disease are creating temp roles. Evidently, most of these roles are hard to fill because tenured employees are most likely to accept a furlough option than take a pay cut (and lose job security), by applying to new entry-level jobs. This, my friend is what I call, the COVID19 blessings.
The limited participation of experienced engineers and professionals in the entry-level job market presents a perfect opportunity for new I.T Graduates. Talk about getting one’s foot in the door!. I have outlined below, ways an I.T graduate can take advantage of new opportunities while planning next moves.
- Keep It Real. Let’s face it, unless you are a genius with a finished patented idea or product and ready to roll out with a startup, you should go for the low hanging fruits to get your foot in the door. Sounds crazy right? “What the heck would I want to go for a low hanging fruit with my prestigious degree?”. Here’s my answer: Because your degree does not convert into work experience unless you are given an opportunity to prove yourself. Low hanging fruit jobs (aka entry-level positions) offer tremendous ladder opportunities for new graduates.
- Don’t Settle For Degrees Titled Jobs Only. This, perhaps, is my favorite job advice. Allow me to enlighten you. Having an IT degree does not convert into being an expert. As a side note, if you are finding yourself sufficiently educated and having no need to further your skillset, you are probably in the wrong career. A career in I.T is not for the faint of heart. I digress. In many cases (with few exceptions), I.T jobs with degree requirements assume that a candidate has some form of tenured experience and will hit the ground running. More like, working independently as opposed to being mentored. Don’t take my word for it. Review, say ten different jobs with “entry-level ” titles online, and read the “requirement” sections. Crazy right? How in the world am I supposed to apply for an “entry-level software engineering” job but need 2–5 years of Java & C++ experience? You can either kid yourself and keep applying to these roles, or pick a job role that aligns with your skillset.
- Don’t loathe the Help Desk Technician jobs. In support of pointer #2, a vast majority of help desk titled job likely account for 50% of job openings. These are jobs that are happy to welcome new graduates and will give you a chance to prove your self. Most new graduates have gone from being an entry-level help desk technician to senior-level positions within 6–9 months of accepting an entry-level job. This is especially true for someone with a strong I.T or computer science background. The secret is to go for gold by first landing on the gold mine.
No doubt, the startling new realities for job seekers warrants immediate adjustments. The time is now for all new graduates to assess individual abilities and make the right move. Sadly, some will fail, probably get depressed and hate I.T for the rest of their lives, while others will weather the storm, go through and do what has to be done. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
To conclude, it is such a relief being able to finally binge-watch (G.O.T “Game of Thrones) and every other Netflix season shows on my bucket list. Those sleepless nights of writing computer codes, prepping for exams while juggling between work and family are now in my rear mirror. Congratulations and best of luck to all 2020 I.T graduates.!
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