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A Student's Guide to Moving Forward in a Pandemic

Even though the pandemic is still ongoing, you can still set yourself up for a bright future and successful career. Check out one college student's advice!

Whether you’re majoring in Music, Education, Engineering, Chemistry, Business, or any other area, every college student has one thing in common: upon graduation, we’ll be expected to enter the workforce as educated adults. College is a four-year commitment (or more) that costs not only time but money. After investing in ourselves by way of student loans or ongoing indebtedness to our parents, it’s troubling to see and hear about college grads who are having difficulty finding employment in their chosen professions with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It’s hard to imagine having any control over the current situation, especially when many professions are taking serious hits right now, but you do have some control. Let’s talk about how you can be proactive in moving forward during COVID-19.

Reflections heading into senior year of college

So here we are, already in July of 2020. Somehow, I've made it through 15 years of schooling, which means that next month, I’ll finally be a senior in college. And honestly? I am terrified. I study Musical Theatre and Mass Communications at Oklahoma City University. I take plenty of music courses as well as some dance and acting classes. However, this summer’s cancellations have left me not only without training but without performance opportunities. And it’s been hard. It’s especially difficult knowing that the industry I intend to go into has been substantially impacted by the pandemic and may take years to recover.

Graduation is less than a year away, and I have no idea when or if things will be back to normal. It would be incredibly defeating to lose all the progress I’ve made, so I’ve decided to take my training into my own hands—both in performance and in my all-around “adult-ness.” So what can you do right now? Possessing a variety of talents that lie beyond the classroom will not only make you more marketable but more valuable. Here are a few ways I’ve been cultivating my craft and creating an environment I can survive in, and maybe even thrive in, even if my chosen profession is still lying in the ashes of COVID-19 upon graduation. Hopefully, these ideas could really change things around for you too if you’re in the same boat. 

Related: Reflections From a 2020 High School Senior

Utilize online resources

People have taken the internet by storm providing classes and information for people across the globe. Be it Facebook, YouTube, or online courses you can register for, you can find anything ranging from dance classes or guided meditation to how to hang wallpaper or create a custom-built koi pond. The mental and physical aspects of our lives provide the baseline of our best selves when you take the time to learn by observing others. Using the internet to connect with individuals who are dedicated to their craft is a great way to still safely expand your horizons during these stressful times.

Expand your special skills

Try learning American Sign Language (ASL), or any other new language for that matter. Spanish speakers are always in demand, and knowing the language can help open future doors. Or if language learning isn’t for you, you could brush up on current and/or historical events, try yoga, or learn to play an instrument. Being versatile is key. But there’s one more special skill that many college-aged students often overlook: learning how to cook. Eventually everyone will need to learn the basics of meal making—or face the reality of fast food and frozen dinners as their predominant source of nutrition. The health repercussions associated with that by itself are reason enough to learn. Having a variety of specialized skills makes you more adaptable for any profession if your dream job isn’t quite within reach after graduation.

Related: The Top 10 Hard and Soft Skills All Employers Want

Start saving money for later

Saving money is just paying yourself later. If you’ve received any reimbursements from your university for the spring 2020 semester, put that money away. Save it for after graduation, because that’s money you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Start a budget planner to track how much money you’re actually saving on a regular basis rather than spending your paycheck right after you get it. I went as far as signing up for my first credit card to start building credit. It originally sounded like something you worry about in the future when you’re out of school, but now that I’m actually saving and tracking my spending, I feel a lot better about what life is going to look like after the pandemic.

Clean up your online presence and create your brand

If you’re anything like me, you’ve had the same Instagram account since middle school, which means you’ve probably got some cringey content tied to your name. Work on cleaning up your social media, specifically old photos and posts that are embarrassing or not very professional. If you feel so inclined, make a professional Instagram or a LinkedIn page—and keep your personal pages locked and private for friends and family only. Your social media should reflect only what you want to world to see. That doesn’t mean stop posting about things you’re passionate about; it just means you should make your online presence something that you’re proud of. Your future boss will check your social media, so why not make a positive impression?

Read more and read everything

Whether you’re a science-fiction buff, romance novel devourer, or cookbook fan, reading always provides temporary escapism and mind stimulation. Reading keeps your mind open and sharp to new ideas and thoughts—and could lead to some surprising personal growth and insight. As reading is slowly becoming a lost art, take a trip to the public library (when it opens) or order a couple of recommended titles online. You may find it to be quite an inspiring experience!

Related: 5 Great Book Recommendations for Social Distancing

None of us are perfect. There’s always an aspect in our arsenal of life tools that could use a little work. But if you put in the effort, those skills can be taken to the next level. Now that there’s time to grow, it’s imperative to identify what you want to progress in—and just do it. It’s important to always remain in motion. The work is never finished, and that’s part of the fun!

For more helpful advice on navigating this new world, check out our COVID-19 student resources page.

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About Jessica Vanek

Jessica Vanek

Jessica Vanek recently graduated from Oklahoma City University as a Musical Theatre major with a minor in Mass Communications. She's also attending Oklahoma City University for graduate school, where she will pursue her Master of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership/Arts Administration.


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