Skip links


Navigating the New Normal: A Student’s Guide to Job Searching

Published on June 22, 2020, at 9:40 a.m.
by Myreete Wolford, Manager, Business Development, Ketchum.

Of course, the world has experienced turmoil before, but we’ve never quite experienced a pandemic to this degree. It’s hard to predict what the future will look like — even many months in — but we do know one thing: The world needs communications. It needs clarity, truth, direction, updates and tangible ways forward. As communication consultants, we are here to support that kind of rebounding and rebuilding for our clients. This industry is necessary to developing the “new or next normal”; however, that does not necessarily keep budgets from being cut and uncertainty from developing.

Photo by Andrew Neel via

COVID-19 is changing every aspect of our lives — especially in the job search. All across the business landscape, fellowships and internships have been postponed, been canceled or become virtual, bringing college seniors and juniors back to the drawing board. On behalf of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, here is some advice and perspective that might help job-searching students in the next few months.

Consider the following:
Take a big picture look. General Electric, General Motors, IMB, Disney, HP, Hyatt, Trader Joe’s, FedEx, WhatsApp, Venmo, Groupon, Instagram, Uber, Pinterest, Slack, Square … all were founded during the recession. Take a step back and see opportunity: What will you build? What can you make of this moment?

Understand the lay of the land. Learn market trends and impact. Focus on industries that are growing — Technology, Gaming, Agriculture, Health Services, Cannabis. Track the 2020 programming of your prospective employers, watch their reopening plans and time outreach accordingly.

Network proactively. Reach out to pros when you read a smart article, dig into The Plank Center’s resources, send a note when someone speaks to your class, tweet at a future employer to join their conversation, ask someone inspiring for an informational interview. Keep existing relationships warm and build your network — help them remember you when internships open back up.

Flex your creativity. A third of the younger workforce has been laid off or furloughed, and the rest is working at 150% — people need support. With discretion, offer research for smaller firms, do the marketing for a small business to help them get back up on their feet, build your portfolio by learning a new skill. Be productive, work hard, crush every task given, and think outside of the box.

More than anything, take care of yourself. Take a moment to breathe, be proud of where you are at today and celebrate that! This is a tough moment, but you will get through it. Be filled with empathy and intelligence. Keep structure and focus on your pre-COVID mission. Life after COVID-19 will not return as it was once, so consider this time an incredible case study of resilience.

Just like you don’t need to walk a physical stage to graduate, you don’t need the traditional internship nor job to succeed. You might not like the present, but where you’re going is what matters. The Plank Center’s Emerging Leaders Committee is proud of you and all you are doing to move our industry forward. Keep up that hard work!

The Plank Center’s Emerging Leaders Committee serves as the liaison between the Center and those in the first several stages of their careers. Members are ambassadors of The Plank Center in their workplaces and embody all that Betsy Plank held dear. This select team of young professionals offers diverse insights to the Center, while creatively building bridges that help new practitioners become successful leaders.

Return to top of page