5 Tips and Takeaways for Job Searching in the Time of COVID-19


April was supposed to be my time. As someone who had decided to pursue a future career in policy and public sector jobs, I always knew that I wasn’t likely to start getting traction on the job front until late in the Spring semester of my senior year. For those of you who don’t know, for your average policy job, most seniors don’t get hired until April, May, or even later. I was already nervous about getting a job before graduation, and a global pandemic during the time I anticipated to search most definitely didn’t help.

I’m lucky enough to have landed a job during quarantine, but know that many of my peers hoping to go into similar fields will be less fortunate. I’m therefore writing this blog post for you, my fellow class of 2020 policy people. While I’m sure there are people in other fields who are in a similar predicament, I’m mostly writing this from my own experience. Either way, I hope that this advice is still helpful to all of you, as well.

The job search is already stressful when you’re not locked indoors and struggling with the fear and distress of a global pandemic. While it’s completely possible, probable even, that you won’t get hired before graduation (and that’s okay!), there are definitely some steps you can take to make the job search more productive during this time.

  1. Do your research!

There are an abundance of resources out there specifically for policy, NGO, government, and similar jobs. Set daily or weekly alerts on CareerConnections, and if you’re a Public Policy student, through Sanford’s career site. There’s also Idealist, Devex (great for international development jobs), Indeed, Daybook, and even LinkedIn. Use these sites to research different organizations or companies and make a list of places to keep your eye on. If I find a posting I’m interested in, I’ll often cross-list it with the Duke Alumni Networking Group or Duke University page on LinkedIn to see if any Dukies are there I can connect with.

  1. Use this time to build connections with people.

One of the perks to everyone working from home is that people are spending a lot of time in front of their computers right now. Definitely take advantage of this time to fire off some networking emails or LinkedIn messages to people who work at places you’re interested in. You undoubtedly have more free time now, so might as well use it to hold some informational interviews and build your network.

  1. Just because somewhere has a hiring freeze doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply.

It’s not a secret that a lot of places, and I mean, a lot, have hiring freezes right now. If you’ve been firing off cover letters day after day and still haven’t heard back from anywhere, it’s safe to assume that the reason may be because the company or organization has paused hiring processes for the time being. It is absolutely frustrating not knowing the reason for a lack of response--trust me, I know--but don’t let that defer you from continuing to send in applications. The world will resume eventually and those places will need to fill those posted positions at some point. If you’re connected with someone who works there, definitely ask how COVID-19 is affecting their hiring processes. They’ll probably be able to give you some insight into whether you can expect to hear back soon or not.

  1. Consider looking into summer jobs or internships.

I know, none of us want to accept a two-month gig that will leave us back at square one come August. Traditionally, summer is a big-hiring time for DC or policy jobs but it’s unclear now when hiring freezes will be lifted. Even pre-coronavirus, I know a lot of young alums who accepted summer internships in DC post-grad and then found full-time jobs in the fall. Most internships will be remote, too, so if you can land one it could be a great opportunity to build your resume, maybe make some money, and continue building your network and applying to full-time positions. If you’re not going to find a job now, which again, is okay, then using the summer to stay busy and proactive is definitely a great idea.

  1. Last but not least, stay positive and know you’re not alone!

I really mean this. It is so hard not to get discouraged during this process when there are so many unknowns. At the end of the day, though, you are one of many, many who are experiencing this. And frankly, you are better off than many other graduating seniors worldwide because regardless of everything, you are still entering the job market with a degree from Duke University. You will get a job eventually, even if the timeline is a bit different than what you originally expected.

And remember, you have access to the Career Center and all its resources for up to a year after graduation. Definitely take advantage of Duke and its resources while you can!

Here’s to you, Class of 2020. Congratulations, and keep your head high.