Courtesy of Malati Powell
2020 seniors are graduating into possibly the most unprecedented times since the Great Depression. With the job market crashed, unemployment rates soaring and businesses around the world shuttered until further notice, this year’s graduates may be discouraged and looking for any advice they can get in navigating the new realm of adulthood.
Many EWU alumni have reached out to give advice and tips for these 2020 graduates. Vin Vu, graduate of 1986, offered some advice to engineering graduates.
“Learn to be good at a few things first … [and] be really good at [them],” said Vu. “This is how you build up your visibility and credibility. It is impossible to be master of everything, especially just starting out.”
However, Vu stressed that having a degree is not an entitlement to a successful career.
“[I] hate to say this but you are NOT special,” said Vu. “Celebrate your achievement, but don’t depend on it as a sole source of success. What else can you bring to the table? Learn how to be a team member; learn how to effectively collaborate and [be] an individual contributor.”
Stacy Rasmussen, a 2003 alumni who graduated with a communications degree, talked about how important networking is for students in a broad major like communications.
“Make connections with anyone and everyone,” said Rasmussen. “My favorite jobs have been the ones I got because of who I knew, not my skill set — although having my skill set was required.”
Rasmussen said it may be useful for graduates to take this time to broaden their knowledge of specific interests within their major.
“If you took additional courses that seem to be in an area of emphasis, highlight that,” said Rasmussen. “If not, I encourage you to narrow your focus to a specific industry or topic.”
Vu also said that graduates should continue learning about their major during the pandemic, even if they can’t immediately find a job.
“Keep on learning,” said Vu. “A lot of higher-ed institutions [are] offering free online courses. Continue to add to your toolbelt and give yourself an edge.”
Both Vu and Rasmussen advised students to not be afraid to take on difficult jobs, even if they aren’t completely sure what they’re doing at the beginning.
Learning to be okay with saying, “I don’t know,” but following that thought up with, “This is what I am going to do to find out,” is something Vu said will be very beneficial for graduates.
“It is okay to fail,” said Vu. “[The] ‘fail fast; therefore, learn fast,’ mentality is encouraged. Just don’t make the same mistakes over and over again.”
“To get ahead, you have to put in the work,” said Rasmussen. “Take initiative on projects; anticipate what employers are seeking and be prepared for the challenge.”
Ron Valencia, who graduated with a degree in government and is now a governmental and constituent officer for the Spokane County Commissioner’s Office, stressed how remarkable the Spokane area is for graduates to find a job in the mess of the pandemic.
“Keep hope and stay in Spokane,” said Valencia. “Spokane is an amazing place. There are plenty of job opportunities and [the] cost of living is cheaper than most places in the region. Spokane was in [the] top 10 jobs and housing market before COVID.”
Valencia offered some advice specific to graduates with government-related majors. According to Valencia, within the next five years, the government is expected to lose approximately 40% or more of its workforce due to the baby-boom generation retiring. Valencia suggested that graduates take this time to get their foot in the door of their career and wait, because their dream job could open up at any time.
Rasmussen also said graduates should not turn down jobs they are offered simply because those jobs aren’t exactly what they’re looking for. With most of the world still under lockdown, many graduates’ dream jobs may not be available for months.
“There are many industries that are still thriving in this economy,” said Rasmussen. “The jobs in them may not be what you thought your career would look like, but if you are willing to branch out a bit, you might find they suit you. Think outside the box!”