The year 2020 changed, well, just about everything for recent grads—pretty drastically.

  • Coronavirus invaded the world, causing millions to become sick.
  • Remote work became not just popular, but actually necessary in many industries.
  • Mass unemployment plagued the US in record numbers.

But 2020 also forced us to connect, value, and job search differently. It opened up employers’ eyes to the value brought to the table by remote workers as well as online education and students. Thinking outside of the box became necessary in order for businesses to survive, and career services professionals recognize that.

Below, we’ll highlight the advice they shared in our Careers Panel. That includes how these career services professionals are helping their students land internships and jobs, trends they are seeing from 2020 and beyond, and insights on how to navigate these volatile times as someone entering the workforce.

Utilize Job Search Tools

Doing things the way they’ve always been done is simply not going to cut it anymore, according to our career services pros. Because 2020 changed the job search game, you need to approach the new board (workforce) strategically. 

Drew Poppleton is the Director of Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education for Case Western University. He said he’s seeing more employers proactively take to tools such as Handshake and LinkedIn to reach out to students.

“So they’re taking the offensive a little bit more, and so we’re trying to tell students you have to be prepared for that,” Poppleton said. “Have your profile updated, be in that space, be found, be attractive to employers—which isn’t new information. I just think it’s increasingly prevalent right now.” 

Other tools the pros are using more? They said students are finding success with Jobscan in their job search. And who hasn’t been on a Zoom call this year? Zoom, well, zoomed right onto our computer screens and shows no signs of fading into the background.


Networking has always been important. The more people you know, the more knowledge and opportunities you can access.

But with the workforce being in such a unique place right now—with some major industries at just 10 percent capacity—networking is absolutely essential in 2021. 

Tom Larsen is the Director of the Executive MBA Career and Leadership Development at UCLA’s Anderson School of Business. He said you need to take advantage of networking opportunities even if—especially if—you are struggling to find a position.

“You’re learning something, you’re building your brand, you’re out there, you’re learning life skills,” Larsen said. “If [students] are thinking about a career transition, we tell them, ‘Don’t hold back.’ This is a time to lay down the groundwork. But don’t expect it to happen right now. And so it’s setting expectations. It might happen, it might not. Keep with the networking, keep with the branding, really focus and keep going forward.”

The professionals recommend contacting your school’s career services office, actively reaching out to alumni, setting up virtual coffee meetups, and focusing on laying down the groundwork for your career, such as building your brand.

Manage Expectations

It’s never fun being told to manage expectations, but the balancing act of remaining realistic and ambitious will keep your job search on track, especially in 2021.

“If you’re an aerospace and mechanical engineer, and you have your heart set on starting your career in the aerospace industry, well, check it out. I mean a lot of the major aerospace employers we’re talking to are working at 10 percent capacity,” Poppelton said. “So, that’s not to say you can never be an aerospace engineer, but at this moment in time, maybe you draw more on your mechanical engineering experience and maybe focus on a surrounding industry that could set you up for future success in aerospace. But not paying attention to the market is not going to help you out.”

He recommends extensive research on the market you are entering and expanding your career search. You might not land the exact job you want immediately, but you need to prioritize experience over that “perfect job.” And additional education can only help those who are seeking their first opportunity.

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