Job searching in the age of COVID-19

Stanford students and postdocs navigating the current job and internship markets might consider these tips and resources from BEAM, Stanford’s career education center.

For Stanford students and postdoctoral scholars, launching a career or finding employment during these challenging times might seem like a daunting task. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many sectors of the global economy, leading to doubt and uncertainty.

BEAM – Stanford’s career education center – can help. BEAM staff members Arame Mbodj, Ashley Eberle, Bill McIndoo, Kathleen Cassidy, Laura Dominguez Chan, Margot Gilliland, Nicole Matsuo, and Urmila Venkatesh answer pressing questions about the current job and internship market and share advice and resources to help students and postdocs refine their job search and land opportunities in these uncertain times.


Are employers hiring right now?

Yes! Although it may seem like all hiring has come to a screeching halt, there are organizations that are actively recruiting.


What does the job market look like right now?

The job market has been impacted by the pandemic. While many employers are actively recruiting for full-time, part-time and internship positions, overall job postings are down significantly as compared to 2019. The total number of full-time jobs posted to Handshake in May 2020 fell 45 percent from May 2019. A number of employers have canceled their internship programs, while others have shortened them and/or moved to a virtual format.

Additionally, while many employers are honoring their full-time job offers, even well-positioned large firms have, in many cases, pushed back start dates.


Can you share advice for job searching during these challenging times?

First, when applying for jobs, focus on telling your compelling story through your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. Your resume is all about your past performance, and your cover letter is about your future potential; both should tell a story that’s relevant to the job for which you’re applying. Your LinkedIn profile is about your present professional brand – how you want to be seen as a professional right now. It’s a great place to give employers a full picture of your professional experience and add evidence of your work, like presentations, papers, code or photos.

Second, be flexible. Your career path may not look like how you expected, but there are multiple paths to get from Stanford to careers that interest you. This might mean taking a non-traditional path, such as exploring a secondary career interest for a while, taking an entry-level job to explore a company that interests you, pitching a new position to an organization that interests you, starting your own business or taking multiple part-time jobs instead of one full-time job.

Last, remember that you’re actually looking for a person to hire you, so building professional relationships is key. Use LinkedIn and Stanford Alumni Mentoring to find employers or alumni who work in industries that interest you. Start by asking for an informational interview to learn more about the field and get an insider’s perspective.


What are some resources that can help with my job or internship search?

Each team at BEAM creates opportunities to help students refine their search and improve their chances of landing a job:

  • The Integrative Learning Portfolio Lab is a cross-campus collaboration housed at BEAM that offers courses and workshops to help students and postdocs define and refine their digital presence. Students learn to communicate their identity and most meaningful experiences on and offline, in their own words.
  • BEAM Career Educators have written more than 100 articles on Handshake about many career topics, like constructing resumes and cover letters, interviewing, searching for jobs during economic disruption and many others.
  • BEAM is offering two summer programs to support students with building skills, connecting with alumni and peers, and gaining experience. BEAM Boot Camp is a six-week program open to all students, and FLI Summer Connections is a seven-week program for first-generation and/or low-income students.
  • BEAM’s “What’s Next?” service connects students and researchers with career educators who answer questions, provide career coaching and connect graduating students with resources, alumni and employment opportunities. Beginning June 12, students can find the “What’s Next?” section on BEAM’s website to communicate their interest and career-related needs. The service will be open to all graduating undergrads and grad students, as well as postdocs.


I’m an international student. What should I know about job searching right now?

International students who are considering going home should assess the risk level for the country in question and the impact it may have on them based on the federal travel bans.

With COVID-19 prompting many employers to change their traditional internship programs and hiring, international students can consider asking employers for virtual internship options if their opportunities have dissipated. Students might consider taking advantage of this time by creating their own opportunities and personal projects to work on skill building that will better align them with their intended careers.


Is work authorization for international students on hold during the pandemic?

Work authorization has not paused. In most cases, if an international student decides to stay in the United States for their internship, they should plan to apply for curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT) through Bechtel International Center. Unfortunately for graduating international students, they cannot currently apply for OPT unless they are physically in the United States. In that case, we encourage international students to connect with alumni from their home country to learn about career areas of interest and explore local opportunities.

We also encourage international students both abroad and in the United States to connect with the Stanford alumni community through platforms such as Stanford Alumni Mentoring if they are still searching for positions; opportunities can often be obtained through connecting with your network.

Additionally, we plan to continue providing international community drop-in coaching hours throughout the summer to ensure that we serve this community through this difficult time and support them in navigating any career-related issues that may arise.