High Point University

Trials of job hunting in the COVID-19 world

By Nicholas Bainbridge

News Editor


COVID-19 heavily impacted society, causing mask and social-distancing requirements and various institutions closing. Additionally, many businesses closed due to health and safety concerns. 

The financial strain COVID-19 has placed on the country, especially small businesses, cannot be understated. Many people lost their jobs, due to the conditions created by the virus and other factors. The quarantine put large segments of the population out of work. 

As the country adapts to the situation, businesses are learning to operate differently, and people are returning to the workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate that had spiked substantially in the early months of COVID-19 is now in decline. 

“In August, the unemployment rate declined by 1.8 percentage points to 8.4%, and the number of unemployed persons fell by 2.8 million to 13.6 million,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics August 2020 report read. 

While things are improving, compared to how they were in May, the economic situation has hardly returned to normal. For those seeking employment, whether they are those returning to the workforce after quarantine, or college students looking to start their career, there are many factors to consider.

As the virus spreads through physical contact, in-person interviews are becoming less prevalent. 

“Organizations will start to interview via video more and more,” said Dr. Bill Gentry, HPU’s assistant vice president of Career and Professional Development. “In fact, several organizations have already gone the video-interview route long before COVID, so they are ahead of the wave.”

Gentry also explained that he and his colleagues are working on programs to help students adapt to these situations.

“We in Career and Professional Development have given several workshops for how to better yourself in those video interviews,” Gentry said. “We are always open to meeting with students to improve their interviewing skills, whether in person or on video.”

Another essential skill to develop during the pandemic is networking. Not only does it help one put oneself above other applicants, but it also allows one to be considered for one of the countless open jobs that are not publicly listed.

Gentry also highlighted the importance of turning every interview into a learning opportunity.

“We have a saying: ask for a job, and you will get advice on how to get one. Ask for advice, and you may end up understanding how to get a job,” Gentry said. 

Some industries have been affected especially hard by the pandemic, due to the nature of how they function. S&P Global Market Intelligence is a data analytics organization that specializes in tracking trends in businesses globally. Their data indicates that travel industries, such as airlines, have been crippled by the virus. 

Gentry does not think that finding a job unaffected by COVID-19 should be the only consideration.

“What I try to recommend to students is to focus less on finding a pandemic-proof job, and focus more on pandemic-proofing their career,” Gentry said. “You must pandemic-proof your career so that you will always be marketable.”

It also appears that business will not return to normal even after COVID-19 ends.

“Research says it will take years, maybe a decade or more, to recover all the jobs that were lost earlier this year,” Gentry said. “So, the availability of jobs will not be as high as it was a year ago for the foreseeable future. Big companies are also saying that employees can work from home permanently going forward because of multiple reasons.

First, they see it’s actually possible now for people to work from home. Second, many employees actually like the flexibility and the ability to work from home, as it suits their lifestyle better. Also, the company can save money by not paying rent for office space, so that positively affects their bottom line.”

For those seeking more advice on how to improve their chances of finding work during and after COVID-19, the office of Career and Professional Development is holding a virtual career and internship expo on Sept. 23. This will provide students with the chance to contact employers and network effectively. For more information, students are encouraged to visit www.highpoint.edu/careerinternships/fall2020expo/.