Each year, college seniors approach graduation and wonder, “What next?” Some choose to further their education and attend graduate school, while others decide to enter the workforce. The Class of 2020 had another pressing matter, though: How do they tackle the unique challenges of a COVID-disrupted labor market? Luckily, Franklin & Marshall College graduates had the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development (OSPGD).
Beginning in their first year and well after they graduate, OSPGD helps students position themselves for success beyond the classroom and F&M. The team offers programs and workshops covering resume development, interview skills, cover letter writing, and more—all of which 2020 graduate Meredith Cooney said were vital in her search for post-graduate opportunities.
Cooney knew graduating in a pandemic would be difficult, but eager to take the next step in her career, she remained optimistic.
“At the same time, it was a bit more challenging than I had anticipated,” she said. “I knew that I didn’t want to pursue an advanced degree before I had the chance to gain career experiences.”
Beth Throne ’95, associate vice president of student and post-graduate development, noted 2020 graduates faced a particularly difficult labor market.
“Our 2020 graduates faced substantially lower hiring rates, a more competitive entry-level market, and delayed start dates with employers struggling to adapt to remote workforce realities,” she said.
OSPGD responded by providing enhanced support, including launching the True Blue Network, an online F&M community specifically designed to foster mentor connections among students and alumni and to offer the opportunity for referrals. OSPGD’s alumni advising team spent last summer reaching out to every 2020 graduate, not only to offer the usual post-graduate support, but also to help connect them to alumni, parents and resources that would help the graduates land more swiftly and securely in an unprecedented labor market.
These efforts proved to be immensely successful. Within six months of graduation, more than 93 percent of 2020 graduates were employed or pursuing further education.
“F&M’s curricular and co-curricular preparation provides graduates with the versatility to pivot among fields and opportunities in a ‘normal’ labor market,” Throne said. “In a pandemic-disrupted labor market, that preparation proved invaluable in helping graduates secure highly competitive opportunities for the near- and long-term.”
Emily Faller ’20 said this support from OSPGD, and the support of F&M faculty, was indispensable in her securing a role as an operations associate in Manhattan.
“When the pandemic hit, I knew that finding a job would be an even more daunting task than it already felt to be,” Faller said. “But after graduation, I met with Beth Throne to figure out what jobs would suit me based on what I enjoyed doing during my time at F&M. When I felt like I wasn’t sure what the first step should be, Beth gave me tips and tools of where to begin my job search.”
Faller offered this advice for those graduating in 2021:
“Reach out to F&M alum; they want to help you,” she said. “And don’t be so hard on yourself during the job search process. Give yourself grace and take your time to find the job that you know is the right fit for you.”
Cooney, who now works as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Public Health Associate at the Minnesota Department of Health, recommended all F&M students tap into the competitive advantage OSPGD and the F&M community provide.
“I established some wonderful relationships with professors, coaches, teammates, and peers at F&M,” Cooney said. “Maintaining this network has been and will continue to be invaluable.”
To capture how and where the 2020 class members landed, F&M has launched a Success Beyond F&M website, showcasing top industries, employers, graduate institutions, salary information, and more for the 2020 graduates—and beyond. Visit the site, and its interactive data visualization, to discover more about their success.