Career expert offers advice to 2020 graduates

By Kelly Montoya

Career expert offers advice to 2020 graduates

By Kelly Montoya
Christian Garcia, executive director of the Toppel Career Center, offers advice to students getting ready to graduate and enter the job market during the coronavirus crisis.

Four months ago, the economy was steady, jobs were booming, and opportunities for the class of 2020 seemed infinite. Graduates were set to enter what economists labeled one of the most promising job markets of all time.

Christian GarciaNow, these graduates will start their careers in an economy dealing with COVID-19-related struggles and record-high unemployment rates. For many students, this abrupt change feels surreal and they are now left looking for answers on how to successfully navigate this new reality.

“It’s a unique and unprecedented situation, but we have to remember it is also temporary, so resiliency is essential in getting through this,” said Christian Garcia, associate dean and executive director at the University of Miami’s Toppel Career Center.

“We’re experiencing a watershed moment in history that will forever change the way we do things and the way companies hire, similar to the way we were changed by the events of Sept. 11,'' said Garcia. “Now is the time to realize this, pivot, and adapt.”

Garcia, a career advice veteran who has steered through three economic downturns since starting at the Toppel Career Center in 2001, offers the following advice to those who are looking for answers and resources on how to thrive amidst the coronavirus-impacted job market.

Take your time to settle in and check in on your mental health.

Don't compartmentalize your feelings. If you recently had to relocate or move back home, take some time to settle a new routine, adjust to your online learning environment, and listen to your emotions.

Feeling frazzled and allowing a negative headspace is going to snowball and project in your emails and interviews with potential employers. You don't need more challenges and roadblocks ahead of you.

You can always reach out to a mental health counselor, a career adviser, or your fellow classmates who are all facing the same challenges.

Continue researching your industry.

Even though the media is overloading us with frightening facts, it’s crucial to read  relevant news as it relates to your industry. 

Industries are also shifting their business models to keep up with the demands of the crisis, so it’s important to stay up to date with emerging trends.

Most companies are working hard to communicate and be as transparent as possible during this time, so use that information to your advantage as you move forward in your job search.

Keep looking for jobs; but most importantly, keep applying.

Remember that companies are still looking to fill vacant spots, especially as they identify gaps and adapt to new methods. You don’t have to wait until things are looking better, now is the time to search and apply.

The job search process still takes place online, just as it did before the crisis hit. You can apply and have a prescreening interview from the comforts of your home.

It’s OK to pivot.

Now is not the time (nor should it ever be, really) to put all your eggs in one basket. That means that it’s always a good idea to explore options and think about how your skills and experiences can translate to opportunities that you may not have considered in the past. 

We’re living in a reality where students may not get the exact job or internship they had in mind, so it’s completely acceptable to take on part-time jobs, temporary gigs, freelance work, or micro internships.

These short-term experiences will still yield income, prevent holes on your résumé, and allow you to test-drive jobs in a very short amount of time. 

Pivoting requires an open mind and a willingness to experiment.

Explore Toppel resources.

The Toppel Career Center is here for you. We’re offering drop-in advising through Zoom every Monday–Friday, starting at 8:30 am.

We can also help with practice interviews, résumé critiques, mentorship, and career assessments. Subscribe to the Toppel Insider for weekly updates on events, workshops, and new opportunities.

Students should continue to search for jobs and internships on Handshake, which has  more than 500 popular employers that are actively hiring college students today.

Visit for more information about resources that are available through the Toppel Career Center.