Resilience and the COVID-19 job search (from the perspective of a GBCC peer coach)

Monday, February 8, 2021

Many of my classmates and I remember graduating college and entering into the last worst hiring market in recent history following the 2008 financial crisis. I had aspirations to join the U.S. State Department following my undergraduate studies in Political Science, but the protracted budget shutdown of the government meant that there was a global hiring freeze for positions. As we all did back then, I spent a few months moving through the stages of grief, made the best of it and pivoted my plans. After dozens of unanswered applications and radio silence from the many companies I sent my resume to, I took a temporary data entry position at a leading consulting firm. Luckily, I was able to turn that gig into full-time marketing position and the rest is history.

Now many students are experiencing de ja vu all over again in the post-graduate job search. The COVID-19 crisis and the uncertainty it brought with it has made the full-time job search for second years and internship search for first years challenging, to say the least. I’ve gotten a front-row seat to much of this as a peer coach for the Graduate Business Career Center (GBCC). Along with half a dozen of my first and second-year classmates, I work to create a safe space for students to practice STAR stories and answers to behavioral interview questions. I’ve been continually impressed with the tenacity and make-do attitude of the Carlson MBA community. 

This past summer, many MBA Summer internship offers were rescinded or shortened from their usual 12 weeks to as few as 6 weeks. Even students who kept their internships and completed them successfully weren’t guaranteed that the company would extend a full-time offer due to hiring freezes and broader market uncertainty. So once again, many students are unexpectedly back on the market for jobs and working diligently to find positions that will accelerate their careers post-MBA. The GBCC, our alumni network, and our classmates have all been incredible resources for support, job leads, and introductions. I have every confidence that the Classes of 2021 and 2022 will find meaningful and gainful employment in positions where they can bring the values of Business as a Force for Good to life. 

Through all of this, my Carlson MBA colleagues have demonstrated incredible resilience and ingenuity, finding workarounds and alternative ways to make the best of a difficult time in history. Faced with a rescinded internship offer, Lizzy Ullyot chose to focus her energies on co-founding a local chapter of a non-profit here in Minneapolis, along with part-time MBA ‘20 alum Shannon Leach, to serve meals to first responders and front-line workers while supporting local restaurants who would otherwise have to cut hours or lay off kitchen staff. This effort, Frontline Food Twin Cities, provides restaurant meals free of charge to those helping to combat COVID-19 in our community. Others reached out to their networks and found positions at non-profits or start-ups that hadn’t originally been in their consideration set. When peaceful Black Lives Matter protests were co-opted by opportunists who looted and destroyed property in local Minneapolis neighborhoods, Carlson MBA students volunteered to help with the clean-up effort in the mornings after. When times get tough, Carlson students have demonstrated that they get to work. 

As in-person events remain off the table this Winter, Carlson’s tent-pole community fundraising effort the Carlson 4 Community (C4C) MBA Charity Auction is moving into the virtual space. Despite the difficulty of figuring out how to translate a gala into an engaging virtual event, the all-volunteer team has gotten creative. To build awareness and excitement for the event, C4C hosted a fun team trivia competition over Zoom this past January. This year’s auction will support local organizations Help at Your Door and African American AIDS Task Force. Help at Your Door is a nonprofit organization serving thousands of seniors, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers across the Greater Metro Area of Minneapolis and St. Paul. African American AIDS Task Force provides culturally-specific HIV prevention, education, and direct services to people of African descent who are living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. 

By Mark Giannetti, Class of 2021