Graduating During Times of Uncertainty

by / Jan 22, 2020

Congratulations to the Class of 2020, from the SENREVE team!

We recognize that many things have changed as a result of COVID-19 and one of the biggest changes has been celebrating big milestoneswhether its weddings, promotions, or graduation. Not to mention, with all of the uncertainty and unpredictability, now is an especially challenging time to enter the workforce. To help shed some light and share tips on this experience, we turn to a few of our amazing interns who have recently graduated and are entering the workforce.

Cathy Choi, MIT 2020
B.S. Materials Science and Engineering with Computer Science
It’s hard to believe it has already been 2+ months since MIT abruptly asked its students to leave campus with a week’s notice. I miss my dear friends and professors, basking in the sun on Killian Court between classes, and the Boston skyline. Being plucked from the city I have grown to love over the past 4 years and cast back home was a jarring experienceit took a moment to get used to the new pace of my daily life. At first, I was excited to finally pursue hobbies I never have time for in school. I zoomed through 10 novels, painted numerous canvases and FaceTimed friends daily. However, as the weeks dragged on, my motivation lessened, the calls became less frequent and I gradually became more disconnected, both with others and within myself.

Acrylic paints next to painting of landscape

Just a few pieces from my quarantine artwork collection

Truthfully, I was quite alarmed by how easily I fell into this trance. Determined to snap back to my usual ambitious self, I hit a reset button to shift my attitude. Instead of lamenting the lack of a definitive future, I set short-term goals to achieve. I deeply reflected on ways I could make an impact during this unique period and what skills I hoped to develop. My father is one of many small business owners who have been tragically affected by orders to suspend brick-and-mortar store operations. To combat the sudden elimination of sales, I built an online sales channel for his brand, alleviating pressure for him while allowing me to cultivate business strategies. For additional structure, I drafted a calendar full of activities ranging from workouts, outdoor hikes, reading, recipes to cook, calls with friends and more (with the occasional spontaneous FaceTime).

Landscape view of sunset

Grateful to be able to enjoy the outdoors as we approach the summer months

Given that my post-grad job is now delayed for 3 months due to COVID-19, it has become even more critical that I resist lethargy and take accountability for setting up my near future for success. I imagine many other new grads around the world are experiencing waves of similar emotions. By embracing the reality of the uncertain times ahead, I have found it much easier to find the happy points of a day, even if it is as simple as going for a walk around the neighborhood. Staying connected with friends and leaning on loved ones has been valuable medicine for me. Maintaining this optimistic mindset remains a top priority as I look to the future.

Mercedes Riley, MIT 2020
B.S. Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Philosophy
I will never forget my last week at MIT before we all disappeared into the socially distanced abyss. After the jarring email asking us to leave campus, the ensuing chaos was a culmination of fear and anxiety over the unknown. Yet I still experienced some of the most beautiful moments of my undergraduate career that week. From watching the sunrise with friends to singing all night long (with Cathy playing the violin, she’s incredible btw), my friends and I made the most of our condensed time together. It served as an incredible reminder of friendships we have formed, and will continue to build, no matter how far we may be from each other now. Our graduation may look very different, but its significance remains the same.

Laptop and workout gear on top of yoga mat

Getting some fresh air with my new at-home yoga setup

While I have been able to settle into a routine and appreciate the additional time with my family (and puppy!), it pains me to see how difficult the lives of those around me have become. From relatives suffering through the disease, to small businesses I know and love struggling to make ends meet, I realize how vulnerable this pernicious virus has made us. The silver lining is the ability to come together as a community in a more supportive way than before. The creativity and care I have seen go into different solutions amazes mefrom MIT students creating free education services to the many fundraisers donating to COVID relief platforms. The small ways I have given back include donating to Feeding America, ordering delivery from vulnerable restaurants, and supporting my favorite small businesses (buying lots of matcha from my favorite boba place, and purchasing clothes with an emphasis on comfy attire).

Mercedes playing with puppy

Enjoying some extra time with our new family puppy!

With the extra time between graduation and a delayed start at my full-time job, I aim to dedicate more time to supporting those currently in need. I hope to volunteer in the education nonprofit space, as well as continue with my SENREVE internship. Overall, I am grateful for the moment to reflect upon my future, focusing on what matters to me: family, friends, and my communities.

Fay Yu, UC Berkeley 2020
MBA, Haas School of Business
California’s shelter-in-place was formally declared on March 19, the day before our Spring Break started. And although it’s embarrassing to think about how disappointed we were at the time (understanding now the necessity of quarantine), it was still hard on my classmates and me. We were looking forward to having one last trip together before finishing out our last semester in business schoola place where we had hoped to forge strong professional and personal relationships. Normally, second-year spring semester of an MBA is punctuated with social activities and full-time recruiting. When we could no longer engage in impromptu catch ups in the Haas courtyard, MBA Lounge, or Freehouse, we pivoted to Zoom-based trivia nights, steak dinners, and Netflix parties. Two amazing Haasies began a Master Cl-Haas series (we’re all about the puns, here) where students teach classes in areas of their expertise (Tableau, banana bread, cocktails) and proceeds are donated to No Kid Hungry. To provide structure to my week and an artistic outlet for my classmates, I taught a dance class with my friend, Annie, every Thursday for the remainder of the semester.

Plate of lasagna and green beans, in front of coupe glasses

More time at home means lasagna dinner with homemade Negroni variations

When the pandemic began negatively impacting job prospects, our Slack channels immediately lit up with massive GoogleSheets featuring start-ups, small businesses and non-profit organizations seeking business-minded employees. It’s in times like these and through self-reflection, that many of my friends have found fulfilling roles in the industries that need the most helphealthcare, education, food/agriculture. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to secure a job before the pandemic hit, but I empathize with my friends who are still deep in the search or even have had their offers rescinded. I try to check-in with them via socially distant hikes, Zoom pow-wows, and text messages to see how I can help. Now, more than ever, is a time to connect and support one another. 

Hiker along the coast of California

Feeling lucky to be in sunny California during this quarantine

A silver lining of the remote graduation is that Class of 2020 has, by far, the most impressive commencement speaker list (i.e. Barack Obama, Sundar Pichai, Malala Yousafzai). Bookmark these videos and events for whenever you're in need of some motivation or fresh perspectives! 

We know that it can be difficult to find purpose, motivation, and drive at this time, but hope that you find inspiration in the experiences that we’ve shared. Below are some additional tips that Cathy, Mercedes, and Fay recommend for navigating through this ambiguous time.

Job Search:
If you’re currently looking for a job...
1. Reach out to your network, your fellow classmates, old coworkers, teachers
2. Brush up your resume and spruce up your LinkedIn, send it out into the world
3. Apply to internships that can potentially convert into full time opportunities
4. Sign up to take supplemental courses that will increase your future earning potential

Regardless of whether you’re still searching or have something locked in...
1. Our interns all agree with SENREVE’s WFH Guidestarting your day with a routine and setting up a distinct workspace
2. Set goals and deadlines, and talk to your friends about themhave "accountabilibuddy" FaceTime calls
3. Take a walk or go on a bike ride before and after designated work/study times to simulate a commute
4. Create a calendar with all of your activities - workouts, reading time, podcasts/audiobooks, cooking, meditating, calls with friends/family