Learning Transferable Skills from the Pandemic

Written by Bethany Spitzmiller, Managing Editor

  My uncle recently expressed concern that students are receiving less of an education during the pandemic compared to traditional semesters, and when it comes to finding careers after graduation, this group of students will not be as marketable. Students who are still pursuing an education during a pandemic are proving their perseverance every day, which should make them more sought-after. 

  Students going to college during a pandemic are navigating a life transition during a time where no one has direction. They have to balance the traditional stress of a new environment, classes, scheduling and life, but the environment created by COVID-19 is new for everyone around them as well. For example, some of the people students would typically go to for advice have been furloughed. Students with questions for the financial aid office, human resources or sometimes even IT services have to figure out who to go to and what day that person might be on campus. 

  According to the latest COVID Response Tracking Study conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, 25% of young adults rate their mental health as fair or poor, compared with 13% of older adults. Additionally, 56% of older adults say their mental health is excellent or very good versus only 39% of young adults saying the same.

  The lack of control or knowing what to do affects students’ mental health, but it is also making students develop the skills it takes to be a self-starter. If they don’t, they won’t thrive in the current college environment. Online classes require students to teach themselves, set deadlines and stay accountable. Those are all skills I look for when recruiting, and they’re the skills necessary for leadership positions.  

  Adding to the mental load of students is the recent additional financial strain. Many students already face stress when paying tuition, fees and bills, but to add to that, many students have lost their jobs. If they were lucky enough to have kept their jobs and their parents didn’t, they might have had to become the breadwinners for their families, which adds additional bills to their already full plates. Taking on extra hours at work while balancing a new, blended learning environment shows time management and dedication.

  Another skill that must be developed in order to survive as a student in the pandemic is communication. Just as some jobs have unrealistic expectations and it becomes necessary to communicate with a manager about what can be accomplished, now more than ever, it’s important to communicate with professors if they’re continuing a class with unadjusted expectations or a workload is overwhelming. I know some professors believe in tearing students down to build them up, but students are already starting at a lower mental point this semester. Being able to develop the confidence to stand up for their own needs is going to prepare students for life after graduation. The pandemic is providing transferable skills that will make upcoming graduates stand out at their future jobs and in many other future situations.