The Reality of Graduating During a Pandemic

By Bethany Probst

Students and alumni discuss the impact that COVID-19 has had on their employment opportunities and their fears of the unknown.

Jesse Johnson, who recently graduated with a BA in journalism, said most of his worries about job opportunities come from the question of “what if.”

“I constantly ask myself ‘What if the pandemic didn’t happen’ and how different my senior year would have been,” Johnson said. “Would I have gotten a better education, a better job offer? I mean the list goes on and on.”

He said he feels most concerned about the possibility of having a job that’s completely remote, making it difficult to clearly envision his work environment. 

“I’m much more of a hands-on person and I need that sort of human connection especially at my first job right out of college,” Johnson said. “When I fill out applications, I question if I really grasp what I would be going in for. I feel like there’s not much substance for me to work with.”

Catherine Dowling, a senior environmental policy student, said her plans of joining the Peace Corps right after graduation took a sudden turn for the worst and left her with no job securement. 

“I found out recently they had canceled all trips so I’m devastated considering I put most of my plans with employment on the backburner,” Dowling said. “Now I’m just trying to navigate around this mess and figure out how to find work.”

She said trying to find a job that puts her degree to use gives her anxiety, especially with uncertain projections for the job market in the future. 

“We’re kind of navigating a workforce that’s completely different from what past students have gone through,” she said. “I have a lot of older friends so it’s difficult to learn how to approach the work field when a lot of places are doing telework or not even operating right now.”

The economic disruption due to COVID-19 has altered the overall employment realm for new graduates. According to a 2020-2021 Collegiate Employment Research Institute annual recruiting trends survey from Michigan State University, new hire rates are expected to drop by an estimated 4,500. 

Alumna Teresa Johnson said she has struggled tremendously finding a job since she graduated in the spring. 

“Jobs were almost scarce when I graduated,” she said. “It feels so discouraging because you come out of college thinking you’re going to secure something but that’s far from the truth.”

Despite her opportunities being stripped, Johnson said she learned to make positive out of the circumstances.

“If you have a job you really want to go for that may be all the way across the country, you can go for it now with everything being remote,” she said. “I know it’s not the same experience but I just want everyone graduating this fall to know they’re not alone and that it’s important not to beat yourself up.”

Alumna Kristina Arreza said even after graduation, students shouldn’t feel afraid to use resources the college has to offer

“I still go to the careers center when it comes to applications and ask if they can check out my resume,” she said. “It’s not the end of all, the university will always be there for you.”

Arreza said being gentle with yourself is the greatest thing to do for your health right now. 

“There’s so much pressure to find a job right now and it can be really daunting,” she said. “But please take care of yourself. If working on resumes is all you can do in one day, that’s okay. I can’t promise each day will be easy, but it’s so rewarding to know you took the time you needed.”

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of ccdinges101’s Flickr account.

Bethany Probst is a senior journalism major and can be reached at bethaprobst@gmail.com.

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