The coronavirus pandemic has not only stripped the class of 2020 of graduation celebrations with friends and families, but more seriously has also stripped away job opportunities for individuals hoping to start their careers.
Students from across the country told the Wall Street Journal how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted them. Many of their most memorable achievements—graduation, finding their first job, and becoming financially independent—have been set back, and could create long term damages, the report says. Recently graduated professionals are now abandoning some of their career ambitions to make ends meet, while others are putting off entering the workforce altogether by going to grad school. Others are seeking jobs that offer the most amount of security.
— BLS-Labor Statistics (@BLS_gov) November 13, 2020
Beyond the career consequences brought on by the economic lockdowns are a series of social challenges, the Journal says. Some students hampered with debt profiled by the Journal still have their mothers doing their laundry as most remain at home, largely in social isolation, during a period where they should be establishing personal and professional relationships with peers. (RELATED: Ivy League Students Pressure Schools To Bar Trump Administration Officials From Faculty Positions)
Unemployment stood at 3.5%—a 50-year low, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—when these students began their senior year. But, when graduation season rolled around in the spring, they faced one of the toughest job markets in recent decades. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the unemployment rate for 20 to 24 year olds was over 20%, higher than the general unemployment rate.
Twenty-two-year-old De Andre King graduated in the spring of 2020 from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, the Journal says. After working 40 hours a week to pick up new computer skills and apply to over 200 positions in the realm of computer science, King got a job in October with Bloomberg LP in Princeton, New Jersey.
With many offices deemed non-essential remaining closed throughout the country, King remains at home, living with his parents and three siblings, the Journal reports.
In the fall semester of 2019, Riley Jenson was in Manhattan interning at a public-relations firm in the fashion industry after she convinced a dean at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts to allow her to do so, according to the Journal.
Upon her graduation in the spring from Endicott, she thought her experience would help her land a job in the fashion industry after returning to Manhattan. “What got me through school was I’d think: ‘I know what I want to do, I have a career I want to pursue, I have a plan,’” Jenson told the Journal.
When the date finally arrived, opportunities were scant. She’s currently living with her parents in Williston, working as an assistant manager at the local Carter’s children’s clothing store. With student loan and car payments, her budget is tight. “I try not to eat out or get takeout a lot because I’m trying to be financially smart,” she said.
Jenson is still searching for an entry-level position that will make good use of her skills. “I will move to wherever I can get a good job,” she told the Journal, “I have a lot to give and I’m ready to move on.”
From Hopewell Junction, New York, David Taylor completed his finance degree from New York University. In the fall, he thought he would end up working on wall street, but, now he’s pursuing a master’s degree in education at Harvard.
These months in isolation have been “dark times,” he told the Journal.
Before the pandemic hit, Taylor said he “was rocking full speed—my classes were going well,” according to the Journal, “then two weeks later I had all these online classes and my laptop stayed closed—I felt like, ‘I can’t do any of this.’”
However, the time at home forced Taylor into some introspection, which explains his change in career path. “I realized that all that finance-career stuff is awesome when you’re in school and in the city, but at home I was thinking about everything I was really passionate about and what really mattered to me,” he said, according to the Journal. “If I’m going to study education, this seems like the right time to do it,” he added.
— BLS-Labor Statistics (@BLS_gov) November 24, 2020
Bridget Curley is saddled with $120,000 in student debt—the prospect of paying back these loans is something that has haunted her since she was just a freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In spring, she graduated with a chemistry degree.
Curley has worked in various cafeterias since she was a teen, and set her sights on using her chemistry knowledge in the food and beverage industry. She’s since turned an internship opportunity at dairy company HP Hood’s lab in Agawam, Massachusetts into a full-time job.
Despite starting in May, she hasn’t really been able to get to know her colleagues, much less know what they look like, the Journal reports. “Everyone is wearing a face mask so you can’t recognize anybody,” she said. “The only people I’ve seen a little are in my department, and that’s only because we taste-test things,” Curley explained. Hopefully, tasting delicious dairy products can continue bringing Curley some comfort in these tumultuous times.