Some 2020 graduates are finding jobs, even as the pandemic continues to disrupt the economy. Luck plays a role, sure, but so does a willingness to compromise.
Halle Steinberg said she wasn’t surprised when Delta Air Lines rescinded a job offer just two days before she graduated with a degree in business analytics from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta. Undaunted, she applied for a data analytics position at Home Depot and got the job.
Maybe not as glamorous — the 25-year-old had been looking forward to the travel perks that come with working for an airline — but it was a smart pivot. Millions have been locked down for months during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are sprucing up their homes instead of spending money on flights for vacations or family visits.
Identifying such shifts may be key for new graduates looking to survive in a market where more than 19.5 million Americans are unemployed, and many companies have stopped hiring or even shut down altogether. Entry-level openings were down 39% since last year as of June 15, with the biggest declines in travel and tourism, information technology and marketing and advertising, according to data from Glassdoor Inc.
“My class is only 44 students, and a little over half have a job,” Steinberg said. “A lot are struggling. By this time, usually everyone has a job.”
Still, there are spots in industries that have been thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic: e-commerce, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, and health care, according to Amanda Stansell, a senior research analyst at Glassdoor.
Alex Yom never imagined he would work in health care, but he feels grateful to have found a position at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America after a job offer from Uber Technologies was rescinded in May. Since the pandemic started, Uber has cut nearly 25% of its workforce.
“We were just coming off one of the greatest expansions in the U.S. economy, so we were coming in with a lot of confidence,” Yom said of his classmates at the University of Notre Dame. “To have that kind of ripped away, I think, created anxiety for a lot of people, including myself.”
Yom spent a month reaching out to his contacts in search of a new position. Eventually a classmate connected him to an open role as a management fellow at the CTCA. He’s living with his parents in Indianapolis until his new job’s office opens in Chicago.
Schools are seeing what their students are up against. At Carleton College in Minnesota, just 25% of graduated seniors have secured employment so far, and summer internships are down 30% since last year, said RJ Holmes-Leopold, the director of the college’s career center.
In some sense, recent graduates have an advantage. Most do not yet have children, or a mortgage tying them to a certain city, making it easier to change plans and set out to another place. Many have moved back home with their parents.
That’s what Nika Chugh, a Drexel University graduate, did when her plan to work at a Chicago marketing company fell through after the firm froze hiring. She now plans to move to Seattle after getting a job in Amazon’s retail division, helping businesses that sell on Amazon with practically everything — supply chain issues, pricing or even her original specialty, marketing.
Those willing to keep an open mind and look beyond roles directly related to their major are likely to be the most successful, Stansell said via email.
“What’s more important now than ever is a disciplined job search routine, thorough research and flawless application materials that will help first-time job seekers stand out,” Stansell said. “If a dream job or company isn’t hiring now, look for roles with related skills and experiences that you can still learn.”
Holmes-Leopold, of Carleton College, said the situation could get worse. “Our new graduates will end up competing against job seekers who were initially furloughed and then lost their employment,” he said.
Rhyle Lobo, a recent graduate of the University of Houston, spent the early months of the year applying to jobs at big Texas oil companies — including Exxon Mobil, Halliburton and Schlumberger — only to find that the majority of them froze hiring as oil markets crashed, he said.
Now, Lobo is working as a stocker at a local Costco Wholesale while applying for other jobs in his free time. As a backup, he hopes to prove himself and potentially work his way up the Costco corporate ladder, especially because the company has shown a lot of stability through the pandemic, he said. Meanwhile, he wants to chip away at his student debt.
Lobo had originally planned on moving away from home after college, but without a full-time job, he returned to his old bedroom at his parents’ house. He was skeptical at first, but he says he’s thankful to have supportive parents who are willing to take him in.