Before 2020 began there was a lot of hope in America’s booming job market. In fact, at the end of the fourth business quarter in 2019, in the United States, there “was an increase of 490,000 jobs from the previous quarter” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). As 2019 ended and 2020 had officially begun, the opportunities for upcoming graduates seemed to be expansive. Many students, like the ones featured below, were excited to be accepting new jobs, moving out of their parents’ houses and into fully-adult lives.
However, that quickly proved to be a challenge when COVID-19 entered our country. Job offers were rescinded, the job market shrunk and students who were meant to be celebrating their final days of college were forced to stay home and stay safe in the midst of an international pandemic.
This made for an interesting semester for all three recent graduates that were interviewed in addition to their peers at various universities. Job opportunities for upcoming graduates seemed to look bleak as the spring months continued to pass. For the nation, “the number of persons in temporary lay-off in the United States reached 18.1 million in April, before decreasing to 10.6 million in June” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
In order to get a better idea of the personal impact that the pandemic had on students, I decided to interview a few recent graduates from the class of May 2020. Their names are Esther Schulze, Grace Jansen, and Roman Milot. Speaking with them made it clear that no matter what kind of school you graduated from or what degree you received, this pandemic has not been particularly easy for anyone. Whether job offers were kept, rescinded, or never offered, COVID-19 has left a lasting impression on the class of 2020 and the job market as a whole.
Esther Schulze – B.A. in Art and B.S. in Marketing, Concordia University Ann Arbor
Schulze is currently living with her family in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her plan had always been to move back to home initially after graduation, but for how long remained an unknown. She currently remains unemployed and avidly job-searching. Her emotions were strongly affected by the pandemic and the constant unknowns in her life. Before the pandemic, she was excited to move home and explore the city she grew up in as an adult. However, as almost any job in her field is now remote in N.Y., going to job fairs and interviews in person became impossible.
Schulze explained how it felt to have a diploma but to remain unemployed, “I never expected to be in this position. Even though I don’t have a job, I’ve been able to help in small, unpaid ways in my community. Which is something I would never have been able to do if I got a job right after graduation.”
Schulze finds hope in this time of unknowns by acknowledging that things are always changing, but God has a plan and a purpose for her. She knows that there is something greater for her to pursue and she has a good support system of friends and family behind her that will support her every step of the way.
Grace Jansen – B.S. in Chemical Engineering, Michigan State University
Jansen is currently living with roommates in Birmingham, AL, over 700 miles from her hometown in Lansing, Mich. Oddly enough, the pandemic did not have a large effect on Jansen’s job opportunities given her field of work. Jansen is a process engineer for Evonik, a pharmaceutical company. She accepted her current role before COVID-19 had entered the U.S. and her job remained secure despite the pandemic. She is extremely grateful that she gets to have a job that she has always wanted, even though many other parts of her life have shifted, including her social life.
“My goals haven’t really changed for the most part, but the methods of how I achieve these goals is different. I still want to be a part of a young professional community, but since we can’t have big group meetings, I’ve been doing more one-on-one meet-ups with people.” Jansen replied when asked if the pandemic has made any changes to her current life goals.
Just like so many people, social settings have had to change no matter if one is employed or not. When asked how Jansen found hope in a time like this, she found that her hope is not in her activities, jobs or even her family. Her hope is in the Lord. There are good and bad days, but fulfillment comes from God, not the circumstances of the world.
Roman Milot – B.S. Applied Engineering Sciences, Michigan State University
Milot currently has a part-time job at Busch’s, a local grocery store, in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich. Before the pandemic hit the U.S., he felt called to remain in Michigan after he graduated. In fact, he had a lot of full-time job opportunities available to him in February and the beginning of March. He was ready to commit to a position but as soon as COVID-19 entered the U.S., his plans were dramatically changed. Once he graduated in May 2020, he remained unemployed and had to move back home. He applied to ten jobs a day all summer long.
“It’s disappointing to pay so much money, take exams, work hard to get a diploma and still remain unemployed… It’s hard to move into the next stages of life,” Milot explained in a recent interview about his experience graduating but not being able to find a job.
Despite not knowing what lies ahead, Milot finds hope in the realization that his entire self-worth isn’t reliant on his job opportunities. God is in control of his entire life. Looking at how God has impacted his friends’ lives, who were in a similar situation as Milot, he feels like he is next in line for a great opportunity.
No matter the stages of employment that these graduates remain in during this time, there is still hope. In fact, a recent study done in August 2020, shows that unemployment is now below 10% on average in the U.S. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). There is definitely hope for the job market in the U.S. and hope for recent graduates and soon-to-be graduates as well as they leave college behind and enter the workforce.