By RONIC NGAMBWE
Before COVID-19, the job search was already difficult for me and my peers. I had applied to over 20 jobs and was either rejected or worse, never received any sort of reply. Many other seniors I know have been in similar situations. Navigating the job market has always been difficult, and the class of 2020 will have to practice patience now more than ever before.
With COVID threatening to send the economy into a recession and rendering the job market “unrecognizable,” it goes without saying that the class of 2020 will have an even harder time finding employment. Economists are calling what we’re currently in an “economic downturn,” which is normally part of an economy that rises and falls periodically. It’s not quite a recession yet, but we’re not too far from one.
However, we wouldn’t need a recession to feel the hit from this economic crisis. History and research show that an economic downturn will still have lasting effects on the class of 2020. A recession would reduce earnings for up to 10-15 years. And as it turns out, the federal relief package won’t do much for the graduating class as it’s intended to help those who are already employed. But the graduating class doesn’t need economists to tell them how bad things are when they’re experiencing it first hand.
Nonetheless, there has been a mixture of fear and optimism among graduates.
“I feel nervous about how many employers will be looking to hire. However, a lot of people are out of work and will be looking for new jobs. The fact that wehave degrees and are fresh out of college could be an advantage,” said communication and digital studies major Lauren MacWha. Fellow CDS major Elizabeth Davis said, “I’m optimistic that the job market will shift to more teleworking positions, and [see] increased productivity through that shift.”
Graduate student of Social Work at UNC-Chapel Hill Joy Ayioka admits that it’s all very overwhelming trying to graduate and look for jobs “probably during one of the worst economic global pandemics.” She added that the employers she’s been looking at are having job freezes and furloughing employees, which is making her anxious.
Executive director of the Career Center Paul Binkley offers a few tips to the class of 2020. First, he encourages students to see this time as an opportunity to take care of themselves and better understand who they are. Second, there are things students can do now to set themselves up for success when all this is over. He advises students to take advantage of free services for skills development such as LinkedIn Learning. Binkley would also like to remind students that employers are still very much active. While many of them have moved to virtual access, they’re still recruiting but just moving the hiring process back. Lastly, while Binkley acknowledges how difficult it is to navigate such unprecedented times, he wants the class of 2020 to remember that “You have agency. You haven’t lost all control. You still have control over something, so do what you’ve got to do to feel like you have control over it.”
If your job search has often been unsuccessful like mine, Binkley recommends evaluating your results after a few unsuccessful applications and making adjustments to the strategy or resume as needed. Another tip is to always try to find someone who works at the organization and reach out to them directly.
The job market has always been a difficult space to navigate for anyone. It will be especially hard for the graduating class of 2020, but we have the tools we need to overcome this situation–which will take time, hard work and patience–and come out resilient.