While the pandemic has been unkind to virtually everyone, 2020’s college seniors are arguably one of the most affected groups. Instead of the usual joy and excitement that comes with obtaining a college degree, they were met with uncertainty about the future.
The unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds jumped from 7.8% in February 2020 to 27.4% in April that same year. Currently, 45% of college graduates are “still looking for work,” while 73% say they accepted a job unsuitable for their career goals out of desperation.
As last year’s graduates continue to suffer the economic effects of the pandemic, the class of 2021 will inevitably join this struggling pool of students to find employment after graduation. For them, it’s difficult to refrain from seeing other students as competition, especially since they are basically going after the same limited positions.
However, the pandemic has also exacerbated the fragility of personal timelines and the overall unpredictability of life. No matter how much someone plans, the unexpected can still happen. After all, there is no age restriction on when someone can graduate, find a career or start a family. Any notion of a deadline for when we must achieve these milestones is nothing but a social construct.
If there’s anything graduating UCI senior Catherine Nguyen knows, it’s that although the challenges of life can deter someone from achieving their goals, it’s important that they keep going.
“This pandemic has really ingrained the idea into me that people can go through a bunch of different things in their life, whether that be having to work two jobs to pay for school and rent, worrying about your mental health, dealing with family at home. No matter how long it takes for someone to complete their goals, the only important thing is that they made it and they are able to support themselves and their dream,” Nguyen said.
No matter what your connections on LinkedIn may be doing or the employment offers your peers are receiving, it’s important to remember that everyone’s path is different. Another person’s success does not mean you are behind. The past year has put everyone’s plans on hold, but that just means you have more time to figure out exactly what it is that you want.
As a confused student myself, thinking of the future and planning my next steps is definitely a daunting task. The unpredictability of our social climate coupled with the still-present threat of COVID-19 make the next few months, or even years, feel so far away. But when wrapping up our final quarter in what is essentially “Zoom University,” just know that all of your emotions are valid and we will get through all of this soon.
Even with the current trend of unemployed graduates looking for work in the job market, there are growing signs that the economy is starting to recuperate. In California, small businesses are starting to reopen and unemployment claims have dropped to their lowest levels since the beginning of the pandemic. With all of the recent good news concerning the state’s recovery, there is reason for a sigh of relief.
To all the graduating students, I hope you take the time to be proud of all your achievements, reflect on your experience as an undergraduate student and do what you think is best for you. Whether that means catching up on lectures, taking a self-care day or refining your resume, just worry about doing what you can today and the job market will surely follow.
Angelene Obedoza is an Opinion Intern for the spring 2021 quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.