The COVID-19 economy is creating unique challenges for BYU graduates seeking employment.
Between rising unemployment rates, widespread business closures and the logistical difficulties of online hiring, some graduates said they have struggled with the job hunt.
Recent illustration graduate Alec Monson said he doesn’t feel confident in pandemic-era job stability.
“I do wonder how long it will be until positions open up and how long those will remain open once things return to a somewhat normal state,” he said. “I feel the best thing I can do now is just continue working on producing work so when things do return to a functioning state, I’ll be ready to go.”
He said the “stay safe, stay home” order has provided plenty of time for him to paint and expand his portfolio — but that will only be helpful if the job market opens up again soon. He reflected on advice he’d received throughout his school career from professors and mentors designed to help him “hit the ground running” after graduation.
“It feels like the ‘ground’ has suddenly dropped beneath its previous level and we all have to figure out what to do with that extra space before we actually reach the new ‘ground,'” he said.
Weston Cummings, who just graduated in Latin American studies and is searching for a teaching job, said he worries that as opportunities disappear due to COVID-19 related shut-downs, he and other recent graduates will be forced to accept jobs outside of their fields.
“There’s fewer job openings,” he said. “Those places, even though it says they have an opening, the opening closes almost within like a minute after you send in your application, and then you get this email, ‘Sorry this position has been filled.'”
He also said he feels it’s easier for job-seekers to get lost in the virtual mass of applicants and harder to make an impression on potential employers when they can’t meet in person.
Students who already had jobs waiting for them said they aren’t worried about beginning their careers in the pandemic economy.
Computer science graduate Thomas DeCelle said he already had a job lined up in Chicago.
“My new job has already assured me they were able to handle adjusting to the coronavirus early, so my job will continue to be waiting for me in Chicago,” he said. “They usually start with a large company training in July, and I am not sure how that is going to be affected yet.”
His biggest concern, he said, is getting to know his coworkers remotely.
She said interviewing with the principal through Google Hangouts was surreal.
“I had never interviewed online before, and I was afraid that using video chat would make it hard for me to interview well. Luckily, the experience was genuine,” James said. “The very next day, I was offered the job! I think the reality of COVID-19 caused my interviewing process to be much more relaxed and flexible then it perhaps otherwise would have been.”
Despite having employment secured, James said she still worries about how COVID-19 will impact her work in the near future.
“Entering the workforce with the virus still at large has been scary,” she said. “The middle school that I was hired at is a brand new school and is currently under construction. As far as I know, the construction in on schedule, but the pandemic has slowed the process.”
Career director Monte Marshall said BYU Career Services have seen an influx in demand from anxious students searching for jobs in the pandemic economy.
“Don’t panic, but do create a plan,” Marshall advised. “Many employers have stopped hiring, but that won’t last forever. The goal is to develop and implement a strategic networking plan now, so that you are first in line when hiring resumes.”
Though closed to all in-person visits, BYU Career Services still has many resources available online, including virtual appointments and online chats with career directors and mentors. Career directors are monitoring hiring trends among common BYU employers and will continue working full-time through spring and summer.
“While there are some employers that have stopped hiring, there are also several employers that are still actively recruiting,” said career director Derek Jack. “The key concept is for students to connect with their career director early and often to receive information that we have that can assist the students in their search.”