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The pandemic job market: Graduates face unusual challenges

Reach out and be patient. These two pieces of advice can be applied to just about anything, but they are common when looking for a job, especially during a pandemic. 

Although the statistics for career outcomes of 2019-2020 graduates will not be available until January or February of 2021, Jon Neidy, the executive director of the Smith Career Center, estimates that the outcomes rate will be down eight to 10 percent. The rate includes the number of graduates who received jobs or went to graduate school within six months of graduation.

“I think it’s really important to know that, although the popular media reports a lot of unemployment, [for] students who are graduating with bachelor’s degrees, while their employment isn’t as strong as it was last year, it’s not as bad as the rest of the general population,” Neidy said. 

The Smith Career Center has hosted several events throughout the semester to help students prepare for finding a job, including virtual office hours, job fairs and workshops specific to navigating the virtual environment. The career center has also made upgrades to the interview rooms for students to use while on campus. 

Ashley Sasso, a senior sports communication major graduating this semester, has used resources in the career center and said they have been helpful when she needed advice on updating her resume or using services like Bradley netWORK and LinkedIn. 

She is currently looking for a social media coordinator position or a job in a communications office, preferably in the front office of a sports team. 

In her search, Sasso has found that some job titles do not specify whether or not they are remote or in-person, and recent job postings might state in the description that they are not currently hiring. 

Sasso said she would prefer an in-person position, but understands that many of the jobs can be done from home.

“If I get hired at some point within, like, maybe the next six months, it’ll probably be remote … the reality will be remote to in-person first, rather than in-person only,” Sasso said.

Rhome Apton graduated in May with a civil engineering degree and now works as a bridge designer at Hanson Professional Services Inc. He has been remote since he started working and said it has been a little strange. 

“I think kind of the biggest thing that I’ve missed out on is just mentorship,” Apton said. “Yes, I am part of a team, but I miss out on people in my office. It’s a lot of phone calls and trying to get to know people that way. And yes, I’m still learning things, but it is just a little tricky coming on board as a new person when you can’t fully get to know everybody.”

Apton said there wasn’t as much confusion in his field about whether positions would be remote since everything was already done on a computer and offices from around the world used video conferencing tools like Microsoft Teams or Skype on a regular basis. He noticed the change was more in the availability of positions as companies cut internship programs or froze full-time hiring. 

Julia Niklewicz also graduated in May with a degree in special education and now teaches 7th-9th graders who intellectually range from 9 months to 3 years old at a school specifically for students with disabilities. The students at AERO Special Education Cooperative have been online throughout the school year, but the teachers like Niklewicz have been able to utilize the classrooms starting in October until mid-November when working from home became encouraged. 

When Niklewicz started job searching, it was the beginning of the pandemic, so Zoom interviews were very new to everyone. Even though there were teaching positions available for fall 2020, it was unknown whether that was going to be an in-person or remote job. 

In some industries, jobs were opening constantly. Sasso said that there were many layoffs in her industry, so it will likely be a slow rehiring process.

“If you would want those jobs like I do, it’s going to be kind of difficult because everyone’s not going to be trying to get them,” Sasso said.

Sasso said that the best advice she has received was to reach out to people. She found that Bradley alumni are ready to help current students, whether it be through a LinkedIn thread started by the Smith Career Center, #NetworkBradleyU or when Sasso contacted an alumna who has a similar position to what she is looking for.  

Niklewicz also advised graduates looking for a job to never take a job because it is the only one offered; they won’t walk into it with a positive attitude. She said she knew she wanted to teach kids with severe disabilities since she was 16, and she loves her job even if it’s a way she never anticipated. 

“If you’re studying something you love, you still will love your job, regardless of if it’s remote, regardless of if it’s in-person,” Niklewicz said. “I love my job; I get on Zoom every day, and I’m like, ‘Oh, another Zoom session.’ And then I see my kids, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, like this is exactly what I want to be doing.’ So just [know] that even though it’s kind of not what you had anticipated for yourself … it is still going to be awesome, even if it’s online.”

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