Written by Paige Reynolds
Written by Amanda Nielsen

The class of 2020: A cultural reset

“They call it commencement because it’s supposed to be a new beginning”. Writer Charlotte Alter from TIME Magazine couldn’t have explained graduation any better, especially under these circumstances. Coronavirus has impacted us all in different ways, but we wanted to share our experience as two fresh college graduates.

Going out with a bang

It’s hard to describe the excitement of graduation. You’re torn between being ready to start the next chapter of your life and wanting to linger over your final months in college. You hear from others how memorable this time is and how quickly it goes by.

But this year, that final semester disappeared. All of a sudden, college was drastically different. Walking to classes was now opening your computer to watch videos, hanging out with friends was now scheduled Zoom meetings, and participating in organizations was more challenging than ever.

We’ve seen this before

In 2008, our nation experienced the “Great Recession”, which completely flipped the world upside down across all industries. Millions of people lost their jobs, their savings, and their homes. Although this pandemic doesn’t equate to a recession, you can certainly draw parallels between the two, especially when it comes to college graduates. People expect us to find a job right out of college, move out, and start the successful lives our parents imagined for us.

But what happens when the job market collapses?

What happens when companies go out of business?

It leaves the 2008 and 2020 graduates stuck wondering about what’s next. It also affected the 2009 — 2011 graduates, meaning there’s a good chance the 2021 graduates won’t have it easy either. Not only are those of us who don’t have full-time positions stuck, but those graduates who had full-time roles for post-graduation don’t have the security they originally thought. They aren’t just losing their jobs; in some cases, they aren’t even starting.

The shifting hiring landscape

As we adjusted to the differences in our final semester, we also had to reset our expectations for finding a job. Research shows that 4 in 10 companies have implemented a hiring freeze and 1 in 5 companies have reduced hiring seasonal workers.

Rescinded job offers, hiring freezes, and cancelled internship programs were just the beginning. We need to push forward now more than ever, reaching out to companies, putting ourselves out there, offering up our time, and volunteering our tangible (and intangible) skills. It’s these things that make it clear to companies that we have a lot to offer. We need to show our resilience and adaptability toward the ever-changing job market. While employers are seeking new hires, we hope that “the class of 2020” on a résumé will mean more than just a year. We hope it means that they’re looking at a well-rounded person who sought to adapt during a time of adversity.

Where do we go from here?

According to CNBC, there were a total of 3,898,000 college graduates in the U.S. this year.  As of right now, we don’t know how long our post-graduate progression will be stalled. Graduates are venturing to enter the workforce at one of the most uncertain economic times since 2009.

Instead of getting down in the dumps and feeling frustrated, we decided to find new paths as graduates. One of us (Amanda) chose to continue her education and put job applications on a pause. And the other (Paige) decided to continue applying to jobs and save money from my internship while living at home. Although we planned for something different, we’ve found numerous positive outcomes from our situations.

If we could tell the class of 2020 something that we learned during this unfortunate economic downturn, we’d say to slow down. People may not be big believers in “signs,” but rest assured that this is one. We often feel the need to reach the expectations others have for us, rather than setting our own. Take a step back and start enjoying the little things, that’s where you’ll find joy. We want to look back and feel proud of how we handled this time and who we became.



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