Local Graduates Face Uphill Battle in a Post-COVID Economy
Recent college graduates on Long Island are faced with uncertainty as they begin to pursue their respective careers. Their 2020 graduating class will encounter a number of challenges as they enter one of the most daunting job markets, not seen since the Great Recession of 2008.
Not only did the COVID-19 crisis truncate their last semesters of college, it stripped them of graduation ceremonies. It put jobs, internships and other opportunities on standby. Some local graduates are being forced to adapt and stay sharp while they wait for the job market to rebound.
Nesconset resident Laura Burns, who recently graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue with a political science degree, said when the pandemic hit it felt like “everything was spiraling out of control.”
“A lot of my classmates, myself included, lost a lot of local opportunities because of COVID-19.”
— Matthew Hoth
“I remember taking my last midterm and then they canceled all classes before spring break. We didn’t even get a last goodbye,” she said. “It felt like we were forgotten.”
Burns was disappointed that she could have a proper graduation ceremony, saying it would have been a special moment for her and her family, as her mother also graduated from the college.
The St. Joseph’s grad had to rethink her initial future plans.
“Before COVID hit I was thinking about maybe pursuing a graduate school or law school — that’s what I felt was the practical thing to do,” she said. “Even if I wanted to try to get a job in political science it would be pretty difficult right now.”
Burns said some of her friends have gotten part-time jobs working at grocery stores for the time being.
Potential short-term options such as working at a restaurant or other retailers are unavailable, as Suffolk County is only in Phase One of the reopening process. Most retailers will be able to reopen more during Phase Two. Restaurants will have to wait even longer.
Burns said she will most likely plan on taking classes at Suffolk Community College and could continue to pursue acting, something she has done since she was younger.
This past February, the job market looked promising with employers adding 273,000 new positions, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor.
Just last week, more than 2 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits, according to a U.S. Department of Labor weekly report. It brought the total number of jobs lost to over 40 million.
Matthew Hoth of Miller Place, who graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a master’s degree in data analytics, is trying to stay optimistic and positive about his future job prospects.
“A lot of my classmates, myself included, lost a lot of local opportunities because of COVID-19,” he said.
Hoth had an internship lined up with a local health and mental health care facility, but that all changed when the coronavirus hit.
“I had talks with them for a while, I was really looking forward to interning there,” the recent graduate said.
In addition, his last semester was going to be used to network and make connections in his field. He and his peers missed out on attending workshops that could have brought him face to face with potential employers.
“I had some leads on some jobs locally, but then everything kind of stopped dead in its tracks,” Hoth said. “Right now, I’m trying to get more program certifications to add to my resume and updating my LinkedIn [account].”
To fill the void of the internship and in an effort to add some work experience to his resume, Hoth is considering freelancing, special projects and working remotely.
“With companies cutting and laying off people it is discouraging to see,” he said. “But I’m optimistic that the economy and job market will eventually bounce back,” he said.
Victoria Arcuri of Holbrook, a recent graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology, was looking forward to starting a full-time position at a creative agency in New York City she had interned at during her last semester of school. Due to the effects of the pandemic, the agency had to put her postgraduation hiring on hold but extended her internship.
“My boss was like, ‘right now we are not in the position to hire you, but there is still a possibility for a full-time position,’” she said. “Without COVID, I’d have a full-time job right now.”
“I remember taking my last midterm and then they canceled all classes before spring break. We didn’t even get a last goodbye.”
— Laura Burns
Due to social distancing restrictions, Arcuri, who studied graphic design, and her fellow classmates also missed out on other potential professional opportunities. Their senior exhibition, an event where students get the chance to present their portfolio in front of professors and professionals in the industry, was instead held online this year.
“At first I was disappointed, but I realized there were worse things going on than not having the show,” Arcuri said.
After commuting to school for the majority of her college career, the FIT grad had hopes of moving to Brooklyn once she started her full-time job. Those plans have now been stalled as well.
The Holbrook resident said if she can’t secure a full-time position with the agency, she’ll look for other options in the short term. Freelancing and contract work could be a possibility, given a potential business climate where there is more work done remotely.
At her internship, presentations and meetings with clients are done through Zoom and they can send most of the things they’re working on via email.
“In graphic design we do most of our work on a computer or on our laptops, so it wouldn’t be too bad if I worked from home,” Arcuri said. “Though if I had a choice I’d prefer to be in a studio.”
She reiterated that many college grads are a bit scared about their own futures.
“Some companies and businesses might not come back the same, a lot of them have taken a big hit and that will affect us,” Arcuri said.