2021 graduates still feeling COVID's impact on job search, but with a silver lining

Posted at 5:37 AM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 07:04:15-04

It's once again graduation season; the second to occur in the midst of the pandemic, and the impact of COVID-19 is still being felt by last year's graduating class.

New data from Monster shows 45% of Spring 2020 grads report they're still looking for a job.

Meanwhile, thousands of college seniors from the class of 2021 graduated over the weekend; people like Alex Heffner, who, like so many, has changed her post-college plans during the pandemic.

“I actually had a whole different plan," the MSU graduate told Action News. Heffner graduated from Michigan State over the weekend.

Her original plan was to go to veterinary school right after undergrad. Now, she's planning to attend medical school instead.

“I plan to take a year off to study for the MCATS," Heffner told us. She said the pandemic led her to reassess her passions and her interests. She's hoping for an internship at a local doctor's office during her gap year.

Eva Dodds is a college and career adviser with Collegewise Detroit. She and her colleagues are seeing a shift in graduate work trends and also trends of employers more than one year since the pandemic started.

“COVID has forced the employment world to really rethink how they seek out employees," she said, talking about the shift to virtual recruiting.

“It’s so important for those who were caught with the class of 2020 graduating from college to really use things like LinkedIn, Handshake, Simplicity," Dodds said.

Dodds said another shift this year is increased enrollment in graduate programs, as some college graduates don't feel prepared or willing to jump into the job market where it's at.

That's not the case though for Carrieann Towne, who graduated from Lawrence Tech in May of 2020.

“Handshake was probably one of the biggest tools I used for internships and for full-time jobs," she said.

The company Towne interned for while attending Lawrence Tech rescinded her offer for a full-time job, due to COVID. Thankfully, she kept networking and found another company where she now works as an engineer, though she's still never been into her physical office and continues to work remotely.

"I know a lot of people I went to school with either had to get just their Masters full time and weren’t able to get a job and then the people who have really didn’t get the jobs they wanted," Towne said.

Monster also found that 77 percent of recent or up-and-coming graduates plan to take on gig work, freelance, or temporary jobs. 73 percent reported accepting an offer out of desperation, because they needed the money.

Dodds suggests those still trying to find the "perfect fit" consider internships.

“Most people assume internships are unpaid. When in the reality is, well over half, over 60 percent of all internships are paid internships," she said.

A silver lining of the pandemic Dodd feels, is the loosened emphasis on certain majors for certain fields. Overall, she said employers are starting to consider more general education backgrounds and putting a greater emphasis on people skills.

“They’re looking for those soft skills with communication, the ability to pivot. When something difficult like say a pandemic hits your employer, how are you going to react and how can you be depended on?” she told Action News.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.