By Joseph D’Andrea
For those who had to face stresses primarily related to their income during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, an adjustment was required to better navigate life, both emotionally and financially. Whether those affected were small business owners or young adults looking to jumpstart their way into the workforce, the obstacles posed more than just a health-related problem that would have to be addressed.
Building on that, both the up-and-coming workforce, as well as those looking for a job in general, had to cope with fewer opportunities being offered to them. For college students, the importance of earning a paycheck during what is seen by many as the most significant step of our lives--working our way through college--is not only a goal, but a necessity for many. The established plan had been simple: get a job before or during your first or second year of college, work your way up to an internship, and exit college with a dignified resume as your career search begins. However, as many college students around the nation have come to discover all too well, a worldwide interruption became a roadblock in this preparation for a better future; competition notably increased and the options of where to maneuver next became slim and less flexible.
As the virus continued to impact the world, it was also impacting college graduate job prospects. According to a May 2021 Pew Research Center report, “In October 2020, 69% of adults ages 20 to 29 who had graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree or higher during the previous spring were employed, lower than the share of 2019 graduates who were employed in October of that year (78%). The labor force participation rate for recent college graduates… also dropped from 86% to 79% during this one-year period…” Further, the report said, “Among all Americans ages 16 and older, the employment rate declined from 61% in October 2019 to 58% in October 2020, and the labor force participation rate declined from 63% to 62%.”
With more unemployment comes less initiative in the workforce as well, which has also brought on a nationwide rise in anxiety and depression. According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Covid-19 has taken a toll on mental health in the country to a large degree, and especially for those getting into new experiences. Being that college students already face various forms of pressure and anxiety, the last thing students want to hear is that they’ve become backtracked.
As a first-year student at Adelphi, I started my first job in September 2020; the summer before my senior year of high school. This was at the time one of Covid’s highest points, and as I was searching for possible jobs that I could apply for, the process and what followed did not seem as normal as usual. In terms of new hires, quantity seemed to have been valued over quality. Many employees came and went within a month or so, and I felt obligated to stand out among those who were not planning to stay for an extended period, partly to boost my credibility. Having faced a similar issue at my workplace, when I first applied to be a cashier at Michaels Arts and Crafts, there was a conflict of a simultaneous need for businesses to hire, and for them to abide by safety guidelines of the time.
The additional problem of employees being forced to modify their learning pace when it comes to new experiences has certainly been a struggle, and the only way to overcome this difficulty would be to adapt, even if the person facing the predicament is not used to doing so. Though possibly easier said than done, grasping how to approach a situation in a different direction can help not only during a pandemic but in everyday life. Starting a job and having to wear a mask, I felt that took away from my interactions with customers and my co-workers. However, many of us have come to the point where wearing a mask in the workplace is not deemed necessary, I have begun to feel a genuinely stronger connection with those I encounter.
The main takeaway from a lifestyle-altering development the world saw this past year and a half is that seizing what lies at the end of the tunnel can be beneficial. We’ve had to become adaptable as internship and job opportunities have also changed and experiences we once assumed would be in person have gone virtual. But that has also made it easier to have work experience in different states and even internationally. The will of those affected by anything in life must always be factored in when looking for how many have overcome their hurdles, and in the case of Covid-19’s pessimism-inducing impact, it is important to be someone who fought against a struggle.