'I'm going backwards': 2020 college graduates are feeling stuck


For the class of 2020, the rites of passage disappeared.

There was no walking across a giant stage alongside your peers, while the allotted ticketed amount of loved ones watched and cheered alongside professors wearing caps and gowns. There probably wasn’t the traditional moving out of one’s family home into the “real world.” Most crushing of all, there was also probably no landing of the job that is supposed to jump-start your adult life.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bay Area schools and universities went online almost a year ago. Graduation ceremonies were no exception, as many happened over Zoom.

Although they left college with a diploma, these graduates didn’t know what to expect when they entered the job market of today.

“Before graduating, one of my professors said ‘Oh there’s a lot of jobs out there, don’t worry.’ There’s a lot of startups and hedge funds who are backed up and need help, but then all of a sudden COVID-19 hit, and then there were significantly fewer jobs,” said Bryant Candia, a marketing graduate of San Francisco State University. “We were all very optimistic about us graduating and finding jobs, but now it’s been even more difficult to find a job.”

Not only has the amount of jobs decreased, but many online job applications also lead nowhere because of hiring freezes.

Candia applied to a handful of marketing jobs before graduating in May, and even did an initial interview with a few of them, only to be eventually turned down. He is always waiting for that second call, and he is not the only one.

“Applying for jobs takes a toll on me emotionally,” said Manuel Rendon, a sociology graduate from California State University East Bay, who temporarily moved back home with his parents in Central California to save money. “I usually get that rejection that says I won’t be considered for the position but that they’ll keep my resume on file, and yet I won’t hear back. You move on from the first interview, but then you don’t get the second one. You have to keep applying.”

Rendon took a job working at a local warehouse as he was in need of money, a job he never could have imagined himself working until now. “It wasn’t something I was passionate about, so I didn’t look forward to working there every day even though the work was easy. I didn’t have that incentive to get up and go to work.”

He has since left his warehouse job and is now relying on the $600 government stimulus check to get by, which barely helps when having to pay rent in California.

Other graduates have also either returned to or have taken jobs that they don’t find emotionally fulfilling, for better or for worse.

“I feel less hopeful now with the pandemic. It changed everything,” said Kayla McGorgan, a marketing graduate from San Jose State University. “It’s been hard for me to find a job in marketing, at least. I’ve gone back to my old retail job right now. I feel like I’ve gone backward. I feel like I’m still in school but without any school responsibilities.”

“My goal is to just find a more meaningful job because I feel like I’m past that part of my life,” she added. “I don’t know where to go or where to turn.”

Looking back, these graduates are still feeling disappointment about how their final semester unfolded, a semester unlike any other in the past, and a far cry from how many of them would have ever expected it to end.

“I feel like I was forced out of school,” said Trisha Tulud, a mechanical engineering graduate from SFSU, who has since moved in back with her parents in Southern California. “I didn’t feel ready. It was scary to leave campus and the comfort that I had with my friends and professors. I lost a lot of support.”

Another barrier to finding a job for 2020's graduates is the emphasis put on prior experience in the hiring process, which begs the seemingly eternal question: How can someone get experience if they are never hired?

“We should be given some slack when people see our resumes and see it says ‘Class of 2020,’” said Candia. “We should be seen through different eyes. Where are we going to get any experience when nothing is open? Where do people expect us to get this so-called experience? We’re doing everything right and putting ourselves out there, but our chances are lower because of COVID-19.”

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