Kaitlin Otting has seen firsthand how COVID-19 is affecting the job market.
Otting, a senior at the University of North Georgia graduating this May, had made it all the way to the third and final round of interviews for a sales position last month when she was told the company was no longer planning to fill the vacancy.
“They just said they were sorry they had to put it on pause and hoped that I would consider them in the future once they begin the rehiring process,” Otting said.
It’s a challenge that college seniors preparing to enter the workforce are facing around the country.
Otting has since accepted another job, but many soon-to-be graduates have not been as lucky. She said that based on what she’s seen, the job market has dried up significantly over the past couple of months.
“I actually had been researching jobs for a while before I was ready to start applying, just to see what I thought I would be interested in,” she said. “A lot of those jobs that had been listed before were taken down once COVID hit.”
Garrett Davis, a senior public relations major at UNG, has seen much of the same.
He said many of his recent applications to work at smaller PR firms have been met with an email of apology, explaining that they had put temporary holds on hiring for new positions.
Davis said many of his classmates who will be graduating with him in May are planning to take this summer as a period of self growth, working on personal projects they wouldn’t be able to focus on while still maintaining a full-time job.
Still, the immediate stressors of unemployment will be a difficult burden for many college graduates to bear.
“I do think in the long run we will be better prepared for positions later on, just because we’ll have that extra time to kind of take a step back and focus on building ourselves a little bit,” he said. “But I think short term, it’s making things difficult for us.”
UNG Director of Career Services Diane Farrell said the sudden decrease in job listings has been a jarring change for students who had expected to be graduating into what she described as “the best job market that we had seen in a long time.”
Instead, finding employment will be a challenge even for those with the strongest of resumes. Farrell said it’s important that graduates seeking to enter the workforce keep an open mind about what sort of jobs they’re willing to take.
“They need to perhaps be more open minded about the opportunities that are out there and that they want to pursue,” she said. “They want to think about the transferable skills they would bring, and the transferable skills they would gain if they start in a position that wasn’t originally what they thought.”
Farrell said flexibility will be key for students hoping to receive employment, and being open to starting work remotely can be the difference between getting a job offer or not.
“A lot of employers rather than pulling back on the offer are saying ‘hey, we’re going to offer this to you, but you’re going to be working remotely, and will that work for you?’” she said. “And the more flexible you are with that, the better off you are.”
Most importantly, according to Farrell, is that graduates not allow themselves to feel defeated by the sudden scarcity of open positions. Farrell recommended volunteer work to those who can’t find paying work. She also urged them to seek out networking opportunities, such as UNG’s virtual career fair happening on Tuesday, May 19.
Farrell said that as long as May graduates are being proactive about improving themselves, they are increasing their odds of gaining employment.
“You just don’t want to bury your head in the sand,” she said. “Just get busy. It’s really just a matter of the person with the most persistence is going to win. So be that persistent person who strives to keep improving how you present yourself. And if you don’t feel qualified enough yet, make sure to find ways to gain more skills.”