Montclair State University graduates are facing the uncertainty of finding jobs in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The economic impact of COVID-19 has reshaped the way these alumni are preparing to start a new chapter in their lives.
Many recent graduates are struggling to get interviews for jobs they applied for, while some have been lucky enough to get hired by companies that they interned at before finishing college.
Heather Berzak is a recent graduate who worked hard during her time at Montclair State as a journalism major. This includes being the editor-in-chief of The Montclarion during her senior year.
“I have worked really hard in school and I [knew] that hard work [was] going to come back to me one day, and then the pandemic hit. And after that, obviously it’s very difficult for your mentality to stay the same in a situation like that,” Berzak said.
When the pandemic started, Berzak’s hope gradually dwindled as media companies and networks began laying people off in droves.
“It’s hard to maintain that same optimism that you did when you were in the beginning of spring semester,” Berzak said. “But, you know, everyone’s in that boat. So, I can’t feel alone now.”
Right after graduation, Berzak was fortunate to get an entry-level freelance editor job at a startup company from last May through the end of November. Learning a new position over Zoom was difficult for Berzak, which made maintaining the job very challenging for her.
“They tried to train me the best they could, but you know, the reality is that being a startup, they don’t have the funding or the time to really put full focus into someone who’s still learning,” Berzak said.
Elena Plumser, another recent graduate who studied television and digital media at Montclair State, knows that many recent graduates are struggling to find a job. This makes her feel less stressed about her own job-related struggles.
“I felt better about the fact that I wasn’t the only one, but everyone else that I graduated with [is] also in the same boat of trying to find jobs, or lost previous jobs,” Plumser said.
Plumser felt a lot of pressure to immediately land a job, especially if she wanted to move out of her parents’ house and gain some financial independence.
“I quickly learned that I needed to let myself relax a little bit and go with the flow because you can’t really predict what’s going to happen in a pandemic,” Plumser said.
Adam Mayer, director of the Center for Career Services at Montclair State, works closely with students to help them get a foot in the door after graduating. He believes hiring nowadays is completely flat.
“We did see huge layoffs, we have seen hiring freezes, we’ve seen budgets cut,” Mayer said. “I think most of us did think that the employment market will be harmed in an incredible way.”
Although Mayer thinks that hiring rates have dropped down due to the pandemic, he assures students that there is still hope.
“What students have been doing during the pandemic that translates into the working world [is] virtual education; the fact that you were able to manage your own time, manage your degree online [and] classes themselves, [all] working through an online management system,” Mayer said. “So when you go [to] work for an employer, they are going to have an online management system as well. Those are sort of things you already got your feet wet with.”
Carly Henriquez, who studied communication and media arts at Montclair State, was fortunate enough to land a job right after completing her degree.
“I applied to MSNBC and NBC News. I managed to obtain an internship with them back in fall [of] 2019 and I performed really well for them. They asked [me] to stay with them for another semester and I said, ‘yeah, sure, I’ll definitely commit to them,’” Henriquez said.
During her second semester internship, Henriquez’ hard work was noticed and later she was offered a full-time entry-level job with MSNBC.
“I was offered a job back in February, before the whole pandemic [and] before I graduated, which was a blessing. Some of my professors did tell me to go for it and that I’ll regret it if I don’t,” Henriquez said.