College grads enter workforce, feeling pressure with diplomas in hand

Georgia

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – College students across the country celebrated their graduations this weekend, but as they flip their tassels some are concerned the pandemic was a roadblock towards getting essential workplace experience.

Compared to 2020, things are looking optimistic for the class of 2021. According to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers project hiring 7.2% more new college graduates this year than last year.

“It’s looking good, looking stable,” Jovan Johnson, Director of Career Design at Columbus State University, said.  “We can see from current trends that the jobs that are available might not be the jobs that students are looking for, but it is a good sign that the market is growing and expanding and we’re willing to take on new graduates and new employees in the workforce.”

Some recent graduates, however, are feeling the pressure even with diplomas in hand. 

When the pandemic hit, many had internships cancelled, which prevented them from getting necessary work experience for the jobs they are now striving for. 

“Especially for a lot of the jobs that you want to take that will pay a liveable wage and a good salary for the skill set that you developed in college, you need at least 1 or 2 years of experience,” recent University of Georgia graduate, Gavin Waple, said. “You can’t get that unless you have one of these positions.”

Networking events were also put on pause, making it difficult for students to build in-person connections with people in the career fields. 

“It’s about the people you know,” Waple said. “If you’re not able to go out and meet those people, they can’t put a face to the name and you’re just another name on a sheet of paper.”

Waple also says many of his peers have struggled emotionally with the job application process, especially as some employers refrain from sending out rejection letters. Not knowing that an employer has moved on to another round or another candidate is especially draining for graduates holding out hope on every application. 

College career centers, however, are making sure students are as prepared as possible for the job application and interview process.

Cherith Phillips, an Auburn University senior planning to graduate in December, says the university has been helpful in the process of securing her job post-graduation. 

“If you lack funds to get an outfit, they’ll help get you a professional interview outfit free of charge,” Phillips said. “Everyone who graduates from Auburn is entitled to one and even if you’re printing out your resume and it needs to be on cardstock, they will print it out for you.”  

The country is not back to pre-pandemic hiring levels just yet, but the statistical increase does signal things may be moving in a positive direction. 

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