Class of 2021 faces daunting job search even as economy improves

Marie Roberts, a 2021 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, can feel the pressure of entering a competitive job market as the coronavirus pandemic in America appears to be waning.

After more than a year of remote learning, social distancing and economic chaos, she knew she wasn’t the only one now polishing her résumé and writing multiple cover letters to start her career.

“A lot of us, in my class and the class of 2020 included, were feeling a lot of pressure to apply for jobs,” said Roberts. '[Daar] was the added pressure of the pandemic and also having a lot of graduates from the class of 2020 who still didn’t have a job and all of the people who maybe had gotten laid off from their jobs during the pandemic applying for entry-level positions too.”

Although the class of 2021 is entering a healthier job market now, they are also facing more competitors in the wake of the pandemic’s disruption.

The job market in the United States is recovering after shedding millions of jobs at the pandemic’s height. Career sites such as Handshake and LinkedIn are seeing a huge increase in their job listings. In April 2021, job listings on Handshake were 209% higher than in 2020 en 48% higher than in 2019.

“There are millions of entry-level jobs available now on LinkedIn,” LinkedIn career expert Blair Heitman said. “The class of 2021 is entering a much healthier, stable job market than their 2020 counterparts.”

But despite the surge in job postings, job hunting for 2021 graduates has not become any easier.

Melinda Xiong, who graduated from Cornell University with a degree in sociology and a minor in law and society, recalls the stress of searching for a job.

“I was optimistic at the beginning and then the more and more I applied, the lack of responses was kind of very demotivating,” Xiong said. “Every month, every week that passed that I didn’t get any responses it was just like soul-crushing and I honestly felt like giving up at the end.”

Evan Santiago began his job search in March. He applies to seven to 10 jobs a day, including at the weekends. He finds the process very nerve-racking and taxing.

“It’s discouraging, you graduate college really wide-eyed and ready to take on the world and when you get three to four rejections a day it really makes you question if you’re as talented as you thought you were,” Santiago said.

This year’s graduates are also contending for the same jobs as 2020 graduates and young professionals who may have been laid off during the pandemic. The class of 2020 is still in the job market. According to the Pew Research Center, 31% van 2020 graduates were unemployed in October 2020, far higher than the 22% vir 2019 graduates in October 2019.

But the pandemic has also made many in the working world reconsider their priorities.

When looking for a new job, flexible hours and location have become more important than health benefits, pay and workforce culture. People are leaving their current jobs to find a better fit.

Students from the class of 2021 “are competing with some of the class of 2020; they are also competing with other young professionals that may be looking to make a switch,” explained Christine Cruzvergara, the chief education strategy officer at Handshake.

Sy het bygevoeg: “This past year and a half was an opportunity for folks to really rethink some of their values, rethink what was important to them, and because of that, you’re going to see some folks make some changes to where they work, to where they live, and what kind of work/life balance they’re looking for in their lives.”

Cruzvergara advises the students who are still looking to not give up hope. She believes that the rounds of rejections and months of searching are all part of the process.

“Even when the economy is really great, there are many students who take many months to do the job search because the job search is a process," sy het gese. “Many are also applying to different opportunities in many different cities and different job roles because they’re also using that opportunity to learn more about companies and more about the industries that they want to work with, so that’s actually not super uncommon.”

Xiong ultimately found a job as a paralegal. She reflects on what she has learned.

“The advice that multiple people told me was that when you get rejected, it may seem like a reflection of how qualified you are as an applicant,” Xiong said. “But at the end of the day, you have to learn to tell yourself that it’s not a reflection of your ableness, your capabilities. It’s kinda just like, you just weren’t the right fit. You have to tell yourself that it’s not personal because if you keep thinking to yourself, it’s a reflection of your capabilities, it’s a mental train wreck.”

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