Student Life

Graduates Navigate Economy Impacted by COVID


When Maria Varela mapped out her career after graduating, she didn’t foresee a global pandemic interfering. She planned on making the leap from her suburb in Long Island to an apartment in the city, hoping to land a job in the film industry with the degree she worked towards for four years..
Then COVID happened.

“After graduating, like anyone, I was hoping to find a job in film or at least something similar to that, but of course none of that actually happened,” said Varela, a 23-year-old graduate from Hunter College.

It is a sentiment echoed by many college students who are graduating into an economy still reeling from the pandemic; and who are learning how to navigate the job market during a recession.

“I was furloughed from my waitressing job,” said Varela. She lost her second job at a local ice-cream store after Christmas.”Currently, I am collecting unemployment and it’s the most money I have ever made.”

Since the start of the pandemic, hiring for entry-level jobs for graduates has fallen by 45%. This is taking a toll on young people who are already disproportionately impacted by the virus due to their prevalence in the service industry.

“I constantly have to take breaks from looking for jobs. I would force myself to take a break because the constant search gives me anxiety as if I was never going to find a real job,” said Varela, who feels like Hunter could have prepared her more for her search. “Due to CUNY’s cut of advisors, my last semester would have helped but since she was seeing 200 plus students, meetings were limited. No one tells you what to do after graduation.” In 2020, CUNY cut nearly 3,000 faculty members.

Hunter’s advising department did not respond to a request for comment.

After closing the tab on his virtual graduation, Peter Barretta, a 23-year-old graduate from Hunter, watched his plans come to a halt. “I planned on travelling to Italy to finish and acquire my citizenship with the intention of possibly moving to Europe. The pandemic has left those plans at a complete standstill,” said Barretta.

The Italian Consulate has put a temporary hold on new appointments, and restrictions banning travel from the U.S. are still in place in Italy.

Beretta, who worked as a Broadway ticket deliverer before the pandemic, applied to multiple gigs and freelance opportunities, but has had little luck. The connections that he formed before the pandemic didn’t help him land a job either.

“People who had assured me of job positions or job assistance were all giving me the same response, ‘Things are messed up at the moment.’ The moment has been almost a year and a half at this point,” said Barretta.
For Hunter graduate Emily Hernandez, the pandemic messed up her own chance at a paid internship. “Before the pandemic, I searched for internships in New York. I have not been applying to find a job in my degree field since graduation.”

Prior to COVID, Hernandez worked as both a babysitter and at a frozen yogurt shop. When the virus hit last spring, she lost both of her jobs and moved back to her family home in Maryland to finish her virtual semester.

“My plans after graduation changed, but it also came with a bit of relief. I felt less pressured to find a job in my field right away,” said Hernandez. “I think time stresses me out more than the navigation.”

But Hernandez is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. “I feel like now, people are finally understanding what works and doesn’t work when it comes to working in the film/entertainment industry,” said Hernandez.

What started as a time year for new beginnings has turned into a year of uncertainty and doubt for many graduates. “I think I share the opinion of many recent graduates when I say it’s disheartening to see our job searching efforts bear no fruit,” said Barretta.

But with vaccination roll-outs, some are starting to have hope.

“The pandemic has invigorated me in terms of working on my own and independent projects with fellow graduates. Hopefully we’ll strike it on our own,” said Barretta.

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