How the pandemic impacts this year's graduating classes

A Monster poll reveals anxiety levels are at an all-time high, as high school and college seniors graduate virtually and apply for jobs while stuck at home.

COVID-19: What to do if you're considering a job change

Most seniors this year, in both high school and college, have accepted the reality that the culmination of their hard work will be recognized, just not in public. It's a decidedly unceremonious end to a final semester, with campus classes canceled, students pulled out with little notice, and sent home. Courses designed for in-class, with labs, projects, and paper tests were switched to online. 

There won't be any large gatherings, with families squashed tightly on bleachers, desperate to hear their beloved's name: Traditional graduations are out. The ceremonies have either been canceled, postponed, or will be seen on live streams. But graduation isn't the only event affected, many milestones, which feature students surrounded by peers, are impractical to social distancing. 

In addition to this unprecedented end-of-the-school-year, grads have another big step ahead—looking for a job. A Monster with Wakefield Research poll of 1,000 recent or soon-to-be US grads, ages 18-24, and 500 US non-graduates, for a total of 1,500 people, were asked about how they feel about joining the job market, especially under the specter of COVID-19

Responses were gathered online March 10 to 20 across the country, and according to a press release from Monster, "we only expect these percentages to have increased throughout the pandemic." 

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs  (TechRepublic)

Desperate times 

Students were aware that a dramatic change was ahead, and many started to apply to jobs in January, the research noted. Students tried to get ahead of the work curve, which is impacted by the pandemic's curve. They sent out emails and resumes, often, in what used to be referred to as "willy-nilly," i.e. randomly replying to ads for jobs, on sites like Monster. 

More than half (55%) of future grads acknowledge that during that three-month period, they applied to jobs they already knew weren't right, a highly likely wrong fit, but, they told pollsters, they applied in blasts, as a way "out of desperation."

New graduates are stressed

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Experience necessary

Students who've recently graduated may have a "light" resume so it's necessary to list all jobs, however menial or irrelevant to their majors, they want the jobs to "count." 

With the coronavirus and the accompanying behaviors everyone must make, impending grads are anxious to find work. Sixty-seven (67%) of future grads with at least an AA (associate's degree, often a two-year program) say they believe they're overqualified for entry-level jobs. Others don't put as much value in job descriptions, titles and prestige, and focus on a job as a financial necessity. 

thoughtful graduate

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All about the Benjamins

Even if they were overqualified, 59% of future grads replied that they would apply for jobs anyway, because" of a desire to increase chances after going too long without finding one," the poll research noted.

If they were desperate enough, 52% said they would accept a lower salary.

After graduation, the bills start coming in, and will continue to do so during the pandemic. And one particular bill is of grave concern: They are desperate to find a job because of looming student loan payments.

More than three-in-four future grads (77%) carry the burden of student loan debt, with 35% of those former students having a student loan debt of at least $10,000 or more.

Best foot forward 

Future grads say they are willing to spend up to 45 minutes on average on a single job application, and at the height of a job search, they have spent an average of nearly seven hours a week in their job search. 

It's a little esoteric, but OK

A majority of the soon-to-be grads have already held jobs, whether a minimum-wage position, or a prestigious paid internship, and they believe no matter what industry they worked in, it should count toward experience. 

Still, other students may claim their second major is from "the school of hard knocks." Half of future graduates (50%) believe life experience should count as much as employment experience.

Graduate With Now What Placard

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New graduates are stressed

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto