Nearly half of 2020 college grads still haven't found work

A recent survey also details job search "desperation," salary expectations, concerns about pandemic-related employment gaps, the gig economy and more.

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To say the quarantine class of 2020 has had a tough go of it would be an understatement. From Zoom graduations and virtual internships to a job market hamstrung by a modern plague, COVID-19 has presented no shortage of challenges for new graduates. A recent Monster survey highlights sentiment among recent and soon-to-be graduates about pandemic-related salary expectations, professional setbacks, gaps in employment and more.

"The long-term impact of the pandemic on college grads is yet to be seen, but our latest round of research shows a second graduating class tackling some really big obstacles just as they're getting started in the workforce," said Scott Blumsack, senior vice president, research and insights at Monster.

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"Desperation" and professional goals

The findings are based on a Monster survey conducted in March involving 1,000 "recent and impending" graduates. Overall, nearly half of the class of 2020 (45%) said they were "still looking for work." Nearly three-quarters (73%) of graduates said they accepted a position that "didn't fit their career goals" out of desperation.

About half (45%) said they accepted a position that didn't match their professional goals because they needed money and one-quarter said they did so because they "needed experience." Other top reported reasons for taking such a position include paying off student loans (20%), being "sick of searching" for a job (16%), parental pressure (14%) and fear "they'd get no other offers" (14%).

Resume gaps and employer perceptions

The vast majority of recent graduates (85%) believe the coronavirus pandemic has "set back" their career goals by one month or longer and 66% of graduates said they were "not very optimistic" about landing a position that "fits their career goals." Nearly seven in 10 recent and soon-to-be graduates (69%) said they expected "lower salaries as a result of COVID-19."

Nearly seven in 10 graduates (68%) believed employers will "judge COVID-related resume gaps" and 63% worried that their resume didn't "accurately represent what they bring to the table."

Climbing the corporate ladder and gig life

The results also detail interesting sentiments about entry-level positions and expected promotion timelines. For example, about seven in 10 grads believe they are "overqualified for entry-level work" and think an entry-level position "should last less than six months, before either getting promoted or moving to a different job."

About one-third of respondents (30%) said they planned to work temporary, freelance or gigs until they find a full-time position and 23% said they will continue to work these positions after landing full-time work.

"[Grads are] split between feeling overqualified for many of the jobs available now and a realization that they will have to accept a lower salary because of the pandemic," Blumsack said. "Couple that with the anxiety of going to work before they feel it's safe, and we see a generation struggling to find their footing."

SEE: Juggling remote work with kids' education is a mammoth task. Here's how employers can help (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Career goals and salary expectations

Nearly nine in 10 respondents (85%) were concerned about missing out on "positive job experiences" due to beginning a position during the coronavirus pandemic. Other benefits respondents were worried about missing out on include "on-site perks" (36%), mentorship opportunities (34%) and in-person connections with coworkers (40%).

Relocating without employment

While some companies have brought employees back to the traditional office, many organizations continue to operate remotely to mitigate the spread of contagion. Due to remote work, up to 23 million adults could be on the move across the U.S.; nearly fourfold normal migration rates, according to an Upwork survey. The Monster survey found that nearly three-quarters (72%) of recent graduates said they were willing to "relocate for a job if the search took too long."

Virtual career fairs and online job interviews have become popular options among the coronavirus pandemic. Interestingly nearly three-quarters (68%) of recent graduates would complete their job search and interview process via text.

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