New College Grads Face Pandemic Job Market

Two people in office passing documents with keeping a distance
Two people in office passing documents with keeping a distance. Getty Images.

Moeez Naveed, 21, of Plainview, graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in biochemistry. Now he’s heading into the workforce as a medical scribe at a pulmonologist’s office in Bethpage.

“COVID delayed my hiring,” he said of the job, obtained through ScribeAmerica, in which he assists during doctor’s visits. “They had a hiring freeze. Everyone wears masks. I also wear a gown and a face shield. There’s a substantial amount of precautions.”

While there’s no one way to describe today’s work world, it’s very different than it was just months before. Recent college grads are entering a different economy, but also a transformed workplace.

Virtual interviews are often replacing those in offices, jobs sometimes have become remote and rock-solid job offers sometimes fell through.

“If students had offers, for the most part they’ve been retained,” said  Michelle Kyriakides, executive director at Hofstra University’s Career Center. “They may have had their start date pushed back.”

Orientation is often done remotely as new hires receive laptops and headphones. Initially, at least, they are working from home.

Internships sometimes have been canceled or at least shortened, as employees have had less time to mentor.

“Some employers have a halt on hiring or are pushing back starting dates,” Kimberly Joy Dixon, Stony Brook University’s director of employer engagement and diversity recruitment, confirmed. “Be a little more patient with the process.”

Grads are entering a brave, new jobs market with 11.1 percent unemployment nationwide as of June, down from 13.3 percent in May.

“I think there’s a lot of stress,” Kyriakides said. “They saw the number of unemployed going up and up. We’ve been telling students, ‘Be as proactive as you can.’”

Matthew Colson, executive director of alumni relations and the alumni association at Stony Brook University, said these are the latest tumultuous times.

“I think about the class of 2008 entering a challenging market,” [during the economic recession] he said. “And they have since persevered and found great success.” 

Indeed.com said job postings are down 29 percent from June 2019, but noted there’s strong demand for technology skills such as computer programming in SQL, Java, Python, and Linux.

“Soft skills are also growing due to the coronavirus pandemic,” according to Indeed.com, which cited communications.

As offices reopen, they likely will be different in activity and atmosphere for new hires. Many companies are welcoming up to 30 percent back at once.

Alumni often help those with or looking for work. Dixon called Stony Brook’s roughly 200,000 alumni “a bright light” and a “silver lining” in a changing world.

Stony Brook students and grads are taught how to present themselves on Zoom, including what to wear and what’s appropriate for backgrounds, and how to onboard as an intern or full time in a virtual setting.

“Prepare to have multiple employment opportunities with multiple companies, and one side hustle gig,” Brad Szollose, a business consultant in Bay Shore, said. “Be like a commando and prepare for anything. This is the only way to survive in this day and age.” 

Szollose predicted that many small companies may go out of business over the next year. 

“Be prepared to move on, over and over again,” he said.

“COVID has made it impossible for some people to get clinical experience,” said Naveed. “I plan on working as a scribe and conducting research at Stony Brook.”

Kyriakides said the workplace will likely never be exactly the way it was prepandemic. 

“I think we will see some change in how companies work and recruit,” she said. “There will be more flexibility in some industries.”

She said it’s important that graduates don’t simply sit on the sidelines, mentioning a healthcare administration major who moved back to Las Vegas and volunteered with her church, to help run its youth ministry group and food pantry.

“It’s really about telling your story,” Kyriakides said. “Being able to say, ‘This is what I gained from the experience. This is how I responded to the crisis.’”

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