College Graduates Weigh Uncertain Prospects

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College graduates are stepping forward to the next level in life and finding there’s no ground to catch them.

“I can’t say I had a good, solid plan, but the great ideas I had did not expand; there’s obviously less choices for me now,” said Mikey Pollack, who studied philosophy and history at the University of Maryland.


Pollack has been looking for options, like teaching through UMBC’s career center, or checking out the open positions at JewishJobs.com. Though many companies aren’t hiring for full-time jobs right now, he’s found part-time options. He’s resolved that “staying positive is the most important thing, knowing that this is a finite situation. Getting a job will not necessarily be ideal, and the starting job will not be ideal, but nonetheless, stay optimistic.”

This struggle can take a lot out of seniors who’ve already lost so much this year. However, different organizations are trying to help, not only with the job hunt, but also with send-offs.

Maryland Hillel held a virtual graduation on May 21 with nearly 1,000 attendees, according to Ari Israel, executive director. The ceremony was a week or two short from being last minute, but despite the circumstances, it did provide some comfort to students.

From Hillel, screenshot by Carolyn Conte
From Hillel, screenshot by Carolyn Conte

Israel was most impressed by the sense of community. “You don’t always get that feeling even at a live graduation,” he said. “There’s a lot of joy in seeing families together and grandparents and a lot of love being spread.”

His Hillel has been calling students regularly, holding Shabbat meetings, and writing handwritten letters to the students. It also has been connecting students with alumni to network.

Still, having a virtual graduation is not ideal.

“It was hard for a lot of us,” said Paige Gorodetzky, who emceed the event. “We were about to go on a spring break trip and then found out this was happening, so we didn’t go.”

Virtual school also required a lot of adjustments in terms of learning styles, assignments, and grading. “School was definitely weird,” Gorodetzky said.

Among other challenges, their last event, final social function, and real graduation ceremony were taken away.

The futures for those continuing their education, such as criminology and justice
student Gorodetzky, are less affected, other than a few changes in class sizes and
campus gatherings.

But Gorodetzky, who was accepted to New York University in February to study for her master’s degree, said most of her friends who are job hunting are in a more unsure spot. “I only have one friend who has a job. Most people are even waiting to apply, as opposed to applying now when there aren’t even positions open to us.” She does know of some friends sending their resumes to personal contacts, which Jewish Community Services Career Center recommends.

Something I find really helpful is to work on networking,” said Lisa Cohn, an account representative for JCS Career Center. “That’s more important than sending 100 resumes to 100 places.”

She recommends graduates attend a virtual job fair, network through LinkedIn, or join
professional industry development groups.

She sees a lot of students facing the dilemma that their job options don’t match up with what they studied.

She personally remembers graduating with the mindset that she’d jump into her career field, “but it’s a little slower than normal. They have to be patient and proactive.”

Another challenge is, with a drop in travel, there may be fewer places one can interview in person.

If graduates want more options, volunteer work is one great way to build up a resume. Or, “you can look for a small business, or a business trying to get off on its feet, something you can help out with,” said Cohn. The state also has resources, such as Baltimore County’s free webinar on job hunting in this market, on baltimorecountybusiness.com. Another solution is to consider fields that are not hurt by this particular recession, such as biotechnology, communications, medical supplies, and logistics, according to NPR.

“No matter what, the world is going to go back to some type of normal,” said Gorodetzky.

“People are adjusting. Whether it take a week or a year, people are going to get jobs.”
Israel understands some students are adjusting to living back at home for the first time, or being at the bottom of the job market’s pecking order.

“Life is still marching on,” he said. “I know students who lost jobs, some who’re pushed off, and some who are continuing. Their energy, their vitality has not dissipated. It’s an emotional balancing act, and to be supportive of each other is important.”

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