College graduates struggle to enter a job market impacted by COVID-19

SPOKANE, Wash. – Graduation postponed, no celebrations, and college graduates are now facing another hurdle: getting their first job. It’s tough enough to get a foot in the door for a first job. Now, they will be competing with millions of other people.

Whitworth University’s campus was supposed to be buzzing with excitement on the last week of school Thursday. Now, it’s quiet; Most of the students left before spring break.

“I just felt like everything at the same time stopped,” said Emily Frederickson, a 2020 graduate.

March was when things changed for Frederickson.

“I lost my jobs on campus, I lost just being on campus and that community. I lost that internship and the relationships that I was building,” she continued. “I lost all my travel plans, like I just lost a lot all at the same time, and so all of that combined was just a lot.”

Back then she only had a few months left before she was supposed to throw her cap in the air to celebrate an achievement.

It was time to hunker down and figure out the next step in her life: A job. She started to look for jobs in March and April.

“I think I applied to 20 jobs in the first three weeks or something, because I was freaking out,” she told 4 News Now.

Like Frederickson said, she lost her internship at the YWCA halfway through the semester. Because of the pandemic, the organization had to reduce its staff.

She wasn’t alone.

In a poll done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in April, 22% of employers rescinded their offers to students.

“That’s tough on a student, because a lot of those internships roll right into jobs, that’s been difficult,” said Tiffany Riddle, the director of career services and student employment with Whitworth.

Riddle’s department helps students find a job, get them the skills they may need for life after college. Staff have been trying to help students virtually during these unprecedented times.

“This mirrors 2008 when we had a recession,” she said. “You’re in big competition and you have to stand out.”

Graduates from the Class of 2020 are now having to compete with millions who are jobless. The unemployment rate in April was at 14.7%.

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“Students feel frozen in a sense and not know what’s the next step. It feels so different, but at the same time I think they’re encouraged and hopeful that it will change,” she said.

It did change for Frederickson. She got her foot in the door to her career, helping young men in foster care.

“My thing was kind of a stroke of luck,” she said.

It just took some time.

“Just keep persevering, keep going forward,” she said.

It’s good advice for new graduates, or anyone, trying to look at the path forward to finding a job and in the pandemic.