With little knowledge about when the COVID-19 pandemic will end, young Americans are tasked with making big decisions about their future in one of the most uncertain times of their lives.
As positive cases and unemployment rates continue to rise, recent graduates have been forced to reevaluate their initial plans and are worried for their futures. Maddy Valdez, who graduated from the university in the spring of 2020, said she had a job lined up to be a consultant at an executive recruiting firm. In late April, she received a call that the firm could no longer afford to hire her.
“Once COVID hit, I was already in a low place,” Valdez said. “I just kept telling myself, ‘At least I have something lined up afterwards that I’m excited about,’ so when I lost the job, it was just a double hit.”
Making decisions about the future is difficult for many young people in normal circumstances; however, the pandemic adds a new level of fear to the process.
“I hate the term ‘new normal,’” Valdez said. “When I think of the future, in general, I feel nervous, which definitely changed because of COVID.”
Like Valdez, other recent graduates are afraid COVID-19 will have a negative impact on their future. Andrea Sanchez-Perez planned to work as a full-time paralegal after her graduation from St. John’s University in New York in January. However, she said her start date was initially pushed back and that months later, there are still no open positions for Sanchez-Perez to fill.
“I’m afraid of getting a full-time job,” Sanchez-Perez said. “Since I would be a new hire, I would be the first to get laid off.”
Although recent college graduates are currently navigating the loss of their jobs due to COVID-19, students who recently or are soon to graduate high school worry just as much about their own futures. Erin Walsh, a senior at Arlington High School in Massachusetts, said she has questioned whether or not now is the time to go to college.
“What next year and the years after are going to look like in terms of college are still up in the air,” Walsh said. “I’m nervous that I won’t be able to do labs or collaborate with other students the way we would have before COVID.”
Walsh also explained that she not only worries about her college experience being different, but that the online learning environment will prevent students from learning how to work together as a team.
“I worry that me and my generation of college students will graduate college and go into the job force lacking certain collaborative and hands-on skills,” Walsh said.
Although many young adults have had to scrap their original plans and are more uncertain of their futures than ever before, some have found ways to adapt to the situation.
“I’m now thinking about going to law school,” Sanchez-Perez said. “If the job market is this bad, I might as well further my education.”
Additionally, Valdez now has a job as a development associate in a field she never before considered: renewable energy.
“When I think of the future career-wise, I feel good,” Valdez said. “I have built a professional network of people that I know would be there to help me if needed. It’s how I got the job I have today.”
Despite her fears for the future, Walsh has been able to be optimistic and will be attending college in the fall of 2021.