College Graduates Struggle to Find Employment


College graduates are having immense difficulty finding employment. (Courtesy of Twitter)

College graduates are having immense difficulty finding employment. Compounding this phenomenon is the impact of COVID-19 on the job market. From January to April 2020, the U.S.’s unemployment rate for full-time workers increased from 3.5% to 12.9%. At the same time, part-time workers saw an increase in unemployment from 4.1% to a staggering 24.5%. In this time, people with years of experience were laid off and college graduates were sidelined in favor of more experienced individuals willing to accept entry-level positions and pay, especially in the highly impacted industries of hospitality, travel and leisure fields. 

However, unemployment rates have partially recovered, with the percentage hovering around 6-7% for both part-time and full-time workers as of December 2020. So, why are college graduates still facing difficulties finding employment? A combination of preexisting disadvantageous factors and the indirect effects of COVID-19 cause recent graduates to face rejection or even the inability to find jobs. 

Though the pandemic isn’t affecting recent graduates’ abilities to find jobs at the level it was 11 months ago, there are still lingering elements at play. Networking has changed. For example, Fordham still has a career fair, but it’s online and you must schedule an appointment to meet with a specific company. In this instance, there is not an opportunity to find a company the way one might if they were wandering and talking to various representatives. Furthermore, there is a reduction in the peripheral network. Parents, neighbors and friends of friends aren’t networking for recent graduates to the same extent as they were before. The prospect that a graduate would get a job because their brother’s friend from high school works at JP Morgan is slimmer because of limited social contact. 

Additionally, COVID-19 made internship opportunities in 2020 scarce. Internships are crucial for gathering experience in one’s field of interest and preparing for the job market. In 2019, students reported that internships improved their “professionalism, teamwork, communication, and critical-thinking/problem-solving skills.” Without these, graduates may feel unprepared, and potential employers may view these candidates as inexperienced. Internships can often act as a stepping stone to a job. Paid interns are more likely to get a job offer and often make a larger starting salary. Companies would prefer to hire someone who they know fits well into the work environment and who has earned their trust over someone new and inexperienced. Hiring and training individuals who will work remotely because of COVID-19 introduces a new set of challenges for employers. 

Simultaneously, more people are competing for jobs with bachelor’s degrees. In 2018, there were 1.98 million college graduates in the U.S. In 2008, there were 1.56 million new graduates, meaning that an additional 420,000 new candidates were competing for jobs in 2018 than in 2008. In order for graduates to distinguish themselves from the competition, they may strive to attain a master’s degree or more. Every field has well-known and well-respected companies, and many graduates will be applying for these coveted positions. This competition, which is already steeper than it was a few years ago, is exacerbated by the need to find jobs virtually. Smaller companies, where many graduates would have found work by now, have less access to potential employees. They have less visibility and name recognition, so it’s harder for graduates to discover them and apply for jobs. Some employers who would have been hiring 10 or 20 years ago may not be now because people are waiting longer to retire. In 2019 “more than 20% of Americans over 65 were working or looking for work,” which is double the rate of older people doing so in 1985, leaving little space for new acquisitions.  

These factors in conjunction with each other and the current pandemic create a mess for recent college graduates looking for employment. If we don’t get to the root of the issues, potentially fantastic candidates will be overlooked in favor of others solely based on experience. Companies will stagnate in their development due to a lack of diversity in hiring and new perspectives.

Giovanna Rafanello, FCRH ’23, is a psychology major from Madison, N.J.