Samantha Warner, Campus Carrier reporter
The Class of 2020 entered a strange new world after leaving Berry. In the wake of COVID-19 and amid a changing job market, recent college graduates face new challenges like unemployment, starting jobs remotely and even scams that target those looking for work.
In April, the unemployment rate in the U.S. jumped to 14.7%, the highest since the Great Depression. By the end of August it fell to 8.4%, but CNBC reports that unemployment is significantly higher (19.8%) for those in the 20-24 age range. According to Marc Hunsaker, Dean of Personal and Professional Development at Berry, a series of informal polls found that between 30 and 40% of 2020 college graduates did not have a job offer or graduate school acceptance letter in hand at the time of their graduation.
Hunsaker said that at the time of graduation, Berry students were doing better than the national average, but an official employment rate for Berry’s 2020 graduates is not available to the public at this time.
“So traditionally… you’re really just competing against other college grads for these, you know, entry level positions,” Bailey Hanner, a May 2020 Berry graduate said. “But now you might be competing with someone who’s been doing it for 10 years who had to get let go because of COVID. The competition is very fierce nowadays.”
Hanner, who graduated with a double major in Marketing and Management, had a job lined up in software sales when he left Berry. Though he was able to begin work in June, Hanner did all of his onboarding, a process used to integrate new employees, and training from home.
“I only went into our office… just to pick up my computer and some monitors and stuff that they wanted to set me up with, and then they sent me home,” Hanner said. “It’s definitely been very different than the traditional onboarding process.”
In light of recent changes in the job market, some of Berry’s recent graduates have chosen to further their education. Sarah Storey, who majored in communication with a Public Relations concentration and a business minor, is one of these students.
“I began my job search right when this all happened and everyone was shutting down,” Storey said. “They weren’t accepting a lot of new people. And then like I was like, ‘Okay let me give this a month.’ And then when I went back, they were like, ‘We want five years of experience. We want master’s level education.’”
Storey is currently pursuing a master’s in Science of Marketing at Georgia State University. She is taking classes remotely from her parents’ home, and is still searching for a part time job.
Jordan Leitch, who majored in communication with a filmmaking and cinema concentration and a psychology minor, has also decided to continue her education. After spending the summer job hunting, Leitch accepted a job as a graduate assistant and volleyball coach at Shorter University. While she’s at Shorter, she is pursuing a master’s in management.
“I would go on the job hunt and just like fail, and fail, and fail,” Leitch said. “And so going back to school ultimately seems like the best option for me. And not only that, not only am I going back to school. I’m coaching. So it’s like a job and school, all in one.”
Jordan said she was scammed more than once by people posing as potential employers, conducting interview processes through websites like Indeed and Glassdoor.
“I experienced some jobs that didn’t tell the whole truth of, like, who they were,” Leitch said.
One of these groups was a Marietta company that invited Leitch for a group interview on Zoom with several other candidates. She noticed that the interview process moved very quickly, but she thought it was fine. The first red flag came during a later group Zoom call, when the host avoided Leitch’s questions about salary. When the group asked for personal information without disclosing expected pay for her new position, she decided to turn down the job.
“I got an interview again with this other company in Atlanta,” Leitch said. “It was the same lady who had done my… phone call in May and she asked the same exact questions. She had the same exact script.”
Leitch isn’t the only recent Berry graduate to be targeted by these scams, and in order to avoid this type of scam, Hunsaker recommends that students and recent graduates use the job hunting app, Handshake, to apply for jobs because of its “trust score” feature. Berry has set its trust score very high, so untrustworthy employers can’t advertise on Berry’s Handshake community.
“We really don’t expect students to do this on their own,” Hunsaker said. “Finding a job is tough. And learning how to navigate the work force period, not to mention a post-COVID workforce, that’s a skill you have to learn. The Center for Personal and Professional Development is here to help students with that.”