The Unique Realities of Graduating COllege in 2021

The Unique Realities of Graduating College in 2021

Thousands of college grads will face brand-new challenges in the job market. Given the unique circumstance of a global pandemic that has been shaking up the economy for over a year, this year’s graduates must gear up for a journey more challenging than that of the graduates before them.

The pressure of finding a job after college is especially stressful at a time like this. 

Navigating the job market after a recession is already a difficult task but on top of that, graduates also need to adapt to the latest demands that the pandemic has brought on. Due to this health crisis, the market now has demands for new and unusual employment conditions. 

The Stakes

The economic shock has forced several businesses to lay off workers and unemployment claims reached a record high in the past year. The job market is especially difficult for new graduates who are just about to navigate their way in when there aren’t even enough jobs for people who are already part of the workforce.

Many students fear being unemployed after graduation and are already at a loss wondering what to do after college. 

In “The Short- and Long-Term Career Effects of Graduating in a Recession”, Oreopoulos, von Wachter and Heisz determined that the economic damage of graduating during a recession can last for several years. Their study shows that graduating into a recession leads to a large initial earning loss – about 9% of annual earnings, which will take about 10 years to disappear. 

Graduating during a recession can also affect your whole career path as you’re more likely to take lower-paying positions and undergo career changes to work towards your desired position.

The graduating class of 2021 can suffer a significant career setback, and graduates from less prestigious colleges or majors with lower employment prospects are at higher risk.  

According to Oreopoulos et al.: ”Finding jobs that offer significant opportunities for promotion and training are likely more difficult under these conditions—especially for those less skilled—and recovering from these initial shocks may depend on mobility between firms.” Less advantaged graduates are likely to suffer a more dramatic career setback and will find it more difficult to recover from the initial blow. 

What’s In Store for 2021?

As the world deals with the economic consequences of the pandemic – a recession that’s considered to be the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression – prospects seem bleak for the graduating class of 2021, who have to venture into the job market amidst the chaos.

However, some studies have shown that the hiring prospect for the class of 2021 seems more positive than expected, given the circumstances. 

The National Association of College and Employers conducted a Job Outlook survey to forecast the hiring level for the upcoming year. According to this survey, employers are planning to maintain hiring at 2020 levels in 2021. The survey was collected from July 27, 2020 through September 11, 2020 from 931 NACE employer members and 2368 non-member employer organizations. 

Based on the findings, many employers understand the importance of maintaining their college recruiting efforts. Otherwise, they could risk losing ground in the market, meaning they’ll have to restart at a disadvantage once the economy recovers. This was a lesson they learned after the recession of the late 2000s when college hiring decreased by 22% from the previous year. 

Employers are, therefore, taking necessary steps to maintain their hiring levels amidst the current public health crisis and turbulent economic condition. 

What’s The Damage?

While the NACE survey forecast is more promising than we’d expect, we still can’t ignore the inescapable effects of the current climate on the job market for college graduates. Even if employers wish to maintain their hiring level, they might not afford to do so and will have to cut corners one way or another. The consequence of the unforeseen pandemic completely destabilized the global economy and the job market along with it. 

2020 saw a big rise in unemployment, with millions of people losing their jobs and 2020 graduates failing to find employment opportunities. The Collegiate Employment Research Institute annual recruiting trends survey for 2020-2021 found that 25% of the employers who answered the survey suspended spring recruiting or rescinded offers. In addition, 40% suspended recruiting or rescinded offers for internships. Such college graduate employment statistics paint a rather unpromising picture. 

“Finding jobs that offer significant opportunities for promotion and training are likely more difficult under these conditions—especially for those less skilled—and recovering from these initial shocks may depend on mobility between firms.”
Philip Oreopoulos

However, as we’ve lived with this pandemic for over a year, we’ve gradually adapted to new working situations and arrangements that would’ve been considered unconventional prior to 2020. Fortunately, this has opened up new opportunities through remote work which will allow you to find work anywhere across the country.  

Some employers are making use of the convenience of virtual hiring and recruiting more interns, and will likely continue to do so. Even with millions receiving vaccine shots every week, it’ll take months for the whole workforce to return to normal working situations. Remote work has proven its benefits and employers will be more open to remote hiring even in the future.

Job Trends in 2021

According to the Collegiate Employment Research survey, associate-level jobs are bound to expand while there will be a decrease in master’s level jobs. Many graduates will have to apply for jobs that can act as a bridge to their desired positions even if the job doesn’t necessarily match their credentials. 

Graduates whose fields align with the sectors that have been most dramatically affected will especially have to make compromises. That means they must be willing to take career detours and wait out till the job market opens up for their desired sector. 

One important advice for college grads that experts in career development have been emphasizing is the need for graduates to take any job they can find, even just to show in your resume that you’re doing something. You may not find the perfect job right away but being an active member of the workforce after earning a college degree is important for future career development. 

Even if you take on entry-level jobs in sectors that don’t exactly align with your major and skill-sets, many employers make efforts on upskilling their employees. So you’ll still have the capacity to develop your career in that area. 

Due to the lifestyle changes resulting from the pandemic, demands for jobs in e-commerce spaces are on the rise. A majority of the population is resorting to staying indoors as much as possible and relying heavily on online purchasing and delivery services in the past year. As a result, e-commerce sector jobs like warehouse workers and delivery drivers were identified as the no.1 emerging job trend of the year. 

This trend is likely to continue in 2021; consumers have grown to appreciate the convenience of virtual shopping and their shopping habits are unlikely to change soon. The growth in e-commerce also brought about the exploration of previously untapped areas and creating new opportunities in the process. As several businesses shifted their operation to virtual platforms, demands for jobs in digital marketing, data science and information technology increased. 

Demands for healthcare positions, especially mental health specialists, are also on the rise as people deal with the physical and mental trauma of the pandemic. With the growing efforts towards social change, companies are making conscious decisions to address systemic inequality in the workplace and hiring for experts in workplace diversity rose by 90% in 2020 as a result.    

What Are the Chances of A More Optimistic Outcome?

As the world works towards vaccinating more and more people every day, people are starting to see a more promising future and are prepared to heave a sigh of relief from the mental grip of the pandemic.

With many restaurants and public entertainment facilities closed for the year, people haven’t been able to spend the same way they did before the pandemic. So, economists determined that many Americans have been saving money. 

Once things fall back into place, businesses will benefit from the pent up consumer demands which will create a need for new jobs. 

What Can College Graduates Do?

The current climate might be particularly unnerving for students about to graduate and start job-hunting this year. You’ve survived your final college year afflicted with the mental strain caused by the pandemic. Now you’ll soon have to face an equally challenging task of job-hunting in an unsparing job market. This can no doubt be intimidating even for the most motivated of students. 

However, with the correct resources and guidance, you can learn to efficiently navigate the job market and secure the right job for you. The most essential step to starting a career is laying down the basics. You can start by formulating a solid resume and improving your job interview skills. 


You’ll also benefit from hiring a career development tutor especially given the current climate of the job market. A tutor can prepare you through general tips as well as training specifically geared towards your desired job sector. Tutors are also beneficial for your professional development in general as they actively work to help you improve your skill-set so you can make more money while fueling career growth.

Undergoing career change is also significantly easier with an experienced tutor. With personalized help from the right tutor, you can prepare for different fields and smoothly transition from one space to another. 


The Bottom Line

The global economy and job market is going through a turbulent period, the effects of which will last for several more years. But the demand for jobs hasn’t been halted just because of the ongoing slump. The job market is even more competitive than before with so many people losing their jobs during the pandemic. As a result, the graduating class of 2021 will have to compete with the newly unemployed workers for the scanty career opportunities available today. 

Times are tough for everyone involved but all hope’s not lost as the world works towards eradicating the pandemic and the economic challenges it triggered. Graduates may not be able to start their career where they want and this will possibly scar their long-term professional development. 

At the same time, there are still opportunities open with promises of lucrative jobs in the long run. The future for new graduates is not entirely bleak especially with the help of resources like career development tutoring which will prepare students for the seemingly ruthless job market.

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