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Graduating during the COVID pandemic

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Sixty-three thousand people in Canada lost their jobs in December of 2020, according to Craig Wong’s CTV News article published on Jan. 8. Wong also stated that it was the worst downturn of the job market since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. MacEwan University graduating and recently graduated students are asking “what next.”

After the 2014 Ukraine Euromaidan revolution sparked his curiosity about how news unfolds, final-year journalism major Timon Johnson decided to switch from engineering to his current program with the goal of one day experiencing and being part of the news and storytelling process. However, the unstable job market and Huffington Post Canada recently laying off all its journalists create some questions about that future.

“So as of right now, the journalism field is extremely competitive, there’s no sprinkling that. (There are) more people in the field and less opportunities available to work with big or small news organizations,” Johnson says. 

Like Johnson, many other students wonder what will happen to them as they join the unstable job market. 

Sydney Pshyk, a bachelor of commerce graduate of MacEwan, says, “the job market right now… looks a little bleak.” She describes her job-hunting experience as being stressful, strenuous, and slim pickings. “I’ve never struggled to find a job like I have right now,” she says. According to Pshyk, companies who have been forced to consolidate and downsize their teams due to the pandemic, are now looking for candidates who can wear multiple hats. She states that she no longer qualifies for jobs that she would have qualified for years ago. “They want a marketing coordinator with a strong background in graphic design, which is just not something that is typically offered through undergraduate programs to have that kind of crossover and diversification of skills.” Pshyk does not only have to compete with recent graduates but with candidates who have years of experience and are willing to re-enter the job market in entry level roles.

Similarly, Charlie Zimmer, who also graduated with a major in business management and human resources in April of last year, says  entering the job market amidst the COVID pandemic has been “interesting.” According to Zimmer, “there’s so many people out of work due to COVID and therefore so much more competition for the few jobs that are popping up.” Zimmer worked at Save-On Foods before she graduated and decided to remain there “until things normalized.” She got offered an opportunity to advance into a management position with the company. 

Even for those lucky enough to find jobs, getting into new roles during the COVID pandemic comes with challenges. “As somebody with not a whole lot of experience, it’s kind of like how do you get trained and how do you get onboarded and learn… when everybody’s working from home? When you’re sitting by yourself trying to learn everything and delve into everything and be trained from home,” says Zimmer.

In another instance, Madison Krupa, a professional communications major in her final semester, recently accepted an exciting job offer and is relieved about getting it. For Krupa, getting this job takes off the pressure that most others still carry. Talking about her job-hunting experience, she states, “this semester has been especially challenging leading up to that point. I was working on job applications just as much as I was working on homework and also trying to balance another job.” 

Even when she wasn’t working on applications, Krupa states that she faced underlying stress from wondering what her next moves would be and how she would make money. Like Krupa, many others ask these same questions and work twice as hard to give themselves an edge over their job-seeking peers. 

According to Johnson, “one thing that will really help students have a better understanding of what the field is like or what the requirements are for them to break into the field is network and connection.” He spoke to some industry professionals who told him that “they had students from other universities reach out, and a fair amount of them never followed up with them or got back to them,” by not following up, they missed out on potential opportunities.

Some other ways he recommends to students looking to gain an edge include learning new skills, gaining experience, and most importantly, being confident. 

However, some students have taken a different route to alleviate the problem by starting their own businesses. One such student is Aisha Yusuf, another final year communications student who co-founded Abayo House, a book publishing company. According to Yusuf, the fear of graduating into a COVID world is terrifying, and she does not think it is fair for students who have acquired debt and spent so much money on tuition to be left without support. She believes that the government and other sources of support need to develop some initiative to ease these fears and stress from students. She states that not knowing what the future holds for the job market takes a massive toll on students’ physical, spiritual, and mental health. 

“We spent a big majority of our youth years in these institutions to build ourselves a better future, and when that future doesn’t seem to exist (any) longer… for god knows how long… I don’t think it’s fair,” says Yusuf. 

Hawa Abdulle, a creative online assistant at MacEwan University’s career and experience centre, states that the university helps students with the job search process. They include assisting students in building outstanding resumés, cover letters, and LinkedIn pages. The department also engages students in mock interviews and organizes job fairs. “We guide, we give advice, we provide resources, we organize events right here where people come and meet their potential employer.” She advises students to familiarize themselves with the department even after graduation.

2 Comments

  1. Agreed, majorities of organizations wants individuals looking for a job to have the concept of different trades not only what you when to school for, back in the day, there use to be you graduate from school and land an entry-level job, that has changed and the pandemic has also played huge role because so many people are not currently working. The graduates and seasoned employees are struggling for the same job. My advice is before one gets out of school, you want to Network, that goes a long way, if you see a job you are interested in, befriend someone in that organization on LinkedIn. The strategy has changed you also need to change along side it.

  2. Companies only looking for experienced candidates has been an issue even before COVID and it’s worse now… Where would newly graduates build their skills? At home?🙄


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