Although their last three semesters did not go exactly as planned, many recent graduates of the 2021 class are hopeful that their time at the University will lead them to success in their post-graduation careers. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, many have found or are in the process of finding internships and jobs for the coming summer and fall.
COVID-19 has completely reshaped the job market for students. Employers have evolved in how they hire, where they hire, and what skills they look for. As the labor market became limited at the start of the pandemic due to a large number of layoffs and budget cuts, employers project they will hire 7.2% more new college graduates from the class of 2021 than from the class of 2020. While this percentage does not bring hiring back to pre-COVID levels, it does give graduates optimism.
Courtney Harris, associate director of employer relations for the University’s Career Center, said there have been tons of industries, large and small, working with the University to seek to hire recent graduates.
“We had over 100 organizations attending our biggest career fairs, looking for full-time positions and internships,” Harris said. “I think this is a very good measure because there are still a lot of opportunities for students.”
Harris also explained that when business closures occurred at the start of the pandemic, many industries, such as hospitality and retail, offered limited employment opportunities for students.
“Over the past couple of months we’ve seen these opportunities rebound and companies have started posting positions that they may not have been able to fill last summer,” Harris said.
Former Class of 2021 student William Wiltshire, a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he was unable to find an internship the summer following his third year, given the increase in the number of cases of COVID-19.
“This past summer has been a complete nightmare in terms of finding an internship,” Wiltshire said. “Because so much of the post-graduation job search relies on this post-junior summer experience, I was pretty frantic applying this fall.”
While Wiltshire has struggled with his internship search, his search for a postgraduate career has been successful as he is now employed and considering working as an assistant teacher for Success Academy Charter Schools in Harlem, NY
Likewise, Kathryn Smith, a 2021 class alumnus who graduated from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, applied for over 100 jobs before finally accepting a job she found through the University’s Career Center. .
“It was stressful to apply and interview due to the uncertainty of what I wanted to do and where I want to live,” Smith said.
Smith is now employed as a technical solutions engineer for software company Epic Systems.
Former Class of 2021 student Ashley Nguyen, a college graduate, said her job search process had not been as stressful as she had expected. Starting in her freshman year, Nguyen has worked as a medical assistant in a family practice in Northern Virginia every summer since her freshman year.
“I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work there again… for my gap year,” said Nguyen.
In the fall of 2022, Nguyen plans to go to medical school and will spend the next year gaining more real-world experience before doing so.
While some students and alumni have experienced difficulties in their job search process, the Career Center has played a major role in the ability of students to find employment. Laura Del Prato, deputy director of life transforming programs at the University’s Career Center, said that in general, the job market for recent graduates has remained strong.
“From our posts on Handshake, we’ve found that the full-time job postings match what we’ve seen in other years,” Del Prato said.
Hand shake, the University’s recruiting platform, helps students find internship opportunities and apply for jobs, in addition to connecting students to other career development events.
The Virginia Alumni Mentoring program was piloted in 2013 by Handshake to foster relationships between students and alumni – something Del Prato strongly encouraged students to do as many employment opportunities arise from relationship building with others. Currently, the program consists of approximately 2,300 alumni and 3,700 students, who work together every day to advance students’ careers.
School of Nursing graduate Julia Abrams, 2021 alumnus, said the university had helped her in her search for a postgraduate career.
“U.Va. helped in my career search by having one of my core courses last semester devoted to writing our resumes and cover letters as well as preparing for the job search, ”said Abrams.
This year may not have gone the way university students expected, but recent graduates have said they would appreciate their time at the University. Whatever events, clubs, and organizations they’ve been involved with in their four years, these experiences have left them with memories they will carry with them throughout their lives.
Recent graduates are both excited for the next chapter of their lives and bittersweet as they reflect on their time here.
“I’m sitting in a room with all of my friends and we’re all laughing, and deep in my head I know the number of times we’ll all be together at the same time is limited,” Wiltshire said.
Smith, who has been an active member of the University ski team, remarked that he will miss the team.
“It definitely makes it bittersweet to leave my friends and the ski team behind at U.Va.,” said Smith. “I would like to be a student forever. “
After spending four years together at the University, the recent graduates have created lasting memories, forged bonds that will last a lifetime and will now be eager to visit Grounds as alumni.