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  • Carly Rogers

Graduating, moving and job searching in the midst of a global pandemic

Sometime during the fall semester, we had a guest speaker during my Crisis class come and present to us about her job and her experience graduating during the Great Recession. She interned at the same company I had the summer before her senior year (just like I had) and she said that she had to change the plans she had made earlier that year following the economic collapse. I remember thinking to myself, “I really hope that doesn’t happen to my class! Graduating then must have been awful.”

She told us that a recession would be inevitable based on economic cycles, but one wasn’t expected for at least a few years. Enough time for us to get a job and become established in those roles. But hey, if the classes of 2008 and 2009 could survive and come out successful, any class could.

In hindsight, I like to think of this story as foreshadowing.

I thought my senior year would go exactly as I had planned, which was spending most of my time working, involving myself with PRSSA and accomplishing my two goals: earning a spot on the Bateman team and earning a job or internship at one of the top 10 PR agencies following graduation.

I was mostly right until early March. Everyone knows what happened then.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, classes were moved online, and graduation was canceled (twice) and turned into a digital ceremony. While I was really looking forward to walking across the stage, I was/am most upset about not having my “lasts” as a senior. The last class, the last night going out to midtown, the last time to see all my friends without standing six feet apart, and more.

Moving home was interesting because 1) I kept procrastinating going back to Gainesville to move out completely because I was waiting for my cap and gown, and 2) I wasn’t expecting to even be home this summer, so I had to adjust my mindset from feeling like a failure to understanding that nearly everyone in my class, and especially my industry, are in the same predicament. Taking the final walk around campus was very emotional, especially since I haven’t step foot on it since March (given the circumstances) and I had to accept now that it was the last time I would see it until who-knows-when.

Like many others, my internship had been canceled. I received a call from Edelman informing me that I had indeed been selected, but they had made the decision to unfortunately cancel the program. This was a bittersweet feeling; I had a feeling the program was going to be canceled, but I was still proud of myself for being chosen for such a prestigious role at one of my dream companies.

The job-hunting process has been B R U T A L. After countless resume edits, cover letters and job applications, most seemed to have a dead end. I felt very poorly about myself due to the lack of responses from companies inundated with applications, and rejections from others. I thought, “How could I earn two amazing internships and now I can’t even get someone to return my email?”

Thanks to a mentor of mine, I was able to secure a position assisting the same organization I had worked with throughout the academic year, buying me time and peace of mind.

I constantly scour LinkedIn and agency websites for new openings, and the Excel sheet that I use to track my applications has grown larger each day, and it will continue to until I find a job.

Most people on LinkedIn talk about their accomplishments, but I think it is equally important to talk about the emotions people may be having during these times. I have gone between “hopeful” and “hopeless” countless times since April, and I have often been in disbelief that a global pandemic shot down opportunities for countless students and professionals across the world. The uncertainty is what gets to me the most, and I’m sure many students and graduates are also struggling and share my sentiments regarding the situation.

In the meantime, I am continuing to work remotely for my current internship and keep applying to job positions. I keep track of my network and connect with new people constantly, and I make sure to set up informal/informational interviews with companies and professionals I find intriguing. With my free time, I’ve completed two digital certifications and I am working on the PRSA Principles of Public Relations certificate.

Sometimes it’s hard to know if I am doing enough or not, but I have to remind myself that I have doing what is best for me, both for my career and for my happiness, and that requires prioritizing some tasks and scheduling time for enjoyment. (Yes, I wrote “read” and “play Animal Crossing” on certain days in my agenda. It’s called balance, okay?)

Things are finally beginning to look up and I am very happy about it. The best advice is one I tell myself constantly: don’t give up and don’t give in. The pandemic will end one day, and we have to be ready for that moment. Everyday I try to consciously choose to see the silver lining and use it to my advantage, and I suggest everyone does the same.

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