Students who graduated in the spring 2020 semester entered a shattering job market due to the pandemic. The risks of COVID-19 led many Cal Poly Pomona students to modify their plans postgraduation.
Companies delayed start dates and even revoked internship and job offers, creating one of the highest unemployment rates in April sitting at 14.7% in the United States according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Graduates were forced to look for other forms of income while they wait for the right opportunity.
Rachel Famighetti (’20, hospitality management) began spring semester on the right foot. By February, she was offered a position at Terrenea Resort in Rancho Palos Verde, California. Nonetheless, COVID-19 interrupted her employment and she was sent home on furlough for three months.
Famighetti returned to work Jun. 19 but quickly noticed changes. “I mean, it’s completely different. Basically, we can’t give people the five-star service that we used to give. We can’t enter the room, we can’t give amenities to people, like flowers or anything like that in the rooms because we can’t touch anything,”she said.
For Famighetti, a promotion is now out of the question. She added, “We laid off over 600 employees, and I think they only brought about 300 back. I simply think that no business right now has the money to be giving people more money than they already have.”
Despite all the setbacks, she believes it is a great learning experience that proves she made the right choice in pursuing a career in hospitality.
“My ultimate goal, like a five-year goal, is to be a part of the managers of the front office operations or even going to human resources and be a manager in management down there,” Famighetti said.
For other graduates, finding a job in their perspective field seemed like a far-off dream. The pandemic made them look beyond their career and focus on finding a stable source of income.
Katia Arias (’20, communication) had hopes of pursuing a marketing or branding career at The Walt Disney Company after graduating.
Her hopes were put on pause when she learned Disney let go many of their employees. Disney park closures caused the company to lay off 28,000 employees. Arias said, “It discouraged me from applying right away.”
She is currently working two jobs in Claremont, California. Arias works as an assistant store manager at Dollar Tree and as a file clerk at Claremont Eye Associates. She intends to make one job a full-time position until the pandemic is more regulated.
Arias’ goal is to maintain a steady income and use the time she has to prepare for job opportunities in her field. “I’m trying to work on my resume and start applying somewhere else in customer service, retail, or anything that, just to keep on making an income. Then I can look at what I have to do to get to where I want to be,” Arias said.
The job market was in a downward spiral last spring, but some graduates were fortunate to land a job in their field and find a supportive community.
Erin Chien (’20, marketing management) was offered a position at Channel Bakers toward the end of April; she accepted the offer.
Chien officially began her job as an associate advertising specialist in May. At Channel Bakers, she helps clients advertise products, strategize for campaigns and uploads campaigns. She said, “With everything happening it still worked out, but not in the way that I planned.”
Chien misses the in-person connection with coworkers but is grateful the company ensures employee safety. She is comfortable building community, even if it is virtually.
She added, “Now that everything is online, I have never met my team members or anyone at the company in person. I’ve only been to the office once to grab my equipment.”
She mentioned the company hosts Olympic-like events where employees team up and do activities virtually. “Our company is international, so we have offices in the Philippines and the U.K. and we include them as well, It’s nice to communicate with them as well,” Chien said.
Though graduating in the middle of a pandemic was challenging, opportunities were still available, so students ensured their time was being made the most of during transitional phases and took advantage of job postings.
Noah Cervantes (’20, visual communication) graduated in May and was told by alumni during a mock interview that he should expect to find a job six months after graduation given the circumstance. Despite these predictions, he set himself a goal to get a job in six weeks.
“During that time, I was working a lot on my portfolio, working a lot on my website, making things for social media so I had a social media presence,” Cervantes said.
He was set on applying to multiple jobs and did not waste any time. Ultimately, he landed a job at, Redbarn Pet Products located in Long Beach, California, where he works as a junior graphic designer inside the office.
“I am super lucky and super thankful because I know that is not the case for everyone,” Cervantes added, “Yes, it is scary right now and depressing, but do not let that discount you from applying to places.”
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