Life After Graduation In A Pandemic
By Billy Noy
Have you ever thought about how the world is outside of the college bubble? I rarely did as I spent my time in college, only hoping my idea of getting a good-paying, interesting/fun job somewhere in the U.S. as a Mechanical Engineer would come true. After graduating last year in December 2019, it took 11 months to land a somewhat related job. The reality is the first year after being done is probably one the toughest, which I have not seen it being marketed by colleges/universities and people on social media. If you graduated without having an internship your career prospects might have taken a big hit, but it isn’t actually the end of the world.
In March 2020, I was forced to get a job anywhere after being unemployed post-graduation. I ended up at Domino’s Pizza near my home. Then, the pandemic hit. People were freaking out, businesses were shutting down, lockdowns started to happen, and social isolation was mandated. I wondered to myself about the impact on my future because of what was going on and was scared. Back to Domino’s though, after being told by the manager I would work in the kitchen, I became a part-time delivery driver due to the increased demand. At first, it did not seem too bad because I spent most of my time in my car where I could listen to music, podcasts, and handed food to people at their doorstep. Unfortunately, after a week, it became a painful financial hit. I was earning $7.25 and tips on occasion. Additionally, I was using my car which had accrued a lot of miles and damage from being 18 years old. Eventually, I had to quit the job because the cost of repairing my car at an automotive service center was higher than what I could make before my car would break down. Why couldn't Dominoes Pizza provide company vehicles for employees, despite making over 3.6 billion in 2019 and the CEO having over a 5 million USD salary?
Throughout the same timeframe, I was applying to jobs all over the country. A common theme noticed for entry-level jobs was the requirement of one to three years of job experience with a specialty in the area, and a working knowledge of two to five software tools, etc. The big problem of how to get relevant experience if no employer is offering to give you a job is extremely frustrating. I applied to hundreds of jobs and was mostly ghosted or received an automated email.
I was driven to find something so I asked a friend, who graduated before I did, about what she did when she could not get a job. I learned about a federal U.S. government program called AmeriCorps where you volunteer for all types of things, (teaching, environmental work, social work, etc.). After looking, I decided to apply for FEMA Corps. In addition to a resume and work experience, the application consisted of writing essays about why you want to join and having at least two recommenders. Around mid-2020, I received an acceptance email. I was excited to join AmeriCorps and be able to open doors of opportunity into the US federal government.
After some months of being in FEMA Corps, I decided the program was not right for me mostly due to COVID-19, the living situation, and losing interest in working for FEMA or Emergency Management. The biggest piece of advice I can give to younger people who do not know what to do with their life is to try out AmeriCorps NCCC or FEMA Corps, which is only for 18-24-year-old people. You get to travel the country, gain work experience, and make friends all for free (they provide housing, food, transportation). In my opinion, it may be a better experience doing it before going to college. Doing it after college from obtaining a difficult degree and being 23/24 years old made it feel unworthwhile. More criticisms of the program are that you are made to feel like a child and given little freedoms, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, things got better unexpectedly after quitting even amid the pandemic.
I went for technician/drafter jobs after asking recruiters about my situation from reputable places such as Planet Global, Palmer Group, and Aerotek. They told me to aim for related jobs but require lower education, etc. which worked for me since I did not secure any internships/co-ops during college despite my hard efforts. In the present, I am working at a manufacturing facility for truck accessories as a technician, which is not my dream job but is a good start for my future pursuits.
Over the past year and a half, I started to lose interest in engineering but finished my degree to not waste all my previous efforts. What you studied in college does not have to define you or career if you are in good financial shape and accrued important work experience to move into something else in my opinion. Although many doors have closed during this pandemic, some productive things that I have started and recommend others doing is learning a new language, picking up valuable new skills, try to get into shape (I have started jogging/walking daily before the snow hit this year), and setting big goals.
Edited by Rachel Alvarado