'Kind Of Nerve-Wracking': Next Steps For College Grads Entering A Newly Challenging Job Market | St. Louis Public Radio

'Kind Of Nerve-Wracking': Next Steps For College Grads Entering A Newly Challenging Job Market

May 18, 2020

In a job market characterized by furloughs, layoffs and rescinded internship and job offers, this spring’s university graduates face challenges beyond their canceled graduation ceremonies.

For St. Louis native Chase Kohler, a self-described “Boeing boy,” the COVID-19 crisis has meant a quick pivot within an industry he’d been hoping to enter for years. When the pandemic hit, he was extremely worried about the sudden change in his career prospects. Several companies he had applied to work for after graduating from the University of Missouri-St. Louis this spring froze their offers to him or stopped the interview process.

“I was interviewing with several airlines and a couple aerospace manufacturers,” Kohler told St. Louis on the Air, “and it pretty much all ended in the same week. … The aviation industry in particular has been hit really hard during this pandemic, so obviously their hiring is not going to pick up for, I would say, several more months.”

The MBA student began searching as hard as he could for companies that had new contracts related to the U.S. Department of Defense.

“What’s interesting with the [defense] side of things is their funding is approved on a year-by-year basis,” Kohler explained, “so the money has to be spent regardless of pandemic or whatever other challenges. They have to hire or they lose the money.”

Webster University's virtual commencement celebration May 9 looked quite different from this image from a 2015 Webster ceremony.
Credit U.S. Embassy Vienna | Flickr

He ended up applying to just such a company in California — then went through about five interviews — and landed the job. He starts in a few weeks, and he couldn’t be more relieved or grateful.

Lisa Camp, another just-graduated student and St. Louis native, is still on the lookout for what’s next on her end, now that the applications and interviews she had in process were put on hold.

“That was kind of nerve-wracking, but I’m checking LinkedIn every day for new positions, especially remote positions,” the Webster University communications alumna said. “And it’s seeming to come back to life with things opening up here soon. And I’ve been working with also creative agencies that help with placement, so that’s been a help, and they are starting to get more buzz from other people who are hiring as well. So I would say I’m hopeful, and it’s getting better. And I feel lucky still in the sense that I have things on the horizon.”

Back in February and March she remembers seeing various articles and statistics and thinking, “This is a great time to be graduating, because there are so many positions.”

John Link is the director of Webster University's Career Planning & Development Center.
Credit Webster University

“The hiring percentage was through the roof, you know, it was great. … Now that’s kind of shifted, clearly, where it’s not such a great market and not such a good time to be job searching,” Camp said.

She does have some work right now and remains optimistic. She also took a bit of time on May 9 to mark her latest milestone by enjoying Webster University’s virtual ceremony, which celebrated its graduates both here in St. Louis and around the world.

During Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with John Link, the director of Webster’s Career Planning & Development Center. He offered his expert perspective and tips for new graduates.

The talk show team also recently highlighted the virtual choir UMSL's Music Department recently put together for its students:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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