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2020 grads face one of the weirdest-ever job markets. How to cope

Written By | Jun 30, 2020
coronavirus blues, Robinhood idiots

Cartoon by Branco. Reproduced and modified to fit format with permission and by arrangement with Legal Insurrection. 

WASHINGTON –  I’m guessing that by now, most 2020 college grads have finally received their degrees. Virtually or otherwise. After all the socially distant celebrations conclude, however, 2020 grads may find they’re facing one of the weirdest-ever job markets. Like graduation itself, facing any job market at all can cause many grads to break out in a cold sweat. The unreality of academic life is over. And now, the rest of life looms menacingly ahead. Or that’s what the media tells you, anyway. For many 2020 grads, it’s as if life after college looks like one, huge black hole with endless nothingness at the center of its unknown core.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed job markets for most 2020 grads. For now…

The main problem this summer’s graduating class faces involves the bizarre employment situation that was kicked off early this spring by the coronavirus pandemic. Much of working America was either laid off or furloughed with uncertain conesquences for both them and the US economy. While the re-hiring of “non-essential workers” (different from government workers, apparently) has picked up since some time in May, it could be some time before job markets approach normal levels.

Democrats think the current economic mess is a feature, not a bug…

Making things worse, the Democrats are doing their best to make sure an American economic revival won’t happen at all. All the better to blame it on President Trump as yet another way to get him out of office later this year. Nothing else has worked for them. Why so many Americans have made a ritual out of voting for these self-centered clowns year after year is beyond me. But dissecting that blind mass-reflex is for another column.

Furloughed and laid-off workers have first dibs on existing jobs

Back to the point, what our current mass unemployment situation means for this year’s job-seeking grads is that until most of those furloughed or outright laid-off workers are rehired by their former companies, there won’t be much room for companies to make new hires until the economy can ramp back up again to what it was in late 2019. Which will clearly take more than just a few weeks.

For this reason and others, 2020 grads have a lot of company out there today when it comes to post-graduation anxiety and mass unemployment facing them and their peerrs. That anxiety often seems worse than the potential consequences of the current coronavirus epidemic. You’re ready to start your life and your brilliant career. But there’s nowhere to go.

That said, don’t believe the nonsense and the scare headlines when it comes to how the employment prospects of current grads are totally doomed, probably forever. It’s simply not true. What IS true is that it will take from roughly 6 months to a year for the economy and employment prospects to pick up again to something resembling normal. Which is what will cause the hiring of new employees to pick up once again.

Don’t listen to the political and media naysayers

In the meantime, don’t listen to the naysayers and don’t waste time being afraid. It’s only awful out there if you think that it is. Given this country’s periodic and erratic shutdowns, this precise moment in time is a bad moment. As far as your own future is concerned, most companies won’t be interviewing new employees for the next month or two. Or longer. Most will end up hiring back employees they were initially forced to lay off as a result of the shutdowns and quarantines. Potential new hires will have to wait awhile. Unpleasant but true.

But remember: America had been enjoing a seriously robust economy until mid-February 2020, no matter what the media tells you. Until then, when fear, pounded home every day by the media, took over, business had been improving every month in this country. Particularly for minorities, although you never heard about that.

But then, suddenly, without warning, the personal and economic brakes were applied. Big time.

It may take the US some time to pick up the pieces and re-start America’s engines. But concurrent improvement in job markets likely won’t take 2 years or more, unless too many Americans continue to buy in to the media-instigated gloom and doom, turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Remember: Today’s overpaid and under-informed media hacks are just attracting panicked eyeballs for their corporate masters. These media hacks need you to watch them hour after outraged hour so they can sell commercials by “woke” companies that have likely helped steer them down that route in the first place.

I think America’s economic recovery will happen more quickly than the negative pundits opine. That’s because I think that most Americans who enjoyed the 2017–2020 explosion of jobs and prosperity want it back. Right away. And they’re ready to get back to work  to make that happen.

If enough people care enough to rejuvenate our once dominant American optimism yet again — the all-American “we can do it” attitude academia sadly but ruthlessly programs out of students today — you and your career should soon be in great shape. Just not tomorrow.

Job markets? Try Walmart or Amazon. Or Mickey D’s. For now…

While 2020 grads wait for opportunities to begin surfacing again, there’s no need to wait to earn some money. After all, money is always useful. And if you can earn some of your own, that means that nobody can tell you what you can use it for. Low-level, entry level jobs will tide you over in the short run. Walmart and Amazon’s warehouses and Mickey D’s drive-thru windows are hiring right now.

Don’t laugh. Hiring on to greet customers or pack boxes at a frantic pace won’t hurt your eventual real career. In fact, it might help you earn the money to buy a nice suit or outfit for those eventual job interviews. 2020 grads shouldn’t feel  ashamed to take one of those “menial” positions that you did not go to college for. You’re not alone in history. This happened to me, too. And similar fates tended to befall earlier generations as well. Like them, I didn’t like what was happening, but it didn’t kill me. (Or them.) Because we all intended to make tomorrow a better day.

Sitting around getting depressed is your other option. But making at least some money while you wait for something better is a better Plan B. The economy will loosen up again. Sooner rather than later. Just as long as most Americans can find a way to ignore all the negative and largely untrue hype they see on cable TV “news” shows, or in what’s left of America’s sad, declining propaganda newspaper industry.

Always look on the bright side of life…

Just look on the bright side of life. This, and not hand-wringing and cosmic rage, will help you get where you want to go. And if you just can’t break through the gloom, consider seeing a therapist who can help you, one-on-one, get through the mental impasse. Negativity breeds more negativity. Always. Doing the opposite is always a better approach.

I’m very much afraid that many young people today have learned during college that they’re somehow “victims” of this, that or the other thing. And so they act like victims. That is not a recipe for success. It’s a recipe for acceptance and servitude.

So try something different. Re-center your life focus. Envision yourself as a winner. That can get your head turned in the right direction. And, as that favorite (but apocryphal) phrase posted in the offices of many lawyers proclaims, “Never let the bastards wear you down.”

So, before you jump off the nearest cliff, consider taking an informative trip down Memory Lane. (Mine.) And look at how an earlier and currently despised generation faced its own steaming pile of post-graduation economic crap. I’ll post the link here as soon as this piece is up.

Finally, as those venerable stoner film sages Cheech and Chong once noted, more or less, the economic and social mess that Boomers ran into in the 1970s “was, like, the same thing, only different.”

– Headline image:  Cartoon by Branco. Reproduced and modified to fit format with permission and by arrangement with Legal Insurrection


Terry Ponick

Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Senior Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17