Career Launch Amidst a Global Health Crisis

Jun 5, 2020

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom
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Abigail Edwards graduated winter quarter with a bachelor’s in civil engineering. Now she’s looking for a job amid a global health crisis that has left millions unemployed. With businesses shuttering and the economic outlook anything but favorable, Edwards, along with millions of recent graduates, is understandably apprehensive of what the future holds.

As a transfer student from the City College of San Francisco, Edwards currently works at UCLA Samueli’s Transfer Center, where she mentors and provides emotional support to incoming transfer students. She says she has nothing lined up when her job ends at the close of spring quarter.

“I was planning on researching companies and applying in order to have a job by July,” Edwards said. “Now, many companies have a hiring freeze. The job market was already competitive, but now it’s at a whole new level.”

For students who are feeling down or who have given up hope in landing a job, Danit Havton, a career engagement educator at the UCLA Career Center, suggests they focus on things that are within their control and identify potential opportunities for growth.

It is critical to lean on the network you have and build upon it.

“Even under normal circumstances, the average job search typically takes about three to six months,” Hayton said. “Now more than ever, it is critical to lean on the network you have and build upon it. Use this time to actively expand your presence on networking platforms such as LinkedIn and UCLAOne [the school’s alumni network].”

Edwards is currently back in San Francisco, where she lives with her mother and feels fortunate to be able to “ride out the wave” at home, unlike some of her friends.

“My mom is very supportive. She reminds me that it’s not about me, and that the entire world is going through this pandemic. We’re all in a crisis, and it’s just going to take time. She’s worried about public health safety and is actually relieved that I’m at home with her.”

While Edwards still sends out her resume hoping that companies will have it when they’re ready to hire, workplace perks and work/life balance, are no longer as important to her and her friends.

“We thought the world would be our oyster when we graduated, and it’s just not the case anymore,” Edwards said.

Working at Disney had been her dream job for years. After getting rejected, Edwards concedes that she’s “taken it down a couple of notches.”

“My first job doesn’t have to be at Disney. I don’t necessarily have to match my philosophy to the company’s philosophy,” she said. “I just have to start and get the first few years of experience so I can move to where I want to go next.”

This sentiment is echoed by Havton, who said that first jobs are rarely dream jobs. “While work for necessity may not be directly related to one’s career goals, students can use this time to learn and develop skills or expand networks that can be leveraged for future positions,” Hayton said. “Consider jobs that get you closer to your industry where you can still make relevant connections, even if the job title or position do not align perfectly with your long-term goals.”

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