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'Nothing Feels Tangible': Virtual Is New Reality For Grads Starting New Jobs

Uri Berliner

It was supposed to be a great year for Golden Daka. He would be the first member of his family to graduate from college. He had a big commencement speech planned for his graduation from Morehouse College, where he was a valedictorian.

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But in March, campus emptied and classes went online. And then the moment he'd been waiting for commencement was postponed.

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Despite everything, there has been a bright spot: his professional life. Daka landed a paid fellowship with the governor of Illinois after going through four rounds of remote interviews. "So I'm on the fortunate side. I know a lot of my classmates and other individuals around the nation are not."

Across the board, from entry-level jobs to paid internships, the prospects for new college graduates have plummeted during the pandemic.

Job postings for entry-level positions that are popular with new college graduates fell by 73%, compared with before COVID-19 hit, according to Julia Pollak, a labor economist with the job site ZipRecruiter.

Openings for internships are especially scarce. The internships popular among college students and new graduates are down 83%, Pollak says.

Still, Pollak says, even among the wreckage in the job market it's not entirely hopeless: "Even in a crisis there are companies hiring; 18 million postings since COVID struck ... 3 million people are being hired each month or roundabout."

But for those members of the class of 2020 who have landed jobs it has often been a strange journey. The now familiar Zoom and Skype interviews are just one dimension to the virtual experience. Some job candidates record themselves on video, answering questions and send their responses to the prospective employer.