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College grads seeking jobs in a pandemic

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The task of entering the workforce is inherently daunting, but the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are adding new obstacles to this already difficult process.

For many recent college graduates, the internships that held the potential to kick-start their careers have been canceled, blurring their notions of the coming summer and even the next few years. Sea Cliff resident Miranda Purcell, 22, said she was looking forward to an internship with the 52nd Street Project in Manhattan after graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio this spring, but her plans were abruptly erased when the pandemic ushered in a new way of life.

“I was a part of a cohort for students to get paid internships for the summer, and with Covid, the funding was pulled,” Purcell said. “That was kind of a tough loss to take, especially since I had applied and been selected for the class, but the benefits of it were pulled away. That was difficult.”

Purcell, who double-majored in English and creative writing with a concentration in theater, explained that, while she is still reaching out to potential employers online, in-person networking is particularly beneficial for building her prospective career in arts nonprofit work. She said the pandemic is making progress somewhat unfeasible for now.

“I’m now just applying to jobs and putting feelers out there,” Purcell said. “When it’s actually possible again, I want to engage in more networking events that we can do in person and things like that to get a better feel for the industry I want to go into and meet more people in it.”

Susan Peterson, president of A-1 Résumés in Oyster Bay, said college graduates should use this time to prepare for future career opportunities and think about the skills that are becoming increasingly important.

“Get your wardrobe ready for when you finally do have a one-on-one interview with an employer, and maybe do some YouTube research on how to do Skype interviews and telephone interviews,” Peterson said. “Get your résumé together, and by all means, get a professional company to do it. If you get your résumé together and start going on the job websites soon, that’s probably the best thing you can do.”

Peterson, who is also the board president of the Life Enrichment Center in Oyster Bay and a philosophy professor at Nassau Community College, said many job opportunities are already emerging for graduates.

“Former jobs will open up,” she said, “and a good percentage of the people who held them won’t be in them because they’ve taken unemployment, which has a federal addition of money such that they won’t be going back to their jobs right away. There are also new jobs based on the difficult social requirements we have now.”

Even for graduates who were able to hold on to their summer plans, the experience they will have in the coming months is likely to be different from what they initially expected. Cecilia Nelson, 22, is a recent graduate of Elon University in Elon, N.C. with a double major in arts administration and theatrical design and technology, as well as a minor in business administration. The Glen Head native said she anticipates some changes in her experience at Disney World, where she will start a costuming position on Aug. 3.

“I think Disney will definitely be open by then, but how everything is operating will be different — reduced crowds, less shows, anything that involves people being in the same space,” Nelson said. “I’ll still be doing the same things that I was going to be doing; it’s just going to look a lot different because of changes that society has to make with the pandemic.”

Nelson said she is interested in going into event management and experiential public relations as a career. However, she said she has to consider potential changes that the pandemic may have on her career in the long term.

“That all kind of operates on having crowds, so I’m worried about that,” Nelson said. “How will society look at being in a crowd in the future? Are people still going to be wary of that even when the pandemic is over? We just don’t know yet if that’s going to be a lingering fear for people.”