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Column: Amid a pandemic, what’s next for a graduating senior?

October 13, 2020
<p>Photo taken by George Pham &amp; Andrew Herner in August of 2020.</p>

Photo taken by George Pham & Andrew Herner in August of 2020.

I sat at a table in East Lansing’s main drag: Grand River Avenue. Four or five friends and I are discussing the future, jobs and other things over beers and burgers at The Peanut Barrel.

One friend, a good one of mine and my former roommate, discussed thousands of dollars in signing bonuses. We argued over who might be the highest-paid staff member at the university. 

But deep down, I couldn’t help but wonder what was next for me.

I was a journalism student sitting among business and pre-med majors. This has nothing to do with those who I sat with, they chose fields they enjoy and will very likely succeed in — but I couldn’t help but gulp down the fear of uncertainty with my drink.

My professional future is scary. My field is sparse for jobs — even more so for internships. Hundreds of students like me — some younger and better at this craft than I — all hunger for major markets. 

What if I don’t find anything? What if I graduate and still don’t have a job? It isn’t easy to think about. 

Sometimes the possibilities of other fields run across my mind, yet I love what I go to school for and the places it has taken me. 

But … what if?

That question flashed across my mind. I’ve worked so hard to get to this point, haven’t I? 

Parents who didn’t go to college, one of six kids, I’ve constantly worked to stand out as a small fish in damn near a massive pond. 

What's concerning is that more layoffs are likely within this field at ESPN, the Disney-owned titan that many think has to be invincible to a crumbling economy, right? Wrong. Maybe. Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy wrote on Oct. 7 that more layoffs could be coming at the company. 

Millions are struggling to find jobs, just like me, not just in my field either: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12.6 million Americans are still unemployed. 

I sense a pressure I haven’t felt before when my roommate attains a job offer from General Motors as an engineering student. I get these are different fields, but others relate to me. Many can’t find jobs, let alone internships as graduating seniors nonetheless.

But what about when I leave this place? Graduation is in the spring. I applied for an internship at The Washington Post on Wednesday. The waiting game starts. 

This isn’t a pity thing. There are much larger issues our nation and people face. I’ve put myself in a position to succeed out of college in this field, or at least I’ve tried. I wouldn’t change a thing about any of this. 

I sit at my desk in the early morning hours still, wondering what is next. 

Uncertainty, accepting an internship that inevitably could be taken away from me is something I saw happen to friends and acquaintances, people I care about. I was lucky enough to retain my internship last year and work through summer. 

Uncertain employment is not limited to the field of journalism — my roommate had an engineering internship whisked from his grasp last summer, only to work on an assembly line for four months making $11 an hour.

But next time I look, it's for the real world. I’m graduating from this safe-space in May, uncertain what is next.

This column is part of our Oct. 13 print edition. View the full issue here.

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