Despite openings, recent grads trying to wait for jobs related to their degree

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 8:34 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Recent college graduates say despite numerous job openings, there’s an important reason they’re being selective.

While some college grads are taking what they can get to make ends meet, others say taking a job outside their chosen career field will be a last resort. Data from the Department of Employment and Workforce states there are more people unemployed than there are open jobs.

According to DEW, health care, retail, accommodation and food services, and educational services are the fields with the most openings. And in those industries, “Help Wanted” signs are posted across the state as businesses struggle to find the help they need.

College graduates say they have different reasons for holding out. University of South Carolina graduate Campbell Robinson found a job after months of searching and found the process particularly difficult because jobs that were “entry-level” required two to three years of experience, which is hard for a recent graduate to get after a pandemic.

The process was made even more difficult because she was competing against people who graduated last year and hadn’t gotten a job yet.

Jordan Sheridan is temporarily taking small jobs here and there after receiving her master’s degree in fine arts from the University of South Carolina. She after working hard to get the diploma in the middle of a pandemic, she is determined to get a job in her field.

“I’m applying for artist residencies and because of the pandemic, they are having to push their calls back a year because they are taking on the ones they had the year before but had to cancel because of the pandemic,” she said.

Sheridan knows restaurants are hiring. But she says she has worked in the food and beverage industry in the past and in addition to wanting to follow her passion, doesn’t want to risk spending more on childcare than she makes in a shift.

“After graduating, I feel like I’m ready to move into another chapter,” she says. “I would prefer to just continue to do that than find something that is not in my field because I know what I want to do and I earned my degree.”

Robinson said she has heard a lot of her fellow graduates say similar things about not wanting to take a job not related to their degree. But because inconsistency has been following the class of 2021 for more than a year now, many of her peers are open to taking a job that isn’t a perfect fit.

“Look at the job market, though, in September,” she says. “It’s so different than it is now. And even in January, we weren’t sure all of us would even be vaccinated. The market is just so different.” But even if it isn’t the dream job out of college, Robinson said she would be surprised if a peer took a job completely divorced from their interests or lifestyle.

“We value that we want to love what we do or have some purposes,” she says. “So I think that even though they are settling for something, that they will have a work-life balance or they will really enjoy, or they want to have some passion for it.” For other recent graduates, the issue is time. According to reports and Robinson’s experience, graduate school was a popular option for a lot of students.

Now those same people are finding themselves wanting a job but only able to offer a few weeks of work between college and graduate school.

“I just need a month, you know, and that’s really hard to try to find,” recent Allen University graduate Alonzo Jullian said.

Julian said he struggled with gig work like DoorDash and isn’t sure how to approach getting a job when he starts school again in August. He said he doesn’t want to lie about his future plans but knows that after applying, interviewing, and training he will only be helpful to a business for a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, Gov. Henry McMaster plans to end federal pandemic unemployment benefits in South Carolina at the end of June. McMaster has said he hopes this will help bring people back to work. The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce says the top industries in need of help at the moment are healthcare, retail and food services. SCDEW says there are more than 86,000 open jobs in the state.

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