From left, seniors Phia Eschenbach-Smith, Conor O’Grady, and Katelyn Grimes graduate during the coronavirus era. Many seniors' post-grad plans are not going as smoothly as expected. (Annalise Kelloff/B&W Staff)

Seniors search for post-grad jobs during coronavirus era

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Missing out on their final months as undergraduates isn’t the only disappointing reality that students from the class of 2020 face, as many struggle with post-grad plans, which have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the coronavirus forcing businesses, social life and many day-to-day activities to come to a halt, many students are left wondering about their transition into the workforce.

Conor O’Grady

Conor O’Grady, ‘20, a finance and economics major, secured a position working for Charles River Development, part of State Street Bank. He said he learned about the opportunity at the Lehigh career fair, and after expressing his interest, working hard and making connections, he secured a position. 

“The biggest thing I think for people to know is to just keep trying and keep your options open,” O’Grady said. “Don’t stop applying or trying. It’s best to keep pushing. It will all work itself out in the end.” 

However, O’Grady said he understands that many of his peers are struggling to carry out their goals of obtaining a job after graduation. 

Phia Eschenbach-Smith, ‘20, an art major and an architecture and product design minor, has been actively looking for and applying to jobs in anticipation of graduation.

She said her post-graduate plans are on stand-by as the COVID-19 pandemic fluctuates. 

Phia Eschenbach-Smith

“As of right now, I will be home until further notice,” Eschenbach-Smith said.

Graduate school, a Fulbright scholarship or some unknown job opportunity are the options Eschenbach-Smith is weighing when thinking about her plans after Lehigh.

When the pandemic has eased, the Boston-native senior said she will be more than ready to leave home. Eschenbach-Smith said she never planned on having a job until the end of the summer, but is now forced to do more research and come up with alternatives, as her occupational future seems unsteady.

Unlike the business and engineering schools, the art, architecture and design program does not have as strong of an alumni network, Eschenbach-Smith said.

“Finding a job post-grad is not really a central part of the education,” Eschenbach-Smith said. “You have to seek that out from professors (because) not many will approach you. In terms of finding a job, I wish it was easier to do.”

Eschenbach-Smith said there is now the additional challenge of finding businesses willing to take on new hires during this period of economic uncertainty. 

Due to the curriculum of many of her studio classes, Eschenbach-Smith said she had to become innovative and adaptive as she works from home. She said all of her professors have been very supportive and understanding with their students, as everyone manages the restrictions from the pandemic.

Katelyn Grimes

Katelyn Grimes, ‘20, reaffirms the fact that Lehigh professors have transitioned smoothly into their new teaching styles.

“I’m impressed with all of my professors and their ability to work with the online platform,” Grimes said.

Like Eschenbach-Smith, Grimes is actively looking for job opportunities around the country. As a mathematics, spanish and hispanics studies major, Grimes said she is able to look at a wide-range of jobs.

All three of the seniors agreed their culminating semester at Lehigh has been unexpected and upsetting as they are forced to isolate themselves from their peers, professors and all the opportunities Lehigh offers. 

As students begin to plan their next steps, they are encouraged to reach out to the Lehigh University Center for Career and Professional Development. This can be found on the Career Center website.

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