Top educations. Well-regarded universities. Highly impressive resumes and portfolios.
There’s only one problem with the college class of 2020: They graduated in 2020, the Year the Whole World Slammed to a Stop.
What timing! How’d you like to be entering the adult job market right now for the very first time?
“When corona first peeked its head up, NYU was on spring break,” Jacarrea Garraway remembers like it was 15 minutes ago. “We were immediately evicted from our dorms. We went to class remotely, but it really wasn’t that much fun. All the talking to people that I’d been doing, all the exploring what comes next — that part of my senior year was cut super-short. I had to be accepting that this was how my college was going to end.”
In a virtual graduation ceremony — “everyone said congratulations” — she received her fine arts degree from New York University’s prestigious undergraduate film program. And now, here she is, along with nearly two million other fresh graduates of four-year colleges, in this black swan of an impossible job market, trying to set up interviews at independent film-production companies that have just laid off two-thirds or four-fifths of their staff. Touting her minors in art and public policy. Talking up her commitment to telling stories from a social-realist gaze.
“I feel hopeful,” she said. “But I keep asking myself, ‘what am I supposed to do next?’”
For recent graduates like Garraway, there is comfort in knowing she isn’t alone. But it’s especially tough for those like her whose dreams and ambitions lie in creative fields. It’s never been easy getting a job in those areas. Just try it now.
Her parents have been supportive, she said. She’s found a new apartment, a real achievement, after too long staying with friends. “Everyone I talk to is understanding,” she said. “They all tell me, ‘Hang in there.’ I know I just have to stay focused. It’ll all work out eventually.”
Jacarrea Garraway, left, graduated from New York University’s undergraduate film program and Jasmine Thomas, right, graduated with a major in fashion design from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
“Everything felt fine until it wasn’t,” agreed Jasmine Thomas, who graduated in May as a fashion design major at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Commencement exercises, which had been planned for Radio City Music Hall, were replaced by a Celebration of the Class of 2020, conducted entirely online. Then it was career time.
“I’d like to join a fashion-industry design team with conscious sustainable brands,” Thomas said. “Maybe doing research and development, illustrating ideas, creating prototypes. Personally, I think sustainability has gotten a bad rap. You really can make some pretty cool and cute and fascinating clothing that isn’t too expensive and is also sustainable.”
Like Garraway, Thomas has been talking to people, chasing leads, trying to schedule interviews and accepting whatever encouragement comes along. Like almost all 2020 graduates, she figures she’ll be looking for a while.
It’s hard to know what to tell recent college graduates like these. They’ve done their part. But it takes a whole new savvy to connect with the opportunities that are still alive out there and the ones that could soon present themselves.
Some hope may lie in a new professional network called Creatively, which links small and large brands with people in theater, film, fashion, design, dance and other creative endeavors.
CEO Greg Gittrich said the company’s May launch came several months ahead of schedule, responding to the special challenges and opportunities of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among the 70 brands who’ve signed up so far, he said, are alice+olivia, Tripadvisor TRIP, -4.99% , Warner Media, Ro, Saks and Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s Westbrook Media. At the same time, the company is working with the art, design and fashion programs at nine New York-area colleges to spotlight the work of a diverse group of recent graduates, the Creatively Class of 2020, as they are being called.
“The pandemic is accelerating some trends that are already happening,” said Gittrich, who comes to Creatively via SoulCycle, Mashable and NBC News Digital. “We know that creatives are five times more likely to be self-employed and working remotely. Technology already makes that part easier. The challenge has always been how do you showcase your work? How do you collaborate? How do you connect with new opportunities? The existing professional networks don’t serve creative talent very well.”
Creatively has worked hard to showcase client portfolios in a compelling way, he said.
As for the work of Garraway, Thomas and other bright 2020s: “You should check it out,” he said. “So impressive. So amazing. We just have to help them put it in front of the right people. They’ll get results.”
Ellis Henican is an author based in New York City and a former newspaper columnist.