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“In college I was looking forward to becoming an adult, and now I’m here and it’s horrible.” Seventeen 2023 graduates show and tell us how they feel about entering the work force.

Julia Rothman and

Julia is an illustrator. Shaina is a writer and filmmaker.

There’s good news for recent college graduates: The labor market is strong, unemployment is low and, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, businesses are expecting to hire almost 4 percent more graduates from the class of 2023 than they did from the previous class.

The bad news? For most of them, all four years of college were tainted by a global pandemic, and now they have to transition from student life to the world of work. Which is never easy. We interviewed 17 graduates from different majors and parts of the country about how they’re feeling as they enter the work force.

Layla Flowers, University of Denver:

“I feel the pressure of the world right now. Everything feels like it has to have meaning because everything feels urgent. There’s so much emphasis on, ‘Am I doing something for the world?’”

Hannah Bradford, Fordham University:

“I am applying for editorial assistant jobs. I’d like to be a writer working at a magazine. ChatGPT scares me — it entered the college world at the end of my time in college. I had friends who used it to write papers. It makes it really hard to imagine what a career in journalism is going to look like in 10 years.”

Chris Lawrence, Emory University:

“I’m with Teach for America. We’re getting ready to be placed in Title 1 schools to combat the opportunity gap and change the trajectory of the kids in those schools. I went to a Title 1 school; it was very low income. My teachers did everything in their power to make sure we had what we needed. Of course, it’s going to be stressful. But it’s going to be rewarding.”

Roberto Belman, Appalachian State University:

“Getting a college degree was really important to me. I wanted to add to the number of Latinos that graduate from college. I didn’t just do it for myself, I did it for my community. I’m first generation, too.”

Sean Oh, Rutgers University:

“With all the news we’ve seen in the banking sector, a lot of my friends and I were nervous about getting jobs. We were worried we might be seeing a repeat of 2008. I got a full-time offer after interning at a company last summer. I bought some work clothes because I couldn’t wear my Rutgers T-shirts to the office.”

Weston Del Signore, University of Southern California:

“I work on and off with a local artist as an assistant and then I also do Postmates and Uber Eats to make ends meet. With the art thing, a lot of it has to do with the people you know.”

Rocio Perez Gonzalez, University of Texas:

“I have an internship. I’m hoping it turns into a job, but they just laid off some people. I can’t go back home and stay with my family because I don’t have great communication with them. I will have to find a job and then find housing. In college I was looking forward to becoming an adult, and now I’m here and it’s horrible. But I can figure it out. A year ago, I was in a completely different position than I am now. A year from now, everything will be different.”

Vanessa Khong, Northern Kentucky University:

“I am currently looking into UGC — user-generated content creation. You make content for brands and they put it on their social media pages. A brand will send you their product and you make an unboxing video or a test-and-trial video. A lot of UGC creators start out making $150 for a 30-second video.”

Alyssa Gutierrez, University at Albany, SUNY:

“I accepted a job where I work with migrants seeking asylum. Before I got this job, I lived in a bubble. I did not know that there was an influx of immigrants. I jumped in blind. When you’re in school for social work, you’re taught the basics. But there are many aspects to social work you just have to learn as you go.”

Sara Wexler, Temple University:

“I’m trying to get a full-time job, which has been a whirlwind. I’ve applied to over 50 jobs. In college I did a fair number of internships so this wouldn’t happen, but it’s still happening.”

Anjan Mani, Cornell University:

“I have a job working in finance. I did an internship and then got a full-time offer at the end of it. Most start dates are in July, August or September. But in this economic climate, a lot of my friends’ firms have decided that full-time offers start later. I am one of the few people out of my friend group who is starting in the summer.”

Tyreek McDole, Oberlin College:

“When I was a freshman, it was the beginning of the pandemic and everything was shut down. The last thing anyone needed was a jazz singer at their local restaurant. There’s this stereotype about the starving artist. But I refuse to believe that.”

Alessandra Vennema, Skidmore College:

“I’m working at the federal Department of Transportation. In college you’re constantly having interesting conversations and feeling inspired. When you first go into the work force, you feel energized and ready to make a change. I hope I continue being in spaces where that can be sustained.”

Greta Garschagen, Hamilton College:

“I’m doing a six-month apprenticeship at a restaurant-slash-educational center. Food contributes a lot to climate change. I think small-scale farming could be a fix. I’ve grown up with this looming fear and being told, ‘Your generation is going to fix the world.’ It puts a lot of pressure on us.”



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