Grad collage

El Sereno -- For Andrea Margarita Flores, the start of her last semester at Cal State LA held so much promise and excitement, from small details like how to decorate her graduation cap to the bigger ones like which child care center she would work in.

But in a matter of weeks, as businesses closed in light of the coronavirus outbreak, her excitement evaporated and her anxiety hit at an all-time high.

“I’m so confused. I wanted to start applying to places, but centers are closed. No one is hiring,” Flores said.

Andrea Flores

Andrea Flores

Like Flores, college grads at Cal State L.A. and across the region and nation are facing the prospect of looking for a job in what many say will be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

College counselors are advising graduating students to think about the industries that are currently in demand, consider how the projects they completed during their studies can help businesses and network with professionals in their field.

“The best advice I can offer is to focus on how you can help others," said Michelle Lovasz, the assistant director at Cal State LA’s Career Development Center. "Your studies have provided several opportunities for you to gain the experience that employers seek. Reference this in your resume, cover letter and interview.

"Your transition to social distancing demonstrates your adaptability, flexibility, resilience and perseverance," Lovasz said. "These qualities and skills are highly sought by employers. Give examples of this in your cover letter and interview.”

Career Dreams on Hold

Before the virus struck, Flores, 22, had dreamed of becoming a full-time teacher for children ages of 5 to 6 years old and later, perhaps pursuing a graduate degree and teaching college students about child development.

“I fell in love with the idea of teaching [and] I think you have more of an impact on older people. At a [junior college], I feel like they are there to get their life together. I want to share my experiences with them, help them and impact them,” she said.

But for now her main concerns are whether childcare centers will reopen soon and whether will she find work.

More Time for Training

Welding student Jose Murillo

Jose Murillo is waiting for test facilities to reopen for his accreditation.

Graduates entering vocational fields are in a similar bind.

Not long ago, Jose Murillo, a 19-year-old welding student at Mt. San Antonio College, thought he’d be working a few weeks out of school.

“My ideal job was to join the Ironworkers Union. I was en route to take my [certification] tests, both plate and written test, before things were shut down. Applying for the job without the permit is a possibility but it is extremely difficult to land a job without the certification,” he said.

Nothing is guaranteed anymore, at least not as long as accredited test facilities are closed. At the facilities, an instructor would observe him taking what’s called the “plate test” and later he’d complete the written exam at another location.

Although there is no clear answer as to when Jose will be able to secure his permit, he takes comfort in having more time to study and practice his skills at home before he joins the working world. He said there’s a saying in his trade, “Guessing is what gets people killed.”

When he thinks about that, he figures, “I’d rather wait till my skills are beyond perfect.”

Bring Your Face Mask & Resume

Angel Avalos was thankful to finally land a job as a process engineer

Angel Avalos (center) had to wear a face mask during a job interview.

Angel Avalos, who studied chemical engineering, had spent several months looking for a job after graduating from UC San Diego last year. Then the coronavirus hit, making his job search even tougher.

“I feel like companies are trying to figure out if they can still keep running or if they can even hire people right now,” said the La Puente resident.

The interview process itself has changed dramatically in many ways. For instance, there’s often less facetime now for prospective employers to get to know him, with once lengthy interviews reduced to more brief meetings to reduce the potential exposure to coronavirus

One business where he interviewed went beyond social distancing: “They provided me with a face mask, and took my temperature before going in,” Avalos said.

His hard work, persistence and positive attitude paid off recently when he was hired as a process engineer.

“I’m excited to finally be able to say, ‘I got the job.’”

By Marlene Cordova is a reporter for University Times, the student news site of Cal State L.A.Complete coronavirus coverage by the University Times can be found at csulauniversitytimes.com/coronavirus.

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