CNBC's "College Voices 2020" is a series written by CNBC summer interns from universities across the country about coming of age, launching new careers and job hunting during a global pandemic. They're finding their voices during a time of great social change and hope for a better future. As part of the series, each student chose a recent college graduate to profile to provide an up-close and personal look at who the class of 2020 is, what issues they're facing as they try to find a job in these extraordinary times – and how they're tackling them. Here is the story of Jordan Levy, a graduate of Rutgers University.
The coronavirus pandemic has created a stir of events for everyone across the world these last couple of months. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed, many businesses are temporarily closed, more than 100,000 people have died, and the fear of what will happen in the coming months lingers on. That makes it all the more difficult for the Class of 2020 to find a job in the worst job market since the Great Depression.
Jordan Levy, a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a B.A. in journalism/media studies and music, has already felt this impact. As an African-American, he has taken this pandemic, the events of George Floyd's death, and the economy, to heart. He has lived through the 2008 recession, the 2010 BP Oil Spill, a mass amount of unarmed black men being killed, and now the coronavirus. All at the age of 22 years old.
I took some time to sit down with Levy, who was a good friend of mine growing up, to talk about these issues and his thoughts about the future amid the chaos.
Levy explains how he has been working a lot in the sun at his new job with a package-delivery service. He twirls his face mask in his fingers as he describes the lack of social distancing going on in the warehouses, and the lack of enforcement to wear masks. I take this information in as I ponder his professional career in this coronavirus life we are all living.
Levy had an internship at a magazine earlier in the year — that was before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Around the beginning of March, they told him they would have "fewer weeks" in the office. Then those fewer weeks turned into a couple of days, and those days turned into the internship being shut down completely. It was clear in his voice that he was upset. This wasn't the launching pad to his career that Levy had hoped.
None of this was as he — or any of the Class of 2020 — had hoped. Levy graduated in May from home — via a computer screen instead of a stadium filled with tassels and regalia. It was a pre-recorded ceremony, with the graduates' names scrolling past the screen like the end credits of a movie. Except, there wasn't that same gratifying feeling you get at the end of a movie when the credits roll.
Newly graduated but feeling unsettled that this was how the launch of his adult life was happening, Levy took a lot more time to read, but found it hard to write new material. As a journalist, his life revolves around writing, yet being cooped up inside for such a long period of time with no inspiration from the outside world made putting pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) a tough task. Furthermore, his tone became a bit more dismal when he brought up how "freelance budgets are drying up," making picking up even part-time work in journalism tough right now.
I brought up the issues of George Floyd, expecting his demeanor to be that of anger and frustration, but found him calm and relaxed. The death of George Floyd, after a Minneapolis cop kneeled on his neck for over 8 minutes, was upsetting but the protests and social upheaval that resulted were "long overdue."
"There is more progress on police reform happening in the past few weeks than in the last few years," Levy said.
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Rubbing his hands together, he brings up the chants for the abolition of police and prisons — a notion that "a lot of people have never heard before," which sounds scary and confusing at first thought. Levy explains that the calls for abolition will more than most likely not be met. But what could happen – and what people want – is "the substantial decrease in the political power of the police, more than anything else." That includes the unions, the supporters of unions, etc. I ask him what he believes is the right course to go, being that both of us will inhabit this world as the next generation. He says abolition of the police but then chuckles, noting that such a decision feels like it would be in the same lane as communism, a word and philosophy hit with such taboo that it started the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia.
I ask him what his plans are post-graduation – and if he's worried about money.
Levy says he's stopped looking for entry-level jobs because a lot of seasoned journalists have lost their jobs from this virus and if they can't find a job, then his chances are even less likely. Instead, he says he'll pursue finding an internship – just to get some experience in his field. Based on his past experience with an internship, he feels like it's better "to have something rather than nothing."
As for money concerns, it helps that he isn't a big spender, "which is a natural gift," he says. Plus, with the pandemic, no one is making a lot of plans to go anywhere – which makes saving money even easier than usual.
So, what does he think about the economy?
Levy says he does not believe a Biden or Trump presidency will do much to change the economy in an effective manner.
What he hopes for is that the government will help people get through this — and be more responsive to the cries and demands of its citizens. He'd like to see a more progressive approach for how money is distributed in America — things like defunding the police, putting more money into mental health institutions, increasing the minimum wage and taxing — not only the rich, but — corporations more. He sees the need for less corporate power in politics as a whole.
As I get up to lead him out, we fist pump and say our goodbyes. He places his face mask back on — a visual metaphor for how much more needs to be done in order to get things right. The course of real change is met by being in discomfort, not being complacent.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.