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Here's what one resourceful grad is doing to find work in this tough job market

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 Hannah Feeney, a graduate of Penn State.

Hannah Feeney's undergraduate career was lined with success. The Penn State alumna graduated magna cum laude with a degree in public relations and minors in digital media trends and analytics. While in Happy Valley, Fenney held three marketing and public relations internships with reputable firms. The KTA National Honor Society member was heavily involved in her sorority's operations, and even wrote for a school paper.

Feeney sounds like a no-brainer for any public relations firm—she's intelligent, accomplished, well-rounded, and experienced.

But, there's one hinderance to the 2020 grad's employability—the current state of the job market. The unemployment rate for people 20 to 24 year old was 19.8% in June, up from 8.7% in March and much higher than the overall unemployment rate right now, which is 11.1%, according to the Labor Department.

Hannah Feeney in Venice during her spring 2019 study abroad semester in Italy.
Source: Alexandra Jones

Feeney and her fellow seniors were denied their last hurrah in college, when universities transitioned to full-time remote instruction in the middle of the spring semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the virus has constricted the job market to the point that even highly qualified candidates such as herself are without work. But, instead of letting that get her down – she quickly adapted to the challenging circumstances.

"My post-grad plans have changed out of necessity. I did not have time to dwell on the state of the job market. Instead, I sprang into action, taking initiative to develop my career and earn some money simultaneously," Feeney said.

Without hesitation, Feeney was up and running as a freelance social media and PR coordinator for a Jersey shore cleaning service, The Cleaning Diva, LLC. The Neptune City, N.J. native "never considered freelancing while undergrad," but wanted to utilize her social media and marketing skills to keep building work experience and filling out her resume. She hopes that will help make her more attractive to future employers when job opportunities open up again.

"My decision to freelance is an act of resourcefulness. I have the skills necessary to promote Diva Cleaners and manage their public relations. I am able to continue to craft my PR and marketing tactics from outside the confines of a structured occupation," Feeney said.

"Yes, I am worried about finding a stable job now that I have graduated," Feeney said. "However, I am confident in the skills I possess and their worth to future employers."

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Feeney said she's an active saver, so she has an emergency fund but still, she is trying to limit spending to necessary items and only a few extra treats.

"I think the economy will take quite a bit to get back to normal. The more people that do not follow CDC guidelines of wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, the more people will get ill. As more people fall ill, the economy, amongst other things, takes longer to revive."

Feeney said she believes social media is key to connecting us all and bringing injustices in the world to light. "Social media has served — and will continue to serve — as the unifying platform through which change is brought about," she said.

Feeney encourages her fellow graduates in the Class of 2020 to not give up. "Remain persistent. Chase your goals through it all," Feeney said. "This time has been a struggle — career and money-wise. But, we will all come out of this stronger."

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