CNBC's "College Voices 2020" is a series written by CNBC fall interns from universities across the country about coming of age, getting their college education and launching their careers during these extraordinary times. Mateo Garces-Jimenez is a student at Montclair State University, majoring in TV production and digital media. He is bilingual in English and Spanish. The series is edited by Cindy Perman.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we used to know it before long months of quarantine and social distancing. For many college students, this has been a time of uncertainty and worry. Many schools have switched to remote classes, a lot of school resources aren't available, and the job market is one of the worst in decades.
The unemployment rate for young people (16-24) is currently 11.5%, nearly double the overall unemployment rate of 6.7%, according to the Labor Department.
This chain of events has led Gen Z college students to consider whether their majors will give them the opportunity to find a job in a post-pandemic world, or whether they should change their perspectives on what a "dream job" would be after graduation.
Jackson England, 20, is a rising junior at Columbia University. England entered his freshman year as a pre-med student, with plans for a long and successful career in the medical field as a neurosurgeon. However, when the pandemic hit, England realized that he wanted to switch his major to psychology, with a concentration in educational studies.
"When corona struck, I started to see a lot of social justice media on what people were going through. I remember a commercial that my boyfriend mentioned about multimillionaire celebrities unfairly asking people with lower income to support social workers financially, and that is where I realized that I wanted to be involved with social justice, and for me that starts with education," England said.
Now, his post-graduation plans look very different.
"I am now very interested in law and I think I will go to law school," England said. "I want to pursuit a career in educational policy or advocacy, something along those lines."
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The coronavirus pandemic derailed her 'dream job' but it led to a great experience
How college students are turning hobbies into side hustles — and extra cash
How to launch a start-up while you're still in college
Another consequence of the pandemic is that a lot of companies have chosen to have their employees work from home. An estimated 42% of the U.S. labor force is working remotely, according to research conducted by Stanford University.
This has changed the geographic plans of college students – many no longer feel the need to move to big urban areas like New York City to find a job.
Lilly Umana, 21, is a rising senior at Syracuse University studying political science, citizenship and civic engagement. During her freshman year of college, she imagined herself working in Washington D.C as a high-ranking politician. However, Umana always had an interest in media, and at SU, she had the chance to get involved with the school's TV station. "Coming here to Syracuse made me realize that I want to be a journalist, I want to work in media because of my campus TV station," Umana said. That, she says, was where she "fell in love with storytelling and helping other people tell their stories."
And, her plans for after graduation have changed as well.
"Before Covid, my plans were to move to New York City and work for a big media company," Umana said. "But now I have restricted my expectations of where I might start out… I am aware that these companies are now able to pull from a larger number of candidates as most positions have been shifted to be remote."
Some students, like Laura Vasco, a rising senior at Montclair State University who is studying business and finance, have decided to create their own jobs.
When Vasco first started college, she wanted to work for a private-equity firm and perhaps reach Wall Street. But the pandemic changed her mind.
"This global crisis has made me realize that the only way for me to have a stable job is to create my own business and put aside my ideas about finding the perfect job in finance," Vasco said.
A few months ago, Vasco started her own business offering sustainable yoga mats.
"It has been very difficult for me to start my own business in the middle of such economic crisis, but I know that if I didn't start now, my future career would depend on whether the economy recovers fast enough or not," Vasco said.
Johayra Diaz, an academic advisor at Montclair State University, says that students are reaching out asking "if they should defer another semester and change majors so they can find better opportunities once they graduate" or "if they would still land a job in their field." Diaz and her team are currently connecting with employers to provide as many internship opportunities as possible for those students that are not confident with their majors or want to have some insight of what their job will consist of in the future.
And, not all students are able to switch their majors or be part of an internship because of their financial situation, Diaz said.
"We have students, like myself who are first-generation students, that don't have the financial means to take on an internship or change their major, so it's also about what can I do with this degree now that I have it?" Diaz said.
Diaz encourages students who want a change in their career path to look at the curriculum of those majors they have an interest in and decide whether it has what they're looking for. She also recommends students meet with an academic advisor before doing any changes and, if necessary, reach out to the financial aid office to see how a change in their major could affect their financial aid, or if there would be any available resources for them.
And, of course, students should do their own homework!
If you're thinking of changing career paths, Google everything you can on that career – what it entails, what the salary is (is it enough for you to live on your own?), how many jobs there are, the best way to get a job in the field, etc. Go after it like someone has assigned you to write a thesis on this new career.
And, it never hurts to look up people in that field on LinkedIn! Reach out, see if you can do an informational interview with someone in that job to see if it's right for you.
The most important thing to remember is that your career is your own. And it will be the backbone of your life. So, spend the time thinking about, researching it and planning it out to ensure that you will 1) find a job, 2) make enough money to live on and 3) have a successful career.
And, who knows! It may not be the path you expected but you might be surprised. Sometimes the best ideas and opportunities come out of times of great change and uncertainty.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.