Graduation is typically a time of great celebration, especially when a positive job market provides confidence of gainful employment following the commencement ceremony. But despite a positive economy and job market at the beginning of 2020, May’s graduating class members complete their UNC education at a time of change and uncertainty.

The cause for uncertainty: COVID-19.

National employment trends and economic forecasts paint an unfavorable picture for the Class of 2020. The Wall Street Journal has stated the current economic climate could be the worst downturn since the Great Depression, and the Denver Post has reported on Colorado's record-high unemployment claims. This media coverage and the associated workforce trends remain top of mind for UNC’s Renee Welch.

As the director of Center for Career Readiness, Welch spends a portion of her time closely following employment trends in order to inform how she and UNC’s career staff best support students entering a challenging job market.

“According to the Colorado Department of Labor, the five industry sectors with the highest unemployment claims are: Accommodation and Food Services; Retail Trade; Healthcare and Social Service; Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services; and Arts, Entertainment and Recreation.”

Current unemployment claims matter to Welch because UNC’s graduating students are entering a market with low employment opportunity in certain industries and high competition among job seekers.

“With so many folks laid off, when employers begin to hire again, there will be a lot of competition for openings,” Welch says. “Students may need to adjust their expectations, and I recommend that they identify what values are most important for them to have fulfilled through employment.”

Additionally, Welch recommends job seekers continue learning and developing their skills.  

“When a student or an alum lands an interview, they can impress an employer by talking about how they continued to learn and find ways to apply and hone their skills during their time away from employment.”

Given this advice and the trends she’s watching, Welch and the career staff are trained to help students and recent graduates identify and understand their workplace values, refine their job search techniques, develop stronger interview skills, and improve resumes and cover letters. Additionally, the center partners with UNC’s alumni relations office to offer professional development and networking events for a variety of skills-based and industry-focused topics.

Due to public health precautions, all of these services and events are offered virtually and online. Students and recent graduates can visit unco.edu/careers to access Handshake, UNC's online career platform, to schedule appointments with career staff, find events and search for open jobs.

“Although we have a seen a decline in the number of jobs being posted for students in Handshake, we are also seeing new jobs posted,” says Welch. “Right now, the industries with the most job postings in Handshake are: K-12 Education; Software Engineering; Administration; Research; Community and Social Services; Sales; Information Technology; and Healthcare.”

These industries closely align with many of UNC’s popular educational programs and industries of high employment among alumni. This bright spot, in an otherwise grey job market, presents UNC’s graduating students with a unique opportunity to leverage alumni connections in support of the careers that many students were trained to pursue.

In order to help the Class 2020 succeed in a competitive market, UNC’s alumni relations staff and volunteers will focus summer outreach on improving relationships within targeted industries and among alumni industry leaders. The outreach aims to increase employment opportunities available to students and recent graduates through the career center.

“Now is the time when we need to connect with UNC’s alumni network and invite them to help us in fulfilling our commitment to placing students first.”

Need Career Support?

Student and Recent Graduate Career Support

UNC’s Center for Career Readiness provides students and recent graduates (less than three years out) one-to-one advising and access to the online job site Handshake. Visit unco.edu/career for advising and job board information.

Additional alumni career services are offered through the UNC Alumni Association at alumni.unco.edu/careers.

Bears Hire Bears

Become an Alumni Employer

If you are in a position to hire a UNC student or recent graduate, please consider sharing your company’s opportunity with UNC. The UNC Alumni Association encourages alumni to post their jobs through Handshake and the UNC LinkedIn Alumni group to ensure that more Bears Hire Bears.