Seniors left on edge as unemployment rates skyrocket during the coronavirus pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Unemployment rates have skyrocketed just as the Class of 2020 prepares to work.

"Pretty crazy," said Patrycja Budzyk, a Chicago Scholar and member of the Class of 2020.

"I think I'm a little nervous establishing myself right now," she said.

Budzyk and Nia Khaan are among this year's seniors suddenly on edge, left wondering how they can make a strong career start in the middle of a pandemic.

Budzyk is concerned about falling behind in occupational therapy grad school.

"You can't get that one-on-one connection you usually do with individuals," she said.

Khaan said her work start date has been pushed back from August to November at the earlier, and is concerned even though she has a pre-start bonus from her future employer.

"Those student loans that start piling up as soon as I graduate or what adulthood and completely sustaining myself financially looks like," Khaan said.

What may sound like familiar burdens can weigh more heavily for these young adults.

"Not working means not eating," she said.

Jeffery Beckham is Vice President of Partnerships with Chicago Scholars, which supports Khaan, Budzyk, and many more from Chicago's underserved communities.

Budzyk is the daughter of Polish immigrants and has been working part-time at a grocery store to support her family. She said she would rather be focusing on research and networking.

"The network that you build obviously is going to help you get a foot through the door wherever you go," Beckham said. "Those things can be very detrimental to someone who already has the built-in hurdles to overcome."

Beckham's team is hoping to prevent generational consequences by offering financial aid as well as mentorship events.

With the job market becoming more competitive, Beckham emphasized what he calls "the power of pivot."

"Where can they apply their skillset that may not be in a typical field or realm that they were thinking, but doing the work that they went to school for," Beckham said.

Beckham also stressed that everyone needs to keep hearing the voices of this country's young people.
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