Post-grad plans in a pandemic


Zach Gilbert

UNO graduate Sarah Fixmer shares the struggles and setbacks she encountered when searching for work in the midst of a pandemic. Photo courtesy of Sarah Fixmer.

Though graduation should typically be a time for celebration and good cheer, it was anything but for the college students who completed their studies mid-semester in the midst of a pandemic.

Not only was UNO’s commencement ceremony again conducted virtually – an understandable adaptation that nevertheless denies graduates of fervently anticipated in-person festivities – but also, many former students now find themselves searching for a career in a country facing a calamitous economic crisis and record levels of unemployment.

Sarah Fixmer, a journalism and media communications major who received her Bachelor of Science in Communication from UNO this December, shared her struggles with us, spotlighting the setbacks she faced as she first started searching for work.

“When I was looking for jobs, there were barely any entry level positions open, and especially none that paid anywhere near a livable wage for someone with a bachelor’s degree,” Fixmer said. “There were only mid-level jobs available [at the moment]. I had to really evaluate my worth as a young professional and not just settle on the first thing I saw.”

Aside from these troubles, Fixmer also had to completely rethink her former career path as a result of the pandemic.

“Until March 2020, I wanted to be an events coordinator,” Fixmer said. “Obviously, the pandemic has severely impacted the event planning industry, so I really had to reroute my skill set. There were still some event planning positions open, and I could plan virtual events for a company, but it just [wasn’t] the same.”

Thankfully, in spite of all these adjustments, Fixmer eventually came across a position that appealed to her and fit her personality quite well.

“I was lucky enough to find a full-time job in Des Moines, Iowa as the Associate Director of Membership at a company called Diversified Management Services,” Fixmer said. “I will work with several nonprofit clients and help with committee memberships. It’s more of a community engagement position, which I felt was perfect for me.”

Even though this may not have been what Fixmer set out to pursue when she was first planning her life post-graduation, she has been pleased with the opportunities that have presented themselves thus far.

“I’m really happy with the position I accepted,” Fixmer said. “Maybe someday in the future I’ll get back into event planning, but for now, I’m really into the community engagement piece of communications and PR.”

However, this momentary comfort doesn’t mean that Fixmer doesn’t still have some concerns about what awaits in the workforce.

“The competition for jobs will be high moving forward, and that worries me for my career advancement,” Fixmer said. “I am also worried about what the industry [will] look like, as so many companies have discovered their employees can work from home and still be productive.”

Nevertheless, Fixmer is trying her best to keep an optimistic outlook on life in the meantime.

“It’s going to be so interesting to see the shift in the workplace, but I [do] think that we will be [okay] in the end, as much as it scares us [right now].”