“In college I looked forward to becoming an adult, and now I’m here and it’s terrible.” Seventeen 2023 graduates show and tell us how they feel about entering the workforce.

Julia Rothman and

Julia is an illustrator. Shaina is a writer and filmmaker.

There is good news for recent college graduates: The job market is strong, unemployment is low and, according to an inquiry from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, businesses expect to hire nearly 4 percent more graduates from the class of 2023 than they did from the previous class.

The bad news? For most of them, all four years of college have been marred by a global pandemic, and now they must transition from student life to the world of work. Which is never easy. We interviewed 17 graduates from different majors and parts of the country about how they feel when they enter the workforce.

Layla Flowers, University of Denver:

“I feel the pressure of the world now. Everything feels like it has to have meaning because everything feels urgent. There’s so much emphasis on, ‘Am I doing something for the world?’”

Hannah Bradford, Fordham University:

“I am applying for editorial assistant positions. I would like to be a writer working at a magazine. ChatGPT scares me — it entered the university world at the end of my time in college. I had friends who used it to write articles. It’s really hard to imagine what a career in journalism will look like in 10 years.”

Chris Lawrence, Emory University:

“I’m with Teach for America. We are preparing to be placed in Title 1 schools to fight the lack of opportunity and change the trajectory of the children in those schools. I went to a Title 1 school; it was very low income. My teachers did everything in their power to make sure we had what we needed. Of course, it will be stressful. But it will be rewarding.”

Robert Belman, Appalachian State University:

“Getting into college was really important to me. I wanted to add to the number of Latinos graduating from college. I didn’t just do it for myself, I did it for my community. I am also first generation.”

Sean Oh, Rutgers University:

“With all the news we’ve seen in the banking sector, many of my friends and I have been nervous about getting jobs. We were worried we might see a repeat of 2008. I got a full-time offer after interning at a company last summer. I bought some work clothes because I couldn’t wear my Rutgers T-shirts to the office.”

Weston Del Signore, University of Southern California:

“I work on and off with a local artist as an assistant and then I also do Postmates and Uber Eats to make ends meet. With the artwork, a lot of it has to do with the people you know.”

Rocio Perez Gonzalez, University of Texas:

“I have an internship. I hope it becomes a job, but they just laid off some people. I can’t go back home and stay with my family because I don’t have great communication with them. I will have to find a job and then find a place to live. In college I looked forward to becoming an adult, and now I’m here and it’s terrible. But I can figure it out. A year ago, I was in a completely different position than I am now. In a year, everything will be different.”

Vanessa Khong, Northern Kentucky University:

“I’m now looking for UGC – user-generated content creation. You make content for brands and they put it on their social media. A brand will send you their product and you’ll make an unboxing video or a test-and-test video. A lot of UGC- creators start earning $150 for a 30-second video.”

Alyssa Gutierrez, University at Albany, SUNY:

“I accepted a job where I work with migrants seeking asylum. Before I got this job, I was living in a bubble. I didn’t know there was an influx of immigrants. I jumped in blindly. When you are in school for social work, you are taught the basics. But there are many aspects of social work that you just have to learn as you go.”

Sara Wexler, Temple University:

“I’m trying to get a full-time job, which has been a whirlwind. I applied to over 50 jobs. At university I did enough internships to prevent that from happening, but it still happens.”

Anjan Mani, Cornell University:

“I have a job working in finance. I did an internship and then got a full-time offer at the end of it. Most start dates are in July, August or September. But in this economic climate, many of my friends’ firms have decided that full-time offers will start later. I’m one of the few people in my friend group who starts in the summer.”

Tyreek McDole, Oberlin College:

“When I was a freshman, it was the beginning of the pandemic and everything was closed. The last thing anyone needed was a jazz singer at their local restaurant. There’s this stereotype of the starving artist. But I refuse to believe that.”

Alessandra Vennema, Skidmore College:

“I work at the federal Department of Transportation. At university you constantly have interesting conversations and feel inspired. When you first enter the workforce, you feel energized and ready to make a change. I hope I’m still in spaces where that can be continued.”

Greta Garschagen, Hamilton College:

“I’m doing a six-month apprenticeship at a restaurant-slash-education center. Food contributes a lot to climate change. I think small-scale farming could be a solution. I grew up with this looming fear and I’m told, ‘Your generation will fix the world.’ It puts a lot of pressure on us.”

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