UMD alumni navigate post-graduate life amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Samuel Riggs Alumni Center on Oct. 7, 2020. (Taneen Momeni/The Diamondback)

By Jack White
For The Diamondback

The first months after graduating college are always a period of transition. Managing the job search process and the real world comes with new challenges and obstacles. 

And in the spring, University of Maryland graduates were launched into a world ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, where working from home had become the norm and in-person networking opportunities were limited. 

“[COVID has] kind of just threw everything for a loop,” said Brett Blum, who graduated from this university in the spring. “It just wiped out an insane amount of opportunities for people like [new] graduates, like me.” 

But many recent alumni of this university have adapted, finding ways to navigate the new post-graduate world amid the pandemic. 

Jake Silverman, who graduated from this university last spring with a public policy degree, accepted a job offer from Northrop Grumman in March.

Silverman is set to work in the company’s cybersecurity program, but he hasn’t officially started yet. He’s still undergoing security clearance — a process that can take nine months to a year, he said.

[UMD student affairs VP Patty Perillo discusses student mental health during RHA meeting]

When he was looking for jobs, he didn’t have much success on the big job boards. Sites such as Glassdoor filter out your application if you don’t include the right keywords, he said. Silverman did make use of the public policy school’s career advising, which helped him a bit more. 

“Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to talk to people, ask questions,” Silverman said. “When you are talking to people, just be as respectful as you can.” 

Other recent alumni, including Ashley Mangold, have found success in graduate school.

Mangold graduated in May with a degree in criminology and criminal justice. She’s now a first-year law student at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento, California. 

Her time at this university prepared her well for law school, Mangold said, and taught her how to manage being busy, as she completed internships and a teaching assistant position during her undergraduate years. 

Mangold is still doing everything she can to seek out future career opportunities, she said, but virtual networking is a different experience than she’s used to.

“I’ve already been to a couple networking nights that usually are in-person at the Capitol,” Mangold said. “But they were over Zoom, so I could definitely talk to less people than I wanted to, because you’re only in a breakout room with so many people.”

[UMD researchers have found traces of the COVID-19 virus in campus wastewater]

Meanwhile, Blum, who has a degree in broadcast journalism, is still looking for a job. He’s been using job boards like Linkedin and Indeed to look for jobs in public relations, but a lot of places just aren’t hiring at the moment, he said. 

“I’ve also reached out to like local colleges … just to see if they had any openings,” he said, adding that he was interested in working in sports offices. “They’ve been a little bit busy with getting everything back on track since COVID.” 

But Blum said he’s hopeful that he will stand out among applicants. 

“It’s been tough,” Blum said. “I have not had much luck yet, but I’m still grinding, and hopefully I can come up with something and find something soon.”

Carly Haynes, who graduated from this university in the spring with a degree in broadcast journalism, is working as a reporter at CBS19 news in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

When the pandemic hit, she had to change her approach to her job search. Instead of applying to big companies like she had planned, she focused on smaller ones. But she was prepared.

“The professors are so incredible in the journalism school,” Haynes said. “The advice that they gave us about stories and editing and writing — all of those were crucial today.”

From having professors look at her resume and reel to the networking events set up by the school, she had the tools necessary to land a job, even in a pandemic. 

“I wouldn’t say that pandemic made things harder,” she said. “It just made a difference.”

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