As Shanghai is battling its worst COVID-19 crisis, the city’s graduating seniors are finding themselves at a crossroads.
With about two months until graduation, hundreds of thousands of university students are concerned about their employment prospects. Reports of massive layoffs at several top tech and education companies, as well as uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, have spooked students already vying with each other in a competitive job market.
Sixth Tone spoke with three graduating seniors from the class of 2022 about how they’re navigating their future ahead.
Chen Yinheng, 22
Undergraduate student at Shanghai University
I’ve been confined to the campus for over 50 days since our university imposed a lockdown on March 2.
I was planning to pursue a master’s degree after graduation because I would struggle with my current educational background to get a decent job in one of the big cities. But I failed the first round of the entrance exam.
I’ve been searching for more postgraduate programs and jobs during the lockdown. I’ve sent my résumé to 33 companies since the start of my final year and had 11 writing tests and interviews in the past month alone.
Sitting for exams and interviews usually requires a quiet spot, but finding a fitting place is tedious. It was draining to constantly ask my academic counselor or the administrator for a suitable place — they were reluctant to provide the space for fear of COVID-19 transmission. I usually have interviews in the dormitory, but it is awkward to dress in a suit and talk while my friends are playing games alongside me.
I can’t help worrying about my career amid the uncertainty. Getting cooped up with a limited food supply adds to the mental stress. I used to run at night to destress but it’s now forbidden. Now I just make short videos instead.
I will continue looking for prospects in bigger cities though my friends have said it’s nearly impossible to find a satisfying job at the moment. My family has been supportive and are aware of how tough the job market is.
But I’ve been annoyed by my academic counselor constantly tracking our employment status. The school called each of us a “genius” during orientation four years ago so it’s ironic that they’re now asking us to adjust our career expectations.
Chen Jiayi (pseudonym), 25
Postgraduate student at Fudan University
My job-hunting ordeal started last September. I still haven’t found a job that I’m satisfied with.
I didn’t apply at the top internet companies during the fall recruitment period last year. But when I considered them during the spring recruitment period, I found several positions were no longer available.
Competition is incredibly fierce in the current job market. When I applied for a job at Alibaba last month, I found myself surrounded by candidates from top domestic and foreign universities during a group interview. The pandemic has also lengthened the recruitment process, and waiting for the result is as painful as being rejected.
However, the lockdown has been a silver lining for me. It has slowed down the pace of life and I’m less anxious about my future. I suppose the pandemic has shifted my priorities from work to daily life.
The outbreak has changed many people’s impression of Shanghai, but I still want to settle down here. After the lockdown is lifted, I want to go home in Gansu province for a while. I haven’t been home for over six months because I’ve been busy trying to find a job and finishing my dissertation.
Wen Qi (pseudonym), 21
Undergraduate at Shanghai Ocean University
I started my dream internship on March 3 just as the effects of COVID-19 became more visible.
My university was sealed on March 7 after our school found a secondary close contact of a COVID-19 patient. I decided to leave the campus and rent an apartment to continue my internship despite being warned that I wouldn’t be allowed to move back.
The plan turned into a disaster. After returning from a work trip to Chengdu on March 17, the place I intended to rent was sealed. It became extremely difficult to find a new one, as many residential compounds were starting to lock down. But I was lucky enough to stay with a friend.
But the worst was yet to come. My boss decided to indefinitely “suspend” the internship due to safety concerns and operation costs. The position could have been a good stepping stone for my future career. I was also let go from my previous internship for similar reasons. It felt like a déjà vu moment.
Amid the lockdown, I’ve found it difficult to focus on finishing my graduation essay and other assignments. I’ve been constantly worried about securing daily necessities, though group buying has eased the situation.
I was planning to find a job in Shanghai, but now I’m considering settling down in Chengdu. I might return to Shanghai if Chengdu doesn’t meet my career expectations. But for now, I just want to go home to Guizhou province and take a long rest.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Icons: artvea/Digital Vision/VCG)
(Header image: Students line up to receive COVID-19 test at Fudan University, Shanghai, April 10, 2022. VCG)