Yale News

The Office of Career Strategy released its annual First Destination Report this week, detailing the post-graduate plans of the Class of 2020 six months after their graduation.

The report was compiled based on survey responses from 91.6 percent of the class. The survey, which opened in April 2020, found that 26.7 percent of students in the class had post-graduate plans that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including having offers rescinded. But only 8.3 percent of the class remained without post-graduation plans at the time the report was published, indicating that many were able to find alternative opportunities after their original plans were affected by COVID-19. 

That number, however, is still more than double that of recent classes. For the Class of 2019, only 3.5 percent of respondents remained without post-graduate plans six months after graduation.

“COVID obviously had an impact, but fortunately, not as significant of an impact as it could have had,” Jeanine Dames, director of the Office of Career Strategy and associate dean of Yale College, told the News. “I think the students overall showed absolutely amazing resilience. I mean, to pick yourself up after everything just completely fell out from underneath you, especially when you’re about to graduate, and to just brush yourself off and say ‘Alright, well, let’s move forward’ — it was extraordinary to see.”

Dames told the News that 26.7 was a “huge” percent of the class to have post-graduate plans affected by the pandemic. But she was encouraged to see how many were able to rebound within six months, especially when compared to other data from elsewhere in the country. Although national data on the Class of 2020’s post-graduate plans is not yet available, Dames said that Yale’s 8.3 percent of students still in search of opportunities pales in comparison to numbers coming out unofficially in the press, with some institutions estimated to have around 50 percent of their graduated class still unemployed.

In addition to citing students’ resilience, Dames said that Yale graduates may have fared relatively well because industries hit hardest — for example, the hospitality industry — are underrepresented among Yale graduates. Meanwhile, industries that are overrepresented among Yale graduates, such as the tech industry and the nonprofit sector, remained relatively unchanged during the pandemic, with the tech industry even growing slightly.

“Yale always does incredibly well in comparison to national data [on post-graduate unemployment], which is great,” Dames said. “We were lucky, because the industries our students tend to go into still were hiring them in big numbers. I think that that was a huge positive.”

OCS Director of Strategic Initiatives and Public Service Careers Robyn Acampora told the News that OCS was able to quickly transition to extend resources to help students during the pandemic. All OCS appointments and resources moved online, and the office created web content geared specifically at helping students navigate a job search during the pandemic. The office also created a podcast that discussed topics such as virtual networking and interviewing, and partnered with 12 other schools including Harvard and Columbia to create a Common Good Career Consortium that connected students to employers.

Although many industries popular among Yalies made it through the pandemic virtually unscathed, creative industries, such as theater and museums, were hit very hard. Senior Associate Director for Creative Careers Derek Webster told the News that the beginning of the 2019-20 job cycle proved extremely fruitful for creative careers at Yale, but much of that was erased by COVID-19. According to the Brookings Institute, nearly one third of jobs in the creative industries were wiped out between April 1 and July 31.

Webster addressed this by increasing the length of his advising sessions, and said he saw the number of students seeking advising “go through the roof.” According to the report, 91.4 percent of the Class of 2020 used OCS resources during their time at Yale, compared to 85.5 percent of the Class of 2019.

“We are just now emerging from those chaotic waters, and continue to put our own plans in place to support our students through these new and unsettled realities,” Webster wrote in an email to the News. “To seek the silver-lining: thoughtful conversation, structured advice, broader context, individualized support—all of these tangible resources remained available to our students even as so much was drifting loose in the world around them. We look forward to continuing to be there to help our students navigate these channels and establish and extend their new paths.”

Laura Michael ’20 intended to begin music school at Rice University in August. But Michael, who plays the oboe, decided to defer her enrollment for a semester after Rice announced program restrictions that kept musicians from playing in groups. Instead, she worked at a small insurance company and as a tutor — a job that she found through a Yale alumni network.

Michael is now enrolled at Rice, but said that the students can feel the strain that the pandemic has put on the entire performance industry. With so many classical musicians currently without work, it is difficult to see a path forward after music school, Michael said.

“I feel lucky to be still in school, because things in the art world are really tough,” Michael said. “It’s kind of heartbreaking seeing these people with your dream job being completely unemployed, without pay. To see even the most stable and high profile and prestigious jobs being taken away has just been kind of heartbreaking and dream-bursting for a lot of us.”

Surbhi Bharadwaj ’20, a former photography editor for the News, originally had her plans affected by the pandemic but now is in a stable job situation. Bharadwaj, who works for a consulting group in New York City, had her start date pushed back at the start of the pandemic. Bharadwaj was an international student from India and the delay raised concerns about her visa status.

“There just was a lot of uncertainty,” Bharadwaj said. “I went home when campus closed in March, and then my job was pushed back and flights from India to the United States were canceled … and I was unsure of what would happen. Luckily, my job started in October and since then things have been somewhat normal.” 

In addition to the six-month report, OCS releases reports on classes four years after they graduate, and is beginning to release an additional report after eight years.

Data visualizations by Phoebe Liu.


Amelia Davidson | amelia.davidson@yale.edu