Grad – but make it virtual.

It’s hard to believe this pandemic has lasted over a year now. On March 17, 2020, both Humber and the University of Guelph-Humber closed their campuses due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But, this meant our class of 2020 had to get creative by celebrating their graduation online. The class of 2021 – myself included – will be celebrating the same way.

In our final year, we’ve likely dreamt of walking across that stage and receiving our degrees and diplomas, but now we’re now faced with much more pressing issues, like how do I cope with entering a scarce job market? How do I find a job during a global pandemic? And do I even stand a chance?

To remedy the anxiety many of us may be facing, we chatted with Humber and UofGH 2020 graduates to gain valuable insights on what it’s like graduating during a pandemic and hear their words of wisdom to help you succeed post-graduation.

So, without further ado, check out all that these shining alum had to say:

Kaela Johnson | UofGH Media Studies (PR) Alum

Headshot of Kaela Johnson

“Deciding what you want to do with your life upon graduation while also getting slapped in the face by adulting is already tough as it is. But factor in a global pandemic that’s caused stress, heartache, and economic strain all over the globe on top of that can make things more challenging. 

“My words of wisdom would be to remember that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. I was not able to finish my senior year of university the way I imagined when the pandemic hit which was tough to grasp. I applied to countless jobs in the thick of the pandemic and also during the #BlackLivesMatter movement and noticed the lack of diversity in the Communications and Marketing industries which also diminished my spirits.

“I was able to find my first job as an intern at Viral Nation through a mutual connection who graduated from my program years ago and got my current job at The Influence Agency months after I interviewed for a different position at the company. Also, look into job boards for students like Generation PR and private Facebook and LinkedIn groups for opportunities!

“Students graduating during this time in history have a very unique story – we’re resilient, display the ability to overcome tough situations and beat the odds so definitely lean into that and don’t lose hope!”

Caity Gyorgy | Humber Bachelor of Music Alum

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“Hey, class of 2021! Congratulations on graduating during one of the weirdest times in our lives. Although these memories may be different from what you expected, they are still important and you should cherish them. Take photos of your grad experience, whatever that might be, because there are not a lot of people in the world who have experienced what you have!

“Happy graduation class of 2021, you got this!”

Meshanda Phillips | Humber Lakeshore Bachelor of Social Science – Criminal Justice Alum

Headshot of Meshanda Phillips

“First, I want to congratulate everyone on reaching this milestone. I know this is not the way you envisioned your graduation year going and I can more than relate, I spent eight months working on my thesis project with my partner and my cohort and due to the pandemic, it was cancelled. We were very disappointed but we didn’t let it stop us from celebrating our milestone.

“For everyone graduating this year, I know this is a very unprecedented time but also know that you made it, you did it despite all the obstacles the last year has bestowed on you. You never gave up, you kept going and here you are at the finish line. The graduation ceremony you expected might not the one you’re getting, but remember your credentials alone will make the journey worth it despite the graduation. Know that you are about to embark on an amazing journey and you are going to change and affect lives.

“You are strong and resilient, you are powerful, innovative, survivors and most of all you are right where you are supposed to be. So, go spread your wings and soar, shatter those glass ceilings and break barriers, and with everything you do, lead with love.”

Mishaal Sheikh | UofGH Business Administration Alum

Headshot of Mishaal Sheikh

“Three things I learned about graduating during a pandemic:

  1. It’s ok if you’re not where you thought you would be in your career.
  2. Don’t be fixed on your plan, the pandemic has created many new opportunities and you can pivot and change your “plan” at any time.
  3. Go with the flow, it’s ok if you don’t have a job lined up after graduation. The past year has been a whirlwind and we all need to be kind to ourselves and one another.”

Shirin Monga | UofGH Business Alum

Headshot of Shirin Monga

“After graduation and especially during COVID, everyone from your cohort will be on a different path. They may share updates about pivotal moments in their career on Instagram or LinkedIn, but remember, this is selective reality! They are choosing to share their highest moments in life while you may be going through low moments.

“DO NOT compare your reality to someone’s social media ‘reality’, as no one can be you!

“Be patient, work smart, and your time will come.”

Breanna Pratt |Humber Community and Justice Services Alum

Headshot of Breanna Pratt

“Take pride in how you’ve overcome the biggest obstacle thrown your way. Not only have you worked so hard to graduate from college [or university], but you did it during a global pandemic. Since you overcame graduating during a pandemic, just know that you can overcome anything and that makes you unstoppable!

“Just because there isn’t a formal graduation with Humber [or UofGH], doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate at home with friends and loved ones. I highly suggest organizing a zoom call with other graduates in your program. This big milestone in your life is worth any type of celebration! I also recommend taking tons of photos. Congratulations, Class of 2020 and 2021!”

Elizabeth Gajsek | UofGH Early Childhood Studies Alum

Headshot of Elizabeth Gajsek

“2020 was definitely a crazy year to graduate and I am glad I had the chance to experience it! It has taught me to push through the tough times and to not let myself give up even when it seems impossible. No matter what, keep trying and you’ll figure it out. Remember, the hard parts are just the lesson!”

Maria Pettigrew | UofGH Psychology Alum

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“Whether you are going into the workforce, pursuing a graduate degree or taking some time to figure out what’s next for you, I strongly recommend applying for as many positions or, respectively, programs as possible in order to reconcile with the ambiguity you may be feeling about the future.

“For those of you who plan to apply to graduate programs, my best advice would be to take on as many experiential learning opportunities as possible. Make connections by demonstrating tenacity and a strong work ethic; you never know how professional experiences and connections may benefit you in the future. This approach undoubtedly involves a lot of work, but it also allows you to rest with the knowledge that you have given yourself your best shot for success.

“Focus on the end-goal, because once you have that job offer or acceptance letter, all of your hard work will be worth it.”

Henrique Santsper | Humber Lakeshore Theatre Performance Alum

Headshot of Henrique Santsper

“The world looks scarier than it really is. We are constantly exposed to the number of deaths due to COVID, the raising cases, the closed doors for the job market… it’s overwhelming! However, here’s what I learned being an actor: even if the camera is showing you one angle, there are others to be explored. Shift your focus. I promise you’ll be amazed by what you’ll find.”

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There you have it, class of 2021! Despite the circumstances, we made it and we conquered this strange time in history. And, if you’re in need of more guidance, check out the alumni services available to Humber and UofGH grads!

So, grab your cap and gown and wear it with pride – adulting here we come!

*These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.*

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Want more advice from Humber’s leading alumni? Check out our interview with Humber alum, Nadia Ali.

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