Seniors grapple with unemployment’s mental health toll

Temple seniors discuss how COVID-19 has affected their employment and future plans.


Liana Minguela has been working since she was 15 years old. So when she lost her training coordinator internship at the Almo Corporation during the COVID-19 pandemic, she felt “really lost for a long time.” 

“I am not used to not working, I think this is the longest break I’ve had,” said Minguela, a senior human resource management major. 

Temple University students have been grappling with an uncertain future due to the pandemic costing them their jobs and dealing with the mental stress of job insecurity. 

Forty-six percent of workers age 18 to 29 who lost a job due to the pandemic have not found new employment or been rehired, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

Minguela sent dozens of job applications, regardless of whether she was interested in the job or not, just to have additional options.

“I felt so lost and depressed during those eight months that I was unemployed since working was a part of my identity,” Minguela said. “I had given up on filing for unemployment, was having no luck with interviews, and I felt as if I had nothing to do even though I had school.”

While Minguela was able to focus more on school, she was bored without a set routine, she said. 

“I ended up getting a cat just to have some sort of responsibility and started building a schedule routine taking care of her, going on walks, and cleaning, but it was so easy to fall back into being lazy,” Minguela added.

Billy O’Brien, a senior human resource major, was concerned for his future when Cescaphe, an event and wedding booking group, closed due to pandemic restrictions.

Following Cescaphe’s closure, O’Brien struggled to have meaningful communication with other people. 

“It’s a little bit harder to connect with people on a personal level, online,” O’Brien said. “There is that like, emotional detachment or like, disconnect.”

O’Brien felt privileged during this time because he was financially stable but felt guilty knowing that other people were having a harder time than him, O’Brien said. 

“It was really hard to watch those with full-time positions, who I developed relationships at Cescaphe, begin to struggle financially and not be able to do anything about it,” he said.  

The pandemic made O’Brien realize the little things he took for granted with having a job, like interacting with people and having a daily routine, though appreciated having the time to recover from a torn ACL, he said. 

O’Brien also felt intimidated at the thought of getting back into the job market because there are more people applying for the same jobs as him, giving O’Brien more competition, he said.

“It might be OK in a few years, but I need stability now and there are no jobs even for those who are extremely qualified,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien had some interviews where he made it to the final round of interviews, but didn’t receive any offers, he said.

“The truth is like, there’s probably like, a dozen people that could, that could do it,” he added.

Kristen Gallo, executive director of the Career Center at Temple, has been working with students during the semester to provide them with needed assistance and is studying the effects of the pandemic on the labor market.

Although the job market has suffered due to the pandemic, employers are expected to hire 7.2 percent more 2021 graduates than they did from the class of 2020, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers

“It is really tempting right now to think that, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ which is 1,000 percent understandable,” Gallo said. “But that is also the one way to ensure that you won’t get a job.”

O’Brien is currently a data organization intern with the pharmaceutical company IntegriChain. While the internship ends in June, he is hopeful it could lead to a full-time human resources position, which is where his true interests lie, he said. 

“Isolation during quarantine kept me proactively thinking about my career and what I want my future to be,” O’Brien said.

While still hesitant about the future, Minguela has used her free time to focus on personal growth by completing her SHRM Certification to be considered as a qualified professional and connect more with her Catholic faith. Minguela is currently planning to take time off from her current position for the sake of prioritizing her personal goals.

“Quarantine has allowed me to realize that I am still very young, and even if I’m a college graduate, it’s OK to be at home for a little while, I will figure it out eventually through valuing the connections and skills I have now,” Minguela said. 

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