Going through transitions in life can be difficult in the best of times. With COVID-19, life changes are getting more difficult, more complicated, and defying expectations.
Karin Merillat graduated in December from Central Michigan University with a degree in applied arts with a focus in broadcast, after graduation she went home to Traverse city and had hoped to get a job in public relations or advertising.
In early March she thought she had found that first job, she said “I had just accepted the position to work in the PR department and Northwestern Michigan College, I had accepted the position the week before lockdown began, and so when lockdown got set in I got laid off.” Merillot explained that she had also gotten another job lined up, working with a local radio station, but that too fell through.
Merillat said for the most part Covid has put a lot of her career on pause, she said she has been collecting unemployment since she was laid off. During this down time she’s working on personal projects, relaxing, and also trying to look ahead.
“I’m currently looking for a full time job but the industry that I am going into is just not hiring right now,” she said,
Merillat said her first option is to go back to NMC, but she doesn’t know if the job will still be there when everything opens back up, “If my job is not there anymore I’m just kind of looking at my options and getting my resume out there and hoping for the best.”
With many businesses having to scale back or even close due to financial difficulties, she said it may be even tougher to find work in her industry. She anticipates a situation of there being more applicants than jobs.
Many students graduating in the spring didn’t even get the chance to get into their fields, they graduated right into the pandemic. Brandii-Mikayla Washington graduated Central Michigan University in May with a degree in sociology, she said with Covid it has been frustrating on a number of levels-- losing out on some of her last months of in person learning, but also on the chance to get into the industry that she had hoped to.
“While in college I realized I had a big compassion for mass incarceration. What I planned on doing once I got out of college was to start in juvenile systems like group homes and things like that,” she said.
She hasn’t been able to find many opportunities, if any in group homes, and any hopes of working in juvenile detention facilities have all but vanished for now. Washington said that both areas have become far less accessible and in some ways dangerous due to communal spread within facilities.
College graduates experience a lot of change as they move from the classroom into the workforce, many move to new places and head out completely on their own. With Covid-19 many graduates found themselves stuck and unable to pursue their careers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed Washington’s outlook on the field somewhat, she said it has made her realize that the whole social services field is undervalued.
“The people that take care of others aren’t being cared for,” Washington said.
She explained that while it is discouraging in some ways, she is also still eager to get into her field. “While not everyone values sociologists, I know the people they help do, and that’s who I’m here for,” said Washington. So when the opportunity arises she hopes to get back out there, in the meantime she said she will keep working at a department store as an essential worker.
While many are looking to get into their industries, others are also looking to leave and retire even amid the coronavirus crisis. Bob Guzowski is one of these retirees.
“I’m a 32 year employee at Central Michigan University, I started in 1987, and I retired in April of 2020, a year that many of us are gonna remember due to this pandemic,” said Guzowski.
He worked in facilities management, particularly with heating and air conditioning. He said his last few weeks on the job was quite different than what he was used to.
“There were some drastic changes, to CMU’s credit one of the first things they implemented was reduced workload, they cut our department’s workload in half so we had less staff on for the exposure so we were working one week on, and one week off,” Guzowski said.
He said another large change came from the fact that most of the university’s students weren’t on campus with classes not in session, this meant less chance of contact and also more flexibility of when they could do certain projects.
Guzowski said because of the changes to the job towards the end it let him ease into retirement.
“I would classify myself as one of the more fortunate ones, this was a planned retirement, I turned 62 in May, and I’m very fortunate to have a good employer and a pension plan,” said Guzowski. This pension plan, he said, has alleviated some financial worry because it decreases his reliance on investments as he retires-- the market unstable as it is right now.
Guzowski said in his retired life the biggest disruption has been to his social life, seeing his friends, family, and even going to church have been nearly impossible since the pandemic began. He said if anything he’s had a bit of extra time to work on some of his hobbies.
Guzowski describes his hobbies as simple, part of his somewhat rural lifestyle, “I’m a beekeeper, so I’ve been able to keep that up, it doesn’t require too much contact with people so that’s good,” he said. “I’m also an avid fisherman, me and my wife both, so we’ve been able to continue our fishing activities out on Saginaw Bay.”
Guzowski said he looks forward to being able to see his friends and family again once it is safe to, until then he’s enjoying his time off as he starts to live out his Golden years.
“You really just gotta take this one day at a time,” said Karin Merillat who is far from retirement, “Every single day is totally different than the last and anything could happen.”
For Merillat, Washington, and even Guzowski there may be a lot of waiting and taking it slow as they wait for there to be some sort of normal. Until that point is reached they may have to just take it one day at a time.