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New Grads Launch Careers in Altered Employment Market

Despite Pandemic, Members of UML’s Class of 2020 Are Landing Jobs

Avery LaRochelle sits at her desk at work
Public health graduate Ashley Ventrillo '20 landed a job as a victim witness advocate for the Essex District Attorney's Office.

By University Relations Staff

Katie Sanchez ’20 breathed a sigh of relief when she found out in early March that she’d been accepted into Boston Scientific’s financial leadership development program. The two-year rotation was scheduled to start in June, one month after Sanchez graduated with a degree in business administration from the Manning School of Business.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and Sanchez was holding her breath again.

“I was back to square one thinking my job was on the line,” says Sanchez, a Methuen, Mass., resident whose concentrations were in marketing and finance. “That was scary, but my manager called me and reassured me that I still had a job.”

With her start date delayed until September, Sanchez is eager to report to work at the medical device company’s office in Marlborough, Mass. She isn’t sure yet if she’ll be in the office 40 hours a week or doing some work from home. It may not be how she envisioned her first post-college job would take shape, but whatever comes next, she feels prepared.

“You have to be tough and ready for change. You have to know how to navigate,” she says. 

Like so many members of the Class of 2020, Sanchez’s expectations for starting her career were knocked for a loop by COVID-19. The recent graduates entered the job market as unemployment was hitting record highs and the economy in a tailspin.
Katie Sanchez senior photo
Manning School of Business grad Katie Sanchez '20 got her foot in the door at Boston Scientific through its financial leadership development program.

In addition to delayed start dates, many who have found jobs are doing training and onboarding online instead of at corporate headquarters. And instead of settling into their cubicles and grabbing lunch with new co-workers, they are participating in Zoom calls from the comfort of their childhood homes. But like Sanchez, they are eager to dive in.

Companies are Hiring, But at a Slower Pace

Despite the millions of people filing for unemployment, companies are still hiring. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news: Finding and starting a job may take a little longer with the hiring process bogged down by the pandemic, says Greg Denon, associate dean of student affairs for career development.

“Recruiting and hiring of 2020 graduates is still happening, but at a slower pace,” he says.

The Career and Co-op Center has had a “steady stream of full-time job postings for recent graduates,” according to Denon, who encourages job-seekers to check them out on Handshake, the university’s career networking and recruiting platform.

Denon notes that, in general, larger companies have been able to stay on track with their hiring.

“They often have stronger information technology infrastructure to support and get laptops to new hires, as well as coordinated efforts to integrate remote team members,” he says. 

In April, the Career and Co-op Center pivoted to remote operations for its spring career fair. More than 40 employers — including Raytheon Technologies, Pfizer, Kronos, Boston Children’s Hospital and Northwestern Mutual — participated and about 300 students dropped in to connect with them. Denon says five more virtual career fairs are planned for the fall semester and are open to current students and alumni.

Joining the Ranks of Remote Workers

A career fair is how Manning School of Business graduate Fred Tavarez ’20 first connected with BAE Systems, the defense, security and aerospace company. After a round of interviews, he got a job offer as a program control analyst two months before graduation.  
Fred Tavarez in his cap and gown
Business grad Fred Tavarez '20 is working remotely as a program control analyst for BAE Systems.

“I am so fortunate,” says Tavarez, who received the offer over spring break in March — just as COVID-19 was shutting down campus. As a program control analyst, he will monitor and report on the costs and schedules of project contracts. Once his on-site onboarding is complete at BAE’s Nashua, N.H., location, he will be working remotely for the foreseeable future. 

“I’m confident. I think I’m prepared,” says Tavarez, an Andover, Mass., native who plans to return to UMass Lowell for an MBA. 

Avery LaRochelle '20, who earned a graphic design degree, has also joined the ranks of remote workers. LaRochelle was able to parlay an internship at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (HPHC) into a full-time junior designer contract position upon graduation.

Now she’s working out of her bedroom in Tyngsboro, Mass.

“My room has a desk and that’s where I have most of my meetings, on Webex. I also luckily can work outside on my deck sometimes,” she says.
Avery LaRochelle at her computer
Graphic design grad Avery LaRochelle '20 is working remotely from her bedroom as a junior designer for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

LaRochelle and her classmates are trailblazers on a new path to starting a career. They didn’t ask for it, but they’re prepared for the ride, she says.

“It is very different, especially since I worked in the HPHC office for almost seven months before the virus arrived,” she says. It just takes a little getting used to, and a whole lot of self-starting and self-motivation.”

Ashley Ventrillo ’20 started her job as a victim witness advocate for the Essex District Attorney’s Office this summer working from home in Methuen, Mass. A public health graduate, Ventrillo got the offer after interviewing via Zoom at the end of her last semester. 

Ventrillo, who is planning on law school, was thrilled to get a job working in the court system. After starting her job remotely, she is transitioning to working at the courthouse. Masks and social distancing practices are the new normal. 

“It’s not how I expected to start my job, but I’m still excited to be in a position where I can help people,” she says.

Pre-pandemic Job Searches Pay Off

Michael Venetti ’20, who earned a master’s degree in peace and conflict studies in May, started his job search last fall when he applied to the Presidential Management Fellowship program, which pays new graduates to spend two years working for a federal agency and provides them with mentoring and leadership training. By Valentine’s Day, he’d landed a position as a foreign affairs officer with the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. 
Michael Venetti closeup photo
After earning a master's degree in peace and conflict studies, Michael Venetti '20 landed a position as a foreign affairs officer with the State Department.

When it came time for Venetti and his wife to find a place to live in the Washington, D.C. area, the pandemic had taken hold. They had to find an apartment without seeing it in person.  

“We looked at all the photos of the apartment online and we talked to the management people. We weren’t allowed to do an in-person tour – at that time, they weren’t allowing anyone into the buildings unless you lived here – so we talked about it and prayed about it and took a leap of faith,” he says. To his relief, Venetti and his wife found a place in Reston, Va., that they love. 

Venetti did his employee onboarding virtually and is going into the office one or two days a week and working remotely the other days. Although normally someone in his role would travel a couple of times a year to Africa or the Middle East as part of the job, international travel for most State Department employees is on hold for now.

Like Venetti, Maxwell Dumerant ’20 of Malden, Mass., started his job search months before graduation.

And it paid off. The mechanical engineering graduate started working in June as a systems engineer at General Dynamics Electric Boat, a submarine builder for the U.S. Navy based in Groton, Conn. 

Determined to land a job before graduating, Dumerant spent an hour each night applying for jobs online. “I think I applied to every mechanical engineering position on Handshake,” he says. 

When the pandemic hit, he started to panic.

“Oh man, now I’m never going to get a job right out of college,” Dumerant says he remembers thinking to himself. He considered returning to the Francis College of Engineering for a master’s degree. He called his manager at Best Buy, where he worked part-time during school, to see if he could get more hours.

Then he remembered a connection who works at General Dynamics Electric Boat. That led to an introduction to the company, to which he started applying online for every entry-level engineering position he could find. His diligence was rewarded when he got a phone interview over spring break. The only catch was to find a quiet place to talk on the phone.

“My family’s pretty big, and privacy isn’t really a thing in our house,” he says. “So I took my laptop out to my car and did the interview in my driveway.”

He was hired in late April.

“Everything worked out,” says Dumerant, who has relocated to New London, Conn., about 15 minutes from his new office.