UofL Graduate Starts First Job During Pandemic


By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

You just finished college.  And you are now getting ready to start your first job as an official graduate.  But the world around you is in turmoil because of the COVID-19 outbreak. It should be one of the happiest times of your life.  So how does it feel launching your career during a global pandemic?

To get some perspective on this, let’s hear the thoughts of Jamison Edwards (Economics '19).  While at UofL, Jamison worked with the University Career Center as a “Peer Career Advisor,” so he is particularly attuned with what students go through as they advance their professional interests and seek entry-level jobs.  Edwards now lives in South Bend, Indiana and works for enFocus, a non-profit that tries to spark innovation and stronger communities.  

 Jamison Edwards

Edwards' position with enFocus is an Innovation Fellow. “I work with organizations of all types - healthcare, education, government, nonprofit, and for-profit businesses in north Indiana. In short, I work with local community sponsors using a data-driven approach to gather insights that catalyze change and promote efficiency within the organizations.”  

Edwards found the position on LinkedIn through a childhood friend. When he received an offer after going through the interview process, Edwards had at least some mixed emotions about starting his position. “When I was originally offered the opportunity to join the team at enFocus, I was grateful, a bit nostalgic, and ready to begin my new journey. Then, I saw the start date: March 9, 2020. My excitement quickly turned into nervous energy. How was I going to be able to present myself to my new leadership team, coworkers, neighbors, and the community at large when I was busy researching, building, and revising my perfect NCAA basketball bracket? After all, this was my year!” 

Obviously, the college basketball season and the NCAA Tournament were cancelled for the Cardinals and all other schools as the COVID-19 outbreak worsened in mid-March. That was also the time period when work for most of us changed from face-to-face to the online world. “I on-boarded both virtually and in person. Three days in person but then we closed our offices at the end of the day on Wednesday (March 11). It helped to be able to be in the office and interact with most of my coworkers before the office closed even if for just a few days. Starting May 26th, our summer interns began their virtual onboarding process. For me, that puts in perspective how lucky I was to be able to have three days on site to settle in and get my routine set.”

Edwards said working virtually has been different than what he expected, “but at the end of the day, the job isn't any different. In my role, I'm working with multiple different people at multiple different companies in the area. Although I am looking forward to meeting the people I have been working alongside for the last couple of months, the number and accessibility of video conferencing platforms have allowed the job requirements to remain consistent.”

Despite the pandemic and the necessity of working remotely, Edwards said his new employer has gone out of its way to make him feel welcome and a part of the team. “For example, enFocus has provided us with opportunities to individually grab lunch and then hop on a Zoom call and have a team lunch with our coworkers. Also, it is common for us to just reach out to others and see if one of the other fellows would like to have a virtual lunch. I sometimes joke how weird it is that I've made new internet friends out of my coworkers because there are some that I speak with daily that I haven't even met in person.”

Edwards thinks that working remotely has made him a better communicator. “In normal times, I feel that I often take the ability to go knock on a coworker’s door or visit their desk to ask a question for granted. However, I am now finding that I am becoming much more calculated and concise in my communication. Now, I rewrite and proof even the shortest of emails because the words matter all that much more when you are unable to utilize the social cues provided by real-time, in-person conversation.”

In our new everyday work world, it can feel isolating to work remotely.  While Edwards wishes his new job provided face-to-face contact with others on the team, he is making the best of the work situation that the pandemic has created.  “Selfishly, I wish our office never closed. I wish I had to challenge myself not to watch March Madness at work all day. That's not the reality. The reality is I am in a new city, at a new job, and, along with everyone else, facing a new set of challenges. So be it. I'm going to continue taking everything in stride. At enFocus, I have found a supportive team to assist me, from a distance, every step of the way.”