AUSTIN, TX: With graduation fast approaching, University of Texas at Austin PR student Cruz Rendon had his post-school career plans sketched out before the pandemic hit.
He had been accepted into a prestigious fellowship program, was a finalist for another from the American Association of Advertising Agencies and had interviews scheduled with DreamWorks and Bleacher Report. Then everything dried up.
“I was accepted into the T. Howard Fellowship,” he said. “[It’s] more centered on entertainment TV and film, and they moved to working virtually, but the partners they have, where we would have actually interned, stopped participating.”
Fellow University of Texas student Vanessa Zielinski, who graduated in December, was in a similar position. “I was in talks with Day One Agency,” she said. “In fact, I was in the final rounds of talking with the team when that was put on hold. The recruiter called and was so kind when she told me she was not sure when things were going to come up again.”
That wasn’t the only pullback. Zielinski also had been talking to a recruiter at TBWA\Media Arts Lab and was lining up interviews with Omnicom Group via email. “[Omnicom] sent an email saying due to the crisis they were not moving forward with interviews,” she said.
With no internships or entry-level positions available, Zielinski and Rendon decided to create their own jobs and launched a shop called Class of 2020 with fellow Longhorns Meagan Doyle and Isaac Watson.
“Instead of being discouraged by it, we took matters into our own hands and we’re building a network of comms pros who are graduating and affected by the pandemic,” Rendon added.
The recent graduates launched the agency last month, he said, after a couple of weeks discussing what to do now that their opportunities had disappeared.
The agency’s tagline is “For Gen-Z, by Gen-Z,” Rendon said, and its plan is to provide agencies and brands services that would have been handled before the pandemic by interns and early career employees.
“[We’re serving] agencies and brands that don’t have the interns they had counted on having this summer,” he said. “We want to help and bridge that gap.”
Class of 2020 is working with a drink company on a social media project and a summer initiative, and it is in talks with three other potential clients. Rendon declined to name the companies.
Rendon and Zielinski both said their families are happy they are being proactive in the face of the pandemic, though they don’t always understand what they are doing. An added bonus of starting a business during a pandemic is that everyone is struggling and people appreciate every effort the students make, regardless of the outcome, Zielinski said.
“We’re getting to experience something completely new and getting to build something new, without too many high stakes at the moment,” she said.