Mila Magnani said she had never considered modeling, until the opportunity presented itself to her. [Credit: Mila Magnani]
Mila Magnani said she had never considered modeling until the opportunity presented itself. [Credit: Mila Magnani]

This time of year, college students would normally see their families, travel and secure part-time work. But the pandemic has changed all of that.

Many young women have decided to take what they can get in terms of part-time, seasonal work over winter break. In rare instances, the strange circumstances have opened doors to new opportunities. But all of these women are industrious, putting the business pivots of 2020 to use in their own lives.

Juggling School and Retail Work 

Nisa Manzar would have loved to find an internship in advertising or public relations, her chosen field of study at The City College of New York.

Instead, the 19-year-old sophomore picked up a seasonal job at a Target just two train stops away from her home in Brooklyn.

“Next semester I won’t be as focused on a regular retail job,” said Manzar, who worked in retail throughout high school. “I’m going to be focusing on school and getting an internship more than just a job for money.”

“I would try to get a remote job,” she added, “but I don’t know what type of job I could get.”

Manzar began working at Target in mid-October, balancing 40 hours a week with her remote classes — all while trying to avoid contracting Covid.

[Related: Virtual Parties, ‘Slackolades,’ Company PPE: How Women-Owned Businesses Are Boosting Morale]

“You can’t really socially distance with that many people in the store,” Manzar said. “Especially right now, because it’s Christmas time.”

Creativity Keeps Her Going

Cosette Terriquez, a journalism major at New York University, also said she would have liked to pursue internship opportunities, but she loves the creative freedom she has found as a barista at Cafe Cultura, a coffee shop and restaurant near her home in Costa Mesa, California. 

“I’m a creative person,” she said. “I want to be doing something I enjoy doing.”

Terriquez has put in between 35 and 42 hours a week at the cafe since August, and the three-hour time difference allows her to attend Zoom classes before heading to work in the morning — a routine that can be exhausting, she said.

“The time could have been going to writing articles and writing on my blog, but I’m just trying to make money right now,” she said.

Still, not all is lost.

“I feel like I’m doing something,” she added. “I’m being productive.”

[Related: Got Goals? Good. Need a Way to Achieve Them? Then Read This]

A Once-Unimaginable Career Path

Customer service positions aren’t the only jobs available to college students. 

Mila Magnani, another New York University student who is interested in International Relations and Public Health, scored a gig many young women can only dream of: modeling. 

Magnani was discovered on Instagram by Supreme Management, a modeling agency, just before the pandemic hit. Only days after Magnani signed with them on March 2, New York went on lockdown.

“I got an incredible opportunity that I would’ve never even dreamt of, and then it’s just goodbye,” she said.

After months of no work for a new, inexperienced model, Magnani decided to work on her fitness, build a digital portfolio and take advantage of the online world, heading to virtual castings from her home in Dallas, Texas.

Now, finally, Magnani is booking modeling gigs weekly — most of them in person, with small crews and social distancing — and juggling the “crazy” hours of the industry with Zoom classes.

“Because of the flexibility of Zoom, I would literally be getting my hair and makeup done in class,” she said.

Magnani may be learning college coursework on Zoom, but the video platform has also allowed her to jump-start her career. She encouraged students who are dealing with these uncertain times to put themselves out there, even if it can’t be in person.

“Times are so uncertain right now that if you just have a positive mentality that nothing worse is going to happen, you’re going to have a blast,” said Magnani.

[Related: The Story Exchange’s 10 Most Popular Stories About Women Entrepreneurs in 2020

Editor’s Note: The Story Exchange is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching the annual Women In Science Incentive Prize. Apply now for a chance to receive $5,000 in funding for your climate-related research or startup. Deadline: July 31. 

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