I have a lot to be grateful for at the moment. Yes, coronavirus has completely changed life as we know it – we’ve all had to adapt to a new normal. I can’t see my friends, my boyfriend and family members. I won’t have a graduation ceremony in July, and I won’t get the iconic photo of my best friend and I outside of the Arthur Lewis building, proudly clutching our dissertations on our way to submit them. The ‘submit’ button on Turnitin will have to suffice. Yet compared to others, I know I am incredibly lucky. I am spending time with my family, we all get along, we are financially comfortable, and most importantly we are all healthy. Yet whilst I’m counting my blessings, there’s one worry I’ve struggled to shake off. I finish as an undergraduate in less than three weeks, what the heck do I do then?
I had it all planned out. I was going to finish my time at university and walk straight into a job. But then coronavirus hit, and vacancies dried up quicker than you could say ‘unemployed’. Vacancies I had saved on LinkedIn were taken down, and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve clicked ‘apply’ on an advertisement to be greeted with ‘we’re sorry, this vacancy is no longer available’. I’ve had assessment days called off too. I hit a point where I really started to panic about the future and how I was going to find a job in the current circumstances, not to mention if the economy suffers too. To be perfectly honest, I’m still panicking. Just not as much as I was a few weeks ago.
I’m slowly starting to accept that this pandemic is creating career-related consequences that are beyond my control, and it’s not just me that’s feeling the force of them. If you’re ready to leave university and you haven’t got a clue what lies ahead – you are not alone, I can promise you that. We all have it mapped out in our head of how it’s going to be when we graduate, or at least how we’d like it to be. In normal circumstances life doesn’t always take us down the pathway we expect it to, so in the middle of a global pandemic it’s inevitable we’re going to face some obstacles along the way.
But maybe that’s one of the greatest lessons from all of this; things can change quickly, and we have to accept the changes we’re faced with and adapt to them. All we can do is accept what we can’t control, embrace what we can, and use that to try our best. I’ve learned to embrace what I can control. I can keep looking for job vacancies, I can keep applying to any that are open, I can perfect my CV and take some online courses if I want to. All I can do is maximise my chance of success and stay positive, given that our attitude is one thing we can control.
Whilst it’s an inevitably worrying time for us all as uncertainty looms, perhaps now is a good time to reflect on what we really want to do after our time at university comes to an end. For instance, if you’d previously ruled out postgraduate study completely, perhaps now is the time to revisit that option and consider it – that’s exactly what I have done. I was adamant I didn’t want to study beyond an undergraduate level but given how much I have immersed myself into my dissertation and enjoyed researching, it made me reconsider. And whilst I still haven’t decided for certain that I want to study for a Masters, applying for the course I’m interested in allows me to keep my options open and it certainly gives me another pathway to consider.
Above all, the most important thing to remember is that it’s okay to feel scared or apprehensive about the future. Leaving university is daunting in itself, so making the transition during a global pandemic was never going to be easy. If, like me, you’ve been anxious about your career – perhaps your internship or placement got cancelled, the vacancies you are interested in have been taken down, or you’ve had assessment days and interview postponed – the best piece of advice is simply not to be too hard on yourself. It’s natural to be worried right now. When things get easier, companies will still need people to fill their vacancies. Perhaps our career pathway might start out differently to how we expected, but there are multiple ways of getting to the same destination of a successful career.