It won’t have gone unnoticed by many of our soon-to-be graduates that the news has not exactly been positive when it comes to talking about the employment prospects for the Class of 2020. COVID-19 has created an uncertain job market, so it’s important to remember that although things are difficult right now, support is still available.
First things first – and that’s to acknowledge that this isn’t the final year anyone wanted for you, and it’s been pretty crappy. For a lot of final-year students there is already a lot of pressure on thinking about the next steps, and the pandemic has created even more uncertainty. It’s not fair, and it’s ok for you to feel this way.
Second – although there is a lot of negative press around at the moment, it’s not all doom and gloom. Although there are stories of employers who have withdrawn offers or postponed start dates, this isn’t happening across the board. Like the rest of us, many employers are waiting to see how the coming weeks play out, and don’t want to make decisions too soon. Added to this in a recent Financial Times article, Stephen Isherwood, Chief Exec of the Institute for Student Employers, warns of sweeping generalisations – although some sectors have been badly affected such as hospitality and retail, there are other sectors that have been boosted, such as tech companies and teaching.
In any uncertain times one thing that can help is focusing on the things that are in your control. So, what can you do now that will benefit you in the future when things return to ‘normal’?
1. Use this time to make contacts
Our alumni network numbers nearly half a million graduates in all areas and industries. Although you can’t meet them face to face at the moment you can make connections through The Manchester Network (it’s basically like LinkedIn but exclusive to Manchester students). You can ask them questions, and they can provide you advice and guidance for your careers through the ‘Ask Me About’ section.
2. Learn something new
You could also use this extra time to learn a new skill or study a new subject. Skills such as coding, data analysis and web developers will be still in high demand and will continue to be in demand following lockdown. You could also think about learning a new language or writing a blog. Whilst binge watching the latest series or scrolling through social media will give you instant gratification learning something new will give you satisfaction longer term. It will also build up you CV and show resilience and flexibility to future employers.
You can find a list of free and low cost online training resources on the Careers Service website.
Volunteering has always been a staple on a CV, but it is also needed during this period now more than ever. Like learning a new skill, volunteering develops your softer skills such as communication and problem solving. With the added benefit of you making a difference. The University’s volunteering team has put together a range of ways you can help during this time.
4. Practice online interviews and assessments
Everything is online at the moment, whether its lectures, assessments and exams, or evening quizzes. And for the majority of employers and recruitment processes this will also be true for the foreseeable future. Use this time to finesse your phone interview technique or see what virtual assessments centres are really like. The Careers Service has lots of support and advice on all these areas on their blog.
5. Use the support that’s available
Our Careers Service has moved online, but you can still access support from real people who are on the other end of the phone or email. There is also a whole range of workshops run by careers consultants now online such as ‘What to do if you’ve lost your graduate job due to COVID-19’ and ‘Contacting and Connecting Etiquette on LinkedIn.’ For a full list of the workshops visit their website.
There are also still employers looking to recruit students who are graduating this summer and advertising their vacancies on CareersLink and other recruitment websites. Despite what you might be reading in the media there are still jobs out there for graduates and its worth taking your time to look.
It is a difficult situation but it’s important to try and keep everything in perspective and think about the things you can control at the moment. You might not be able to walk straight into your dream job following graduation, but there are things you can do over the coming months to put yourself in the best position to bag that dream job further down the line.