Putting our best foot forward: careers and COVID-19 – 16 /10/2020

Originally published by Your 4 at Channel 4. Link here: https://weareyour4.tumblr.com/post/632143564127830016/putting-our-best-foot-forward-careers-and

Among many changes, Covid-19 and the consequent national lockdown has caused a dramatic increase in unemployment figures for 16-25 year olds. People in this age group are finishing college, graduating from university and seeking entry level job positions. Searching for jobs seems impossible, and increasingly, furlough is resulting in redundancy. One worry pressing young adults everywhere is, ‘What can I do to give myself the best chance at securing a job?’. I’ve asked myself this question too. In December, I signed a contract for a graduate role, my life was wrapped in a nice little bow. When Covid-19 struck the nation, I was worried that my job offer would be rescinded. I found myself with a ton of free time after graduating, so I thought I would grab the bull by its horns: begin freelancing and take up every opportunity that came my way. More than anything, I wanted to put myself in the best possible position to start my graduate job. Here is some advice I have for anybody else who has found themselves struggling to find a graduate role in the midst of the pandemic: 

1. Appear to be proactive. 

Once I finished my university coursework, I loved sitting in the sun and reading for pleasure. But after doing this for a few days, I realised that I could be spending my time more effectively. I felt the need to learn and gain some new skills while I had this free time. My motivation was fuelled by the desire to prove myself to my future employers. I wanted to demonstrate how I am hard working and proactive, and I would bring this ethos into my position. After researching I found countless courses on almost every industry. I chose internship programmes and online courses specialising in marketing and content writing as this was my chosen career path. Most of these courses were free or charged very little. The courses were really valuable and provided in-depth knowledge about the industry, without these courses I wouldn’t be as knowledgeable. I feel better equipped for the role after enrolling on these courses and learning more about the industry – fingers crossed this will lay my imposter syndrome to rest! 

One thing I actively searched for was opportunities with companies who provided certificates when you had completed the course. Each time I received a certificate I would write a LinkedIn post detailing what I had learnt. I really wanted to highlight to my connections that I had not stopped educating myself after graduating. Lots of webinars I’ve attended placed an emphasis on seeing lockdown as an opportunity to make yourself more employable. Look out for opportunities such as remote internships, online courses and industry-based webinars and workshops. 

2. What materials are out there to help you learn?

Lockdown has not only affected students looking for jobs but has also impacted staff who have been furloughed or have been made redundant. I have seen so many people on Twitter and LinkedIn holding webinars, seminars, writing e-books or inviting others to reach out, offering to spread their industry knowledge.

Are there any insightful and educational books or articles that have been on your ‘To Be Read List’? Have you saved any podcasts on your phone but are yet to listen to them? There is so much material out there to inspire you to work towards your personal and professional development – make sure you utilise it. 

3. Try something new.

Job vacancies are scarce and unemployment figures have risen drastically. In order to try and combat this, try and think, ‘Are there any new skills I could be learning?’ 

If you’ve ever thought of picking up a new skill, now is the time to pursue it. I don’t just mean learning to bake or knit, but now is also a great chance to grow professionally. Professional development is such a buzzword at the moment in UK offices. Perhaps you find spreadsheets daunting? I did, so I signed up for a virtual internship experience where I would be a Data Analyst. I found the experience challenging at first, but now I look back and am very grateful I took up the opportunity to grow my skill set. For me, having some brief experience with data analysing is really helpful, particularly as it is relevant to marketing. So, if there’s an opportunity you stumble across that seems a bit out of your comfort zone, go for it! You’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain. 

4. Pursue passion projects. 

The majority of this blog has been focussed on professional development. After studying for so long, you can sometimes find yourself in danger of burning out. We often feel pressured to occupy all of our time with work – lockdown is no exception.  In the midst of all this chaos, we have to remind ourselves to take time to wind down and relax. Whether we bake banana bread, are a film fanatic or love listening to music – we need to take some time out of our days to pursue what makes us happy. Striking a balance between our personal and professional lives is so important, especially when there is little separation between the two now we are working from home.

These tips have hopefully spread some light about how to navigate job hunting and finding work experience in our pandemic ridden world. Students, graduates and job seekers have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and its effect on the job market and economy. We need to spend this time honing our skills so that we can put our best foot forward when applying for jobs. 

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