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Graduates: how to build your career in the pandemic

08 June, 2020Juno Baker

Because of Covid-19, companies are recruiting fewer entry-level staff and graduates in 2020. So what can you do to increase your chances of landing the right job or finding work that progresses your career?

Prepare

Skyscrapers towering up into the skyUse your university’s careers and employment service. Find out how they can help you and use their resources.

They may be replacing graduate fairs with online events and may know of opportunities for internships and employment, despite the lockdown. Some companies are offering virtual internships, for example.

Get into a daily routine and treat your job search like a full-time job, working from home.

Work on your CV and personal statement. Tailor each job application and covering letter to show how you meet the requirements and to give yourself the best chance of standing out.

Make contacts and network

Work on your online presence and make the most of LinkedIn.

You can connect with individuals and should also consider joining professional groups, as well as following organisations in the sector you’re interested in.

Join discussions and approach people. Share posts and consider writing your own.

Usually, we’d advise going to events to network. Now that so many events have moved online, this is even easier. Find webinars and online events in the sector that you’re interested in, and sign up for them.

Many still include networking sessions, so you will make new contacts. Better still, these events will keep you right up to the minute on what’s happening in your chosen industry.

Be flexible and open minded

Even in normal circumstances, graduate employment programmes only make up the minority of first jobs.

If your heart is set on working in a particular sector, then be flexible about the role you’re looking for. Once you’re in the sector you can build your experience, make more contacts and aim higher. 

You may find that you can’t get into your first choice of sector right now. So keep an open mind.

Look at other opportunities. Many of the skills you learnt through your degree and time at university will be transferrable. And working in another sector may increase your commercial awareness.

Consider short-term contracts and volunteering

Employers look for a lot more than good academic results. So think of this time as a chance to show that you’re adaptable and to develop and demonstrate your skills.

If you volunteer or take up a short-term contract, this will show future employers that you have drive and initiative.

You can use the experience to develop skills in team working, communication and problem solving. You will gain valuable evidence of how you’ve developed these skills which you can add to your CV and talk about in interviews.

Practice video and phone interviews

Like everything else, interviews are going online right now so you need to be prepared.

Find a quiet room for the interview and make sure it's clean and tidy. Check the background for distracting pictures or ornaments and remove them. Think about the lighting. If you sit with your back to a window, the interviewer won’t be able to see your face.

Turn off your phone and programmes on all your devices. You don’t want the interview to be interrupted by notifications. Test the platform, the camera and ensure you have enough battery power before the interview starts.

If there are technical problems during the interview, say so.

For a phone interview you should also find a quiet room where you’re comfortable. Have some water nearby and a notepad. Be sure to answer the call with your name. And remember to smile while you’re talking as you will sound more energised.

You might find it helpful to practice interview techniques with another graduate.

Working with a friend will help you feel less isolated. And stepping into the role of interviewer will give you insights into what the process is like from the employer's point of view as well.

Why not record the sessions? That way, you can see how you came across and then work on your technique.

Consider further study

While you’re looking for work you may consider learning new skills through online study. The move to digital has accelerated under the lockdown and digital skills are becoming increasingly important.

Luckily, there are plenty of providers offering digital courses for free, including the Open University and Harvard.

This might also be a good time to consider postgraduate education or a professional qualification, for example in banking or financial advice.

The government offers loans for masters degrees, to help with course fees and living costs.

Never give up

It doesn’t matter how good you are, or how well you do in your exams, even under normal circumstances, you are likely to get rejected for jobs.

These are unprecedented times, so if at first you don’t succeed, don’t take it personally.

Remember that recessions and downturns don't last forever, so you have keep going. Keep applying for roles. Don’t get disheartened. That way, you’ll increase your chances of finding something sooner, rather than later.

Everybody gets rejected. But each failure is a chance to reflect and an opportunity for growth.

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