Has Lockdown Given Graduates A Chance To Evaluate Their Career Choices?

For 2020 graduates there’s been a lot of upheaval, from finishing their degrees remotely and in some cases moving back home early to cancelled exams and cancelled graduation ceremonies. Graduates are now looking at a job market with reduced vacancies and a lot of competition.

How has coronavirus impacted the jobs market?

Almost all sectors, outside of key workers, have slowed or shut down completely while lockdown has been in place and this has had a dramatic impact on the jobs market. Some of the most secure jobs have been those of the key workers like NHS and healthcare staff, teachers, supermarket staff, delivery drivers, and other occupations that keep the country running — jobs which are frequently underpaid or often classed as unskilled. 

Most other sectors have frozen any hiring plans, and have had to either furlough large numbers of their staff or make them redundant, making it a difficult time for anyone that’s job hunting. 

Some of the most popular choices for graduate jobs and schemes in recruitment, retail, marketing, hospitality and leisure have been the hardest hit industries. Many graduate schemes have been suspended and some students that already had jobs lined up for after graduation have had those offers rescinded.

Have graduates reevaluated their career plans during lockdown?

A lot of graduates will have found in the last few months that their career choices aren’t as secure as they expected, and for some industries, the impact of coronavirus is likely to last for years. 

For example, lots of leisure and hospitality businesses that have been completely shut down during lockdown will be focusing on ways to reopen safely but also ensure they can make up for their losses and reschedule missed events — few businesses will be looking to hire or expand for a long time. 

During lockdown, graduates have had time to research and adjust their career choices in light of these changes. In some cases where the next steps for their career are simply not possible at the moment, such as placements and work experience, graduates have been forced to rethink their plans. Graduates have also had time to adjust their job-hunting tactics — brushing up their skills, taking further courses, and improving their CV ready to find a job after lockdown has ended. 

And with parallels being drawn between the current situation and the 2008 financial crisis — it’s important that graduates now can learn from the impact that had. Studies show that even ten years on, people who graduated around the time of the last recession still experience higher levels of unemployment and lower average wages than those who graduated before or after.

How has coronavirus changed career choices for graduates?

Digital and online work has been the most resilient during the Coronavirus pandemic. Jobs that rely on a computer and don’t require you to physically be somewhere are much more versatile. Whatever career you’re looking into, it’s essential to have a wide range of digital skills and be confident with using the relevant digital tools for that industry. 

Of course, there’s been a major shift towards working from home or working remotely during the lockdown. As companies start to think about recruiting again, this could actually open up more possibilities for graduates. Graduates can apply for the jobs they want further afield without necessarily needing to move. 

And while a lot of internships and placements have been cancelled or postponed, some businesses are starting to find ways to move these into a virtual setting. This could not only give graduates access to these work experience opportunities from further away, but the flexibility might mean that they can fit in more than just one. 

Even graduates that have reevaluated their career choices are likely to have to broaden their job search — if the economic problems linger then it’s essential to get earning money as quickly as possible and take advantage of any experience you can get. Having some level of real work experience (however different from your chosen career) is always preferable to having no experience whatsoever. And some graduates may have to get creative with ways to make money while they job hunt. 

More graduates are also considering starting their own business. With the lockdown revealing that large numbers of jobs that were perceived as a secure, sensible career path are actually just as vulnerable, there’s a definite appeal to working for yourself. 

This may not be a full-time job, but even a side job to work on in your spare time could help provide stability during this difficult time. Starting locally is fairly straightforward - you could set up your own retail business and make local deliveries, work as a handyman, or offer a removal service. 

To get started you'd just need to set up a website and social media accounts. Then you could get the word out with flyers in your local area or posting on local Facebook groups, and of course, you'll need a van (don’t forget about van insurance if you're using it for a business). 

Alternatively, food delivery drivers are always in high demand, and it's a quick, flexible way to start earning. If you have some cooking skills and a van you could even set up your own food truck business — although this also requires you to have the right insurance

Graduates could also consider remaining in education if you can afford to. A postgraduate qualification could get you closer to your preferred career choice — you’ll have a more specialised qualification, experience, and you might delay entering the job market until things have settled down. 

A lot of graduates will have reevaluated their career choices during lockdown, and while jobs are thin on the ground, it won’t be long before recruitment picks up again and the shift to remote working and online careers could end up benefiting graduates.


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