Preparing to graduate in difficult times – 5 myths busted

“The very fact that you’ve faced and overcome the challenges of having to study online, and adapted to a complete change in society is no mean feat. Employers will recognise that fact.”

These are tough times for students and those who are about to graduate (as well as those who graduated in 2020) and, understandably, you may be concerned about graduating in such uncertain times.

While we’re not going to pretend it’s going to be a walk in the park, your prospects might not be as bad as you think. Here are five common thoughts about graduating in a reduced job market.

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  1. There won’t be any graduate jobs for me

While some companies have suspended or stopped advertising jobs, many employers are still recruiting graduates. Keep checking graduate job sites and preparing for the recruitment process, so you’re ready to apply. 

If your chosen field of work has gone a bit quiet on the hiring front, don’t be put off. You can use the time to research the skills and competencies needed in your preferred sectors and then think of ways you can develop them. Check out one employer’s advice on this. 

Consider other jobs and sectors – they may not be your dream opportunity, but they will give you valuable experience in the workplace, as well as an income! You will also be able to show to future employers qualities of resilience, self-motivation, the ability to work outside your comfort zone, and creating a positive experience out of a bad situation.

Illustrative image of degree class

2. I don’t know what my predicted degree class will be because I’m missing module grades

Be assured that many employers will be sympathetic about the challenges you’re facing and many are aware you may be missing module grades and possibly a predicted class of degree, as a result.

While employers are usually interested in your predicted class as an eligibility criteria, some of them recognise this is a concern to students in the current circumstances and are looking at ways to allow candidates to articulate their skills and strengths, so that grades are not the main focus. 

Some have even observed that students facing the challenges of lockdown have already shown high levels of resilience in a situation that wasn’t of their making, so don’t want to potentially penalise candidates over unavailable grades.

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3. I think I’m behind other final year students in my career planning

In ordinary times it can be easy for students to think their friends have secured that dream job, while they still haven’t. So it’s inevitable that, being in lockdown, not having the opportunity to meet other people, and being generally a bit disconnected from others, can easily lead to an assumption that you’re the only one who hasn’t got their next steps sorted.

Make sure you talk to your friends and peers – yes, some may be further advanced in their job hunting, but not all of them will. Many might have some ideas of what to do next, but may also be a little doubtful about what the future holds.

Most people will be affected one way or another at the moment, so help and support each other by comparing notes, making suggestions for one another, providing encouragement.

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4. Employers won’t look at me because I haven’t got work experience

With the best part of two academic years disrupted, you may be worried that you haven’t enough work experience with which to impress a potential employer. 

The pandemic’s knock-on effects haven’t gone unnoticed by employers – they do realise students may not have the formal internships and part-time jobs they would normally see on candidates’ applications.

Some companies are formally adjusting their selection criteria with this in mind. Others will, at least, allow for the lack of work experience opportunities. For example, Teach First typically expects classroom experience from its applicants, but is accepting examples of other experience, as long as it demonstrates their required competencies.

To compensate for less formal work experience, think about all the other things you’ve done during this time. That might be supplementary online learning; volunteering in your community; learning a new skill; any number of activities. If you still feel you’re running short on good examples, try some of the suggestions and ideas given on our Covid-19 page.

Also, the very fact that you’ve faced and overcome the challenges of having to study online, and adapted to a complete change in society is no mean feat. Employers will recognise that fact, along with your ability to work remotely, which is likely to be a common requirement, post-pandemic.

Illustrative image of choice between employment and further study

5. I should do a postgraduate course, because there aren’t any jobs

It may be tempting to undertake another university course, rather than face a tough employment market.

It’s true that further study is necessary, or at least desirable, in some career areas (such as teaching and law, particularly if your first degree is in another subject area). However, it might not be needed to get the type of job you want. There may be other routes into the sector, which may spare you the financial and time commitments of postgraduate study.

So, research your chosen career ideas and think carefully before committing to another course. Use the explore your ideas, job sectors and further study web page resources, including the videos about these topics.

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Keep going!

Yes, it may feel a bit daunting at the moment, but it’s not always going to be like this. There are positive things you can do. Use the resources on the Careers and Placements website and, if you need to talk to us, you can: