With 2020 and uni now in the rear view mirror, what’s next for grads in these shifting times
There was no big ceremony, no throwing of mortarboards or group photos for most graduating students this year. Instead the uni year ended with quiet celebrations for those graduates who were lucky enough to participate, and for some was pushed back months because degree components couldn’t be finished in current COVID circumstances.
So what should grads be doing now to secure their futures?
Many things remain unchanged, notwithstanding COVID. Ideally, pursue career options which use your strengths and interest you. Make sure you have a great resume and LinkedIn profile, appropriate for your preferred industry. Check your social media is employer friendly and start to think about networking opportunities. Practice answering some interview questions and start mapping out what your next 3-5 years might look like.
Be realistic about the types of job you’d be willing to accept. It’s unlikely that you’re going to land your dream job straight out of uni but if you think broadly enough, there will be numerous jobs you could enjoy, upskill and grow a network from. Obviously if you have a genuine interest in a role you’re more likely to succeed at it.
For many grads, just getting a job, any job is their first priority to cover basic life essentials and any uni debts. The average time in your first role after graduating is about 18 months so it’s doubtful that you’ll be stuck in a role you don’t love for too long. Unless you have already selected a defined career path such as a doctor or lawyer for example, using jobs as stepping stones to gather experience, build up your resume and network is normal.
Who do you know?
Yes networking may seem harder right now, as you can’t necessarily do it in person. However that does actually make it easier in lots of cases. There are lots of forums, networking events and conferences happening online now, and given the circumstances they’re often at a much reduced price or even free. Get online and sign up for a few events that interest you. Ask questions of the panel specialists. Ask to connect with people who have opinions and points of view you find interesting and grow your network.
Location location location
Tough as it may sound, sometimes it’s not just your expectations that need to shift. In the current employment market it’s really tough with grads competing not just against each other but also those who’ve lost their jobs due to COVID. That means sometimes you have to go where the roles are in your preferred industry. When looking for a job, unless you absolutely have to, don’t limit yourself to local geographies or the city you always thought you’d work in. Cast a wide net and explore. You never know where it may take you.
But I always thought I’d work…..
The same need for you to be flexible can apply to industries and companies. You may have just finished a degree in software engineering and always hoped you’d be headed to Google or Atlassian in Sydney, maybe ending up in San Francisco. But it maybe turns out that several thousand other grads and job seekers thought the same thing and the recruitment process hasn’t gone your way. Don’t be disheartened, you still have a great degree and now you’ve got some experience of the hiring process and probably picked up a few tips or things to do differently next time.
Look at all the enterprises and sectors hiring in your preferred field, including maybe consider looking at roles in the public sector or armed forces. Do still look at overseas roles if that’s something you dream of, just be cautious of current limitations with travel and visas.
Hunt through all the major online jobs boards using broad search terms but keeping your qualifications at the centre of your search. Just because you have a degree in maths, doesn’t mean you’re only looking at roles in financial services so don’t limit your searching. Start wide and develop a list of job options, and narrow it as you go.
Another important consideration can be whether you would be prepared to do an apprenticeship or traineeship in a trade (building, hairdressing, agribusiness etc) even though you have a degree. There are significant opportunities available in many trades as present, and incentives for employers to take you on and train you. And the lifestyle can be relatively attractive, with the prospect also of having your own business one day if you wish.
Should I stay at uni?
For some the decision might be whether to continue studying. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s something you’re passionate about and will grow your skill set. Don’t be tempted to look at further study if it’s not something you’d have considered in a COVID-free world. University is expensive and more qualifications do not necessarily correlate with greater employability or higher wages. Sometimes taking an entry level job to get experience will add far more to your resume than a postgraduate qualification will.
There are plenty of roles out there, across lots of industries and in lots different places. Don’t limit yourself when you look. Continue to follow your passions and interests, even if in your spare time, and build experience as much as you can.
Good luck with your search!