We are in the middle of a huge economic downturn because of the coronavirus crisis and as a result, millions of people are being furloughed, losing incomes or losing their jobs entirely.
Many people are experiencing enormous difficulties because of the COVID-19 crisis, but the impact isn’t being felt equally. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, those on low earnings are much more likely to work in sectors affected by the shutdown than higher earners. People under the age of 25 are also two-and-a-half times as likely as those over the age of 25 to work in sectors that have been closed down.
Students and those about to graduate — who would normally be starting to apply for jobs, or waiting for placements to begin — are also looking to start their careers at a time when fewer jobs are available in a limited selection of industries. New data from CV-Library, one of the biggest job search sites in the UK, found a 15% drop in job postings between February and March this year, alongside a 10% drop in applications.
“The coronavirus outbreak has left many of us facing tough times. This is especially true for university students, many of whom were due to take their first important step onto the career ladder after graduation this summer,” says Rachel Campbell, senior regional director at the recruitment firm Page Personnel.
“However, the job market contracting has resulted in many graduates being squeezed out of roles they had provisionally secured as firms prioritise retaining their existing employees over bringing in new talent. If you are a university student that is fast approaching graduation this summer, here are some tips for how you can approach the next few months.”
Try not to panic
It is easier said than done, particularly if you are in a situation where your ‘dream job’ has just paused or withdrawn its offer to you, but trying to stay calm is important. All is not lost — and you secured the job or placement in the first place, so you will be considered again, even if it is pushed back.
“Their decision is not a reflection of your talents, but merely a consequence of the unprecedented times we are in,” Campbell says. “The employer will likely be open to considering your application in the future, and you may well be in a strong position if you had previously had an offer waiting for you.”
Employers and recruiters will value any future candidates who have assessed the current situation and made a conscious decision to stay active and build their experience,” Campbell says. “Consider the sectors that are recruiting heavily, such as retail, supply chain and food production, as there are opportunities to develop new skills hidden in all areas of the economy,” she adds.
Think laterally when making your first step
It is hugely disappointing to lose a first job or graduate placement, not to mention anxiety-inducing. “As you near the end of your degree it may be daunting to consider branching into an industry which is not directly related to your area of study — particularly if you had your heart set on a certain career path. This doesn’t mean it’s not achievable,” says Campbell.
“What you can do is think about the transferrable skills and experience you can develop by pursuing other avenues such as teamwork and people management, which can help you make the transition into your dream role at a later date.”
Consider virtual internships or volunteering
Although businesses may be struggling, one positive is that many leading companies are also considering ways of facilitating virtual internships over the summer months.
“Therefore, keep your eyes peeled on the job market and what other opportunities are out there,” Campbell says. “It will be worth keeping your CV up to date, even whilst doing a temporary role, and practicing your interview techniques ahead of any later job applications.”
It’s also important to network and continue to stay in touch with employers, even if they aren’t taking on new staff right now. “Even if an employer is not taking on new staff members at the moment it’s worth keeping them in mind for the future. We would recommend waiting a few weeks or even months and then reaching out again to see if anything has changed,” she adds.
“Keeping in touch with hiring managers sends a clear signal of your intentions, and keeps you front of mind for when positions do arise in the future.”