How is COVID-19 going to affect my future career?

Rose Watson, Careers & Employability Service Manager

So, you might have been in your first graduate job for a good few months now. You’ve become more settled, learned a lot, and were just starting to think about what might be next. Or you may still be working out what you’re going to do. Perhaps you’ve been travelling or working to gain some experience, before you embark on your graduate career.

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, the pandemic arrives, affecting all of us in the way we live, and in particular, our working lives.

It has affected all of us differently, but very few of us will have escaped change.

Some of you will be working harder and longer hours than ever, particularly if you’re in key roles in health, social care, or retail. Others will be working at home, creating working space in corners of the house and grappling with online technology and video calls.

You may have been furloughed from your job, and spending unexpected time at home. Some of you may be embracing this, and taking the opportunity to follow new interests and skills or just slow down a bit. But others will find this a profoundly unsettling time, with anxieties about being left behind workwise, or concerns about whether your job will still be there to return to.

And some of you may have been laid off or are still getting on to that first career path. You may have been travelling, studying, or working in other jobs to gain experience before embarking on your career path.

Whatever your situation, you may have concerns about how this is going to affect your future plans and opportunities.

How might the pandemic and lockdown affect graduate employment?

Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence at Prospects gives us some useful insights into the graduate labour market in his regular blogs. He is finding a picture is emerging about the UK graduate labour market, although some aspects still seem unclear:

  • Although the labour market is being seriously affected, graduates are faring better than non-graduates right now.
  • There is still hiring going on and new vacancies being created. Volume is down but activity has not ceased.
  • Smaller businesses are struggling more, whilst larger businesses seem to be adapting.
  • Regions are being affected differently, and it seems London and other cities are faring better than most regions.
  • The worst-affected sectors include hospitality, travel and entertainment. There are mixed messages from professional and technical services, but hiring is down in at least some parts of those sectors. Healthcare of all kinds, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not seeing the same issues and there are indications that financial services and parts of IT look to be coping better as well.
So what does that mean for me and my future employability?

So, whether you are still looking for your first graduate role, or are looking to move on, what does this mean for you?

Flexibility is key: Due to the lack of opportunities in some sectors you may need be adaptable in your thinking, and consider gaining experience in another sector. Even if you had your heart on sports business management, if the leisure industry continues to be curtailed, consider getting management experience in another sector, with the view to move across to sports at a later stage.

Learn to deal with uncertainty: Some of us thrive on uncertainty and change, whereas others really struggle with is. Be kind to yourself, and recognise that you may be dealing with the loss of your old life, and earlier plans. For some of us this may be similar to a grieving process. See ‘So what can I do now? – Covid-19, careers and uncertainty and university students to read about dealing with career uncertainty.

Put aside your crystal ball: If the pandemic has shown us one thing, it is we can’t always predict what will happen. Often we move forward not by careful planning, but by seizing hold of opportunities that suddenly or unexpectedly arise. Chaos Theory and Planned Happenstance suggest events can be out of our control but how you react to them is important. Qualities such as flexibility, optimism, curiosity and persistence can help you make the most of the situation.

Harness your patience: The lock down helped many of us to slow down, appreciate what is around us, and limit our plans for the time being; these qualities may have to continue for an extended period yet. Employers are continuing to hire – but the recruitment processes will take longer. Many are going to wait until Autumn before they make further hiring decisions. You may have to slow down your plans at this stage, and in the meantime use your time productively.

Get yourself skilled up: If you are in work but wanting to move on, make the most of learning and development opportunities available to you to extend your skills. Or this may be a good time to think about pursuing a masters degree, either full or part time. Alternatively have a look at the many free online learning opportunities to develop your digital or employability skills. See this firstpoint blog for more ideas about developing your skills

Seize the day: This recent period has exposed gaps and revealed opportunities for those who are willing to take them. Those who get ahead are those who are agile and can recognise and react quickly to opportunities. Over the past months we have seen opportunities arise in online learning, digital technologies, home exercise, and health and wellbeing, amongst others. Other gaps in the market will become clear over the next year as previously established industries struggle and others emerge in their place. Make sure you are well placed to contribute to this!

Embrace online recruitment: Like it or loathe it, it is likely that now employers have taken the plunge into the world of online interviews and assessment centres, they are here to stay. Here are some tips on online recruitment.

Other blogs you might like

Should I stay or should I go?

‘So what can I do now?’ – COVID-19, career uncertainty and university students


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