Coronavirus & Careers:12th June 2020

In this episode of CareersLab, I focus on the questions that mean most to you, and it’s no surprise that the coronavirus and its careers impacts feature prominently in the questions you’ve been sending in – in the short term, so “what can I do for my career from home” to the medium and longer-term prospects i.e.”how do I get a job graduating into the global crisis?” and “What will the market for graduate jobs look like in six to twelve months time?”

In answering these questionsI’m going to be drawing on data nationally and internationally and I’ll also be looking at one of UCL Careers’ largest-ever employer surveys, done over the last few weeks, to get a feel for how graduate roles might be impacted.

There are definite reasons to be hopeful and lots of positive actions you can take to keep yourself moving forward today. Please know that UCL Careers remains fully virtually open, through one-to-ones, webinars, and great information resources. Right now though, let’s get straight into our first question from Lucy… “how do you think the coronavirus will affect job opportunities in the next 6 to 12 months?”

I imagine you’re not alone in wondering this Lucy, and it’s a really difficult question to answer. The Office of Budgetary Responsibilities recently released a report that suggested the second half of 2020 would be a period of economic recovery and job growth and the IMF released a report suggesting something similar.

This chart published by an economist at LinkedIn shows how chinas job postings have been rebounding and this may foreshadow similar trends for UK job listings dependent on how social isolation measures change. At a more granular level, Lucy, the Institute of Student Employers noted that the large majority of employers currently aren’t looking to materially change their recruitment this year with 27% looking to lower graduate recruitment numbers and 31% for internships.

However, a significant number of those surveyed haven’t yet decided, so these figures could definitely change. With the ISE survey focusing on larger graduate recruiters nationwide, from around the middle of March, we at UCL Careersconducted our own more recent survey. We found broadly similar numbers with around one-third of employers anticipating a freeze or partial freeze on graduate recruitment.

Other statistics suggest that while younger workers will likely be amongst those most affected, this perhaps correlates more strongly to the fact that younger workers are more likely to be in occupations affected by the lockdown.

Now the effect is lessened if you’re looking to enter a sector which is best described as being in the knowledge economy’ which perhaps is more suited to home working, albeit with significant regional variations. It’s fair to say that some sectors will likely emerge stronger and I think it’s probably also fair to say that the jobs landscape before the current situation probably won’t perfectly mirror thesituation, post.

While we have evidence for short-term impacts on sectors, its more difficult to say how things might pan out for certain sectors over the medium and longer terms. Now there are reasons to be hopeful alongside the reality that this is a quickly evolving situation. One largely contingent on how things go with social distancing, Lucy.

I’ll be posting more updates as more data becomes available, but there are some emerging trends, which note that the majority of graduate recruiters aren’t looking to materially change their plans, internships will likely be marginally more affected than graduate roles, plus that six to twelve-month time frame coincides with what the OBR and the IMF see as a period of potential jobs growth and economic recovery.

A related question, Lucy, that might also help you, comes in from an anonymous sender. The crucial thing to say is that as unlikely as it seems, in absolute numbers there will be a good number of jobs available, as with previous acute crises, hiring doesn’t stop. Hundreds of people will be getting jobs every day. Proportionally though, it perhaps will be more challenging to get a role, it probably will take longer and there will be sector differences.

Honestly though, to get a job in a crisis you do exactly what you would in normal times; essentially you hustle, and that means interacting with every avenue of job hunting, so networking, submitting the very best written applications that you can, ensuring that your job search strategy is diversified and includes speculative applications because up to 80% of jobs in the UK are never advertised, that you’re building relationships with people in the sectors you’re interested in to ensure you’re diversifying your approach across smaller, medium and larger sized firms too.

Be honest with yourself when thinking about what you’re doing well and what you could do better, and consciously make sure you’re filling in those gaps in order to make sure that you’re interacting with the full-width of the labour market. It may be that you potentially have to alter the expectations of your first graduate role, but you can focus on securing roles that allow you to develop skills that correlate to your desired profession because you can always pivot across, afterwards, once the jobs market re-calibrates.

It won’t necessarily be easy getting a job graduating into a global crisis, but getting a job should certainly be possible, especially if you remain agile and sensitive to the changing needs in the workplace – a greater emphasis on skills relating to empathy, independent working, and communication. I feel those things will be prized more than ever before.

Economic and social history also suggests that crises often bring fertile ground for the development of new areas of economic growth, so be vigilant, be purposeful and optimize your job search for the situation we’re in, and more on this with this next question. Vadim, Barnabas, R R, Dexin all asked broadly similar and very good questions… essentially “what can I do now?” To answer this, let’s build a framework for all of us to use.

The first step for what can I do now is to generate options, and this could include remote or virtual work experience, online networking, doing literature reviews, relevant online courses that can upskill you in specific ways, volunteering, starting a personal project like a vlog, a website, or even a small business and perhaps even gaining work experience as a key worker. Now there are going to be lots more options and it’s going to be somewhat dependent on the personal situation you find yourself in, so be sure to fill your table accordingly. All recruitment focuses on just three things.

The first of those is that you can do the job, second is that you want to do the job and the third is that you’re going to fit into the environment of that work. So if you’re interested in journalism, judge each alternative in step one against those factors. Critically assessing the options available to you will deliver a clear idea of what you could do, and if you attribute scores, potentially even what you should do now.

Vadim, Barnabas, R R, Dexin, I hope this answer helps you find a path during this time. To round up, I’d like to focus on two points and the first of those is that there can if you’re not a final year student, be an immense pressure to get an internship. But be sure to make goals and have expectations that are sensitive to the times we are in. Definitely keep applying for internships and opportunities and also be conscious of other ways you can generate career value.

Go at your own pace and make sustainable goals and you’ll be doing a great job. The second thing is even though you may be in social isolation, I recommend reaching out and participating in things. Now that can mean online networking through UCL’s alumni community site – and you may find that people are more willing than ever to chat to you about their careers – or through other projects that interest you.

Remaining engaged ensures you keep warm so that when social distancing lifts, you’re ready to go. Now in the coming weeks, I’ll be releasing more videos on how graduate recruiters are responding to the current situation.

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