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Your student experience is on hold; career development doesn’t have to be

Although the future is still very uncertain, there are a few things that you can do right now to start preparing for life after university

    Miguel Rodriguez's avatar

    Miguel Rodriguez

    April 8 2020
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    The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted traditional teaching. Not only teaching, but university life itself.

    But what about the graduate employment market, those jobs waiting for you once you complete your studies? It’s difficult to predict the long-term impacts, but a quarter of employers have already shared their plans of reducing graduate hires for the rest of the year.

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    Does all that turbulence mean that your career development will be disrupted, too? Well, not necessarily, because there are plenty of online options for your career potential to keep growing during these strange, remote, self-isolated times.

    Take care of your isolated self

    Exercise (or not). Eat well (or not). Video socialise (or not). Do what you know is best for you to get through these challenging months in the best way possible, both physically and psychologically. Pamper yourself. Reconnect with your support network. Be creative and pick up a new hobby, or just make the most of a secluded Sunday by binge-watching the entire season of a television series.

    Hopefully, this will be the only time in your whole life that, ongoing educational obligations aside, you are going to be considered a responsible adult just for staying at home and looking after yourself. Be sure to make this priority the top of your list.

    Explore post-coronavirus options

    But if you do find yourself having some extra time on your hands, careers research can be a great way of entertaining yourself in these quite monotonous days.

    No idea about what to do with your life after graduation day? Or you know which sector you want to go into, but you lack details about which roles you could perform in it? Do you already know what you want to do, but feel unsure about how to get there? Careers research can help you with all of these, because becoming more knowledgeable about what the labour market has on offer for you will surely inform the next steps of your career development plan.

    So spend some time on careers information websites. Ask alumni about their graduate jobs and the sectors they work in. Drop an email to that company whose projects intrigue you. Inform yourself about what it takes to enter a certain profession and contrast your findings with your own interests, skills and values. Then decide if you want to give it a go by gaining some work experience in that area, or skip to the next job on your list.

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    Switch to online education

    You are already doing this through your degree, and getting the best grades possible and finishing that long assignment before its deadline should remain one of your top priorities, contagious world or not out there.

    But if you do want to expand that education, there are a good number of options available for you to pick up new skills and acquire new knowledge from the comfort of your bedroom. Coursera for university courses, Google Garage for the development of your digital skills, Duolingo for learning new languages…These are just a few of the dozens of online platforms to which you can sign up today to pursue a qualification that will add an extra line on your CV and cover letter.

    Gain some virtual work experience

    With a high chance for us not being able to resume our normal life for a few months, some of you may feel tempted to call it a day when it comes to securing work experience for the upcoming summer. You, of course, have every right to do that, but it might be worth taking a look and seeing what opportunities are around first.

    Search for advertised virtual internships (more and more organisations are offering these), or draft an email introducing yourself to companies likely to be able to offer you one. Or you could do some freelance work using some skills that you already have, such as online tutoring or editing.

    Or perhaps you can find an organisation or company to volunteer with – there has never been more demand for it than now.

    None of these options ticks the boxes? Perhaps the time has arrived for you to create your own project, that being starting your own online business or writing that pandemic novel that will, in due time, throw a definitive light on what we are going through now.

    Network, the introverted way

    The prospect of meeting professionals and pitching your impressive skills to them may have been a challenge for you before Covid-19 made its appearance in the world. Now, with employees from most sectors staying at home, networking has been adapted to meet the needs of even the most introverted among us: face-to-face anything is not an option anymore, and most professional interactions will be held remotely for the foreseeable future.

    So now may be the time to reconnect with your existing online network (your friends and family know many people, who know many others themselves).

    Or set up a LinkedIn profile connecting with alumni from your alma mater (to ask them about their current roles or how well their companies treat them) or reaching out to the employees of any organisation you may be interested in working for.

    You can also attend one of the hundreds of virtual careers fairs and conferences that are being organised across the world.

    Build an online brand

    This is where you can share your passion and interests with like-minded human beings.

    Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and the like to have conversations about your passions. If you enjoy books, share your latest reading; if you like theoretical physics, well, share something about whatever theoretical physicists care about.

    You can always start your own project, share your passion and show off your expertise online through a blog, a podcast or a YouTube channel. This way, you will be developing a highly employable online brand for yourself.

    Get remote support

    I am a careers adviser, so of course, I am going to recommend that you make use of your university’s now-online careers service. They are still open; they are willing to support you in your career development; and they can help you carry out all the ideas I have bombarded you with in this article (also providing you with the links and resources).

    Even more important, they will help you polish your employability skills and support you while you make sense of your current situation, tailoring their guidance to you and your unique career concerns.

    Adapt to whatever comes next

    Remember that this is just a guiding list and that you don’t need to do all of it to be successful in your career. Remember that the starting point should always be to keep yourself safe and sound, perhaps followed by asking yourself a few questions about your career motivations and priorities to determine which developmental options are more appropriate for the path ahead.

    We don’t know what’s going to happen to the job market next. We don’t know how this pandemic will affect our careers. What we do know is that there will still be graduate opportunities available for you out there once our lives recover some sense of normality.

    Maybe the best approach is to pass through the current situation in whatever way feels right for you, not worrying too much about what the future has in store for our careers, while doing your best at continuing to develop skills (digital and not) that will prove to be key.

    Because, as in the pre-coronavirus era, there is still a bright future waiting for you out there: now it’s time to move towards it, one online step at a time.

    Miguel Rodriguez is writing in a personal capacity. His views do not represent his employer.

    Read more: Why it’s OK if you aren’t being productive right now

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