I am graduating in a couple of months. The sudden turn of events caused by the pandemic has created uncertainty about what will become of my career plans.
As the spectre of Covid-19 casts a shadow over my career path, I am choosing to focus on the benefits it could bring.
The cohort of students who, like me, are adjusting to the impact of Covid-19 are, willingly or otherwise, pedagogical pioneers. We are the first to have had to adjust, as a cohort, to digitally dominant learning styles.
We benefited from face-to-face learning prior to the crisis. We learned from the immediate feedback and interaction in classrooms and labs. Now, we can seize the opportunity to be agile and adapt to digital channels of education. We got the best of both worlds.
This, I believe, will be a point of difference when we apply for work after university. After all, job interviews are opportunities for us to tell stories about ourselves – who we are and where our passions and aspirations lie. We recount how we’ve overcome challenges and how we have developed resourcefulness.
If we share how we have become adaptable and resilient, employers will see us as attractive prospects. We will have made some tough calls. That’s why I say Covid-19 can benefit our future careers.
You may think that I am being overly optimistic. However, I have chosen to apply a mental strategy called “reframing”.
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A frame provides a context for our thoughts and actions. Changing the frame can have a major influence on how we interpret and react to that experience.
When we reframe a “negative” circumstance, we can experience the event from a different perspective and become more resourceful. Right now, I choose to make Covid-19 the reason that I am more attractive to employers rather than letting it be a stumbling block.
Apart from the example above, another way we can reframe the current environment where fewer jobs are advertised is by realising that since there are fewer positions that match exactly what we have in mind, we need to be more creative, resourceful and perhaps widen our search. We may have to network more. We may have to learn to squeeze more out of LinkedIn. We may even have to work in jobs that are not directly related to our field of study, for a period of time.
Is that all bad? After all, when we are employed, we are in essence being asked to solve problems for our employers. Working in a field tangentially related to our passions could also contribute valuable knowledge and connections that we may not acquire otherwise.
Also students, like most workers, have had to acquire new skills. As my university has switched to online learning for almost all its courses, I am taking this opportunity to familiarise myself with the technologies that facilitate virtual meetings – paying attention to the pros and cons of different meeting software, to presentation methods that engage the audience, or how to cope when internet connection is patchy.
These skills are going to be crucial, as the world of commerce is increasingly dependent on digital in lieu of face-to-face. As students, we get to experiment with these tools when they are mostly provided free for us, and we have a safe environment in which to try.
Finally, another frame that can elevate our mental state is by understanding that as we are starting our careers in an unprecedented economic environment, we can almost be assured that nothing that comes after would likely be as challenging. It may be comforting to think that things can only get better.
Asking resourceful questions
Apart from reframing, I employ other techniques to maintain my emotional state in top form.
To that end, another favourite technique of mine is asking questions, to direct my focus. For instance, if I wake up one morning, and devastating updates in the news put me in a negative state, I immediately ask myself a series of questions, such as “What am I grateful for?”, “What am I proud of?”, “What am I happy about?” and “What am I excited about?”
Then, I challenge myself to give not just one, but five or 10 answers to each of these questions. By the end of this exercise, I inadvertently find myself in a much more positive state, ready to tackle the day’s challenges in a constructive frame of mind.
Questions are powerful tools to direct our focus. Our mental focus is like a camera lens that we can control where to zoom into.
How we react to our circumstances can determine our futures. Reframing negative circumstances into positive experiences and asking ourselves resourceful questions are the top two ways I direct my response and become more effective in life.