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Impact of Covid-19

Site: OpenLearn Create
Course: Just Graduated? What Next?
Book: Impact of Covid-19
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Monday, 28 Nov 2022, 04:07

1. Introduction to this section

Employer responses to the pandemic

An organisation's main priority during periods of economic downturn is to consolidate so that it has a chance of recovery later. For most, the most appropriate immediate action was to sit tight during the pandemic and wait to see what would happen.

You may have heard the term "recession" used to describe the immediate aftermath of the pandemic announcement in the UK and continue to hear it used to describe the situation around the world. An economic recession refers to a downturn in economic activity; two successive quarters of contraction. They are associated with a drop in spending. At the start of 2020, the global economy steadily contracted while populations were asked to stay in their homes to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Although there will be ripples of this recession for many years to come, there are positive signs of recovery but it’s important to realise the global economy will never revert to its original state.  

The pandemic has also changed the way we live, work, and spend. Many companies could not have dreamed at the start of March 2019 that its staff would be finding ways to work remotely and be embracing digital technologies. This fast track down a route the economy had only started to travel down has altered the way we live and work and change the perceptions of employers and employees, e.g.  

  • Proven that workers can successfully work from home, meet deadlines, collaborate digitally 

  • Conference calls are appropriate for use in many situations and can reduce travel expense and environmental impact, e.g. to connect large teams for meetings and conferences 

  • Change the way employers and employees think about work/life balance and wellbeing

Digital solutions have supported workplace infrastructures to recover and will likely be used alongside in-person options in the future. 


1.1. Employer priorities and strategies

Staff costs can be an organisation’s largest financial outlay, so freezing new hires not only aims to ensure existing staff keep their jobs (although unfortunately this is not always possible) but also means new employees will have a better experience in the long term, e.g. appropriate induction and training.  

You may have noticed a rise in temporary positions during national lockdowns, for example, in supermarkets. These hiring decisions fill an existing need which organisations recognise they will no longer be able to sustain longer term. Employers value the initiative employees took to adapt their original plan to gain transferable skills. Remember to highlight your own examples in your applications. Perhaps you have an example from this list: 

  • Fruit pickers and other agricultural roles
  • Health and social care roles and volunteers
  • Supermarket logistics staff and pick and packers
  • Delivery drivers

1.2. What can I do if I lost my job or job offer during the pandemic?

Use our video (made during the pandemic) which highlights the range of other opportunities available to you if you don't have a job or are worried about the job or offer you lost during the pandemic. 

Start a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance if you have lost your job. 

Jobseeker's Allowance


Circle of Influence: Covey, S. (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, USA: Simon & Schuster. 

Online learning: view video for relevant context.

*See Transcripts of Video Content section for a transcript of this video.

1.3. Wellbeing

Many of the points covered in the video relate to the Five Ways of Wellbeing which you may find useful at this time.

Mind, expanding on the work of the New Economics Foundation, has created the helpful Five Ways to Wellbeing page recommending these key points:

  • Connect
  • Be active
  • Take notice
  • Learn
  • Give

New Economics Foundation
Five Ways to Wellbeing

2. Fact checking

In April 2020, the Office for Budgetary Responsibility made a worst-case scenario prediction. Depending on the length of the lockdown required, experts predicted there could be an up to 35% drop in growth in the UK, leading to an unemployment rate of up to 10%. Although these figures looked daunting, it also predicted that the economy would recover quickly once restrictions were lifted and that it shouldn’t cause long-lasting damage. Taken in isolation, many headlines were distressing and potentially misleading.  

All countries in the global economy were impacted, so it is important to become more comfortable with using reputable sources, including predictions, to inform your career research and planning

Identifying reputable sources can be challenging as many organisations hold their own values. Review these resources as a starting point.  

  • Specialist graduate support sites like Prospects Luminate

Luminate

  • Professional networking sites like LinkedIn

LinkedIn

  • Government departments and agencies, e.g. Department of Business, Innovation and Skills

Department of Business, Innovation and Skills

  • Employer organisations, e.g. Institute of Student Employers (ISE)

Institute of Student Employers

  • Trade Unions/Professional Associations
  • NGOs (Non-governmental organisations)
  • Academic and research establishments/organisations
  • Trusted news outlets

As you’ve done during your studies, think critically about the data presented to you:  

  • Who wrote it? What was their intention? 

  • Is it balanced?   

  • Are points supported by evidence? 

This mindset will help you to plan some achievable steps.  

3. Working from home and 'hybrid' working

For many new graduates heading into the workplace, chances are you don’t have many (or any) pre-existing habits or specific expectations… so you’re in a strong position to be able to adapt positively to this new situation we find ourselves in. If you are a mature learner, career changer, or you have experience to draw on, give yourself time to process this transition. Many of the changes, however, will already be familiar to you through your studies.  

For office-based staff:  

  • Use of digital and virtual learning environments has expanded  

  • Some socialising opportunities have remained online   

  • Collaboration is happening in shared digital workspaces instead of in meetings on paper 

  • A combination of in-person and online working is now often referred to as 'hybrid' 

Employers looked to adapt, innovate, and capitalise on new opportunities.

Staff who work partially from home or remotely, and partially in the office, may now be referred to as 'hybrid' workers. Their contractual place of work is usually still their office address, however, as the needs of the organisation change the contract may be updated. You will also hear phrases like 'phased return'. This suggests the organisation aims to have everyone back in the office eventually. You may have previous experience of this type of working pattern, but it can pose its own challenges. Use our section on working from home to build strategies and routines that work for you.

Some sectors fared better than others in the short- and medium-term, and long-term impacts are yet to be seen. However you choose to deal with the situation we find ourselves in remember that there isn’t a 'correct', 'one-size-fits all' solutionor way to think or feel. Take stock and remember that you have been, any may continue to be under a lot of pressure; give yourself time to adapt and adjust. 

Everyone will develop their own coping mechanisms and strategies. These are up to you, but this course will offer you guidance and remind you there is plenty you can do to progress in your career planning to take steps towards a positive future


4. Longer-term planning

This MOOC was originally designed to help finalists and recent graduates to identify immediate, easy to achieve steps to help them to take action. Looking at the bigger picture will allow you to make strategic decisions, but you may also find yourself switching to whatever steps will help you to manage the unique challenges the pandemic has caused for you personally. This may include taking it one day at a time, and only planning 1-2 days ahead 

You should, however, take stock and (where relevant or necessary) revise your longer-term career plans to ensure you are as prepared as you can be. Understanding the kinds of opportunities available can help you to feel in control, and plan meaningful steps, including adapting expectations of what is achievable in the short, medium, and long term. The following section on Career Planning teaches you how to set yourself SMART goals.

4.1. Navigating your way forward

In March 2020 the WHO announced a global pandemic; a global crisis. Many aspects of our lives have changed as a result. For some, the adjustment may feel minor, for example, if you usually choose to work and study alone, or you’re used to completing your role remotely. However, for most of the population, this impacted our daily lives to a degree which felt unthinkable. This can have a detrimental effect on mental health. Consider the following words and think about whether they resonate with you: 

  • Disbelief  
  • Hope 
  • Denial 
  • Separation 
  • Shock 
  • Isolation 
  • Apathy 
  • Loneliness 
  • Fear  
  • Uncertainty  
  • Trauma 
  • Loss 

Many may also have felt or still be feeling the added upset of worrying about loss of (or cutting short) social activities, holidays, or other personal or professional plans 

4.2. Your own journey

It’s important to recognise and come to terms with your own experience of the situation, and it’s okay to feel upset that your plans have been upended. Milestones such as your graduation ceremony, are very important parts of your life and it’s okay to mourn these losses.  

Additionally, you may have lost your income, a future opportunity, or be supporting others who are dealing with similar losses, e.g. your parents, partner, friends, or extended family. More than that, you may have been directly impacted by a bereavement as a result of this crisis.  

You will have heard the word “unprecedented” used regularly, and it is the only definition we have. This means there is no tried and tested way to deal with what we have experienced and we’ll all find new ways to move forward.  

Even without the addition of the global crisis, those listed are common thoughts and feelings associated with transition away from the familiar into something unknown and are a normal part of life 

4.3. Dealing with uncertainty

Remember, that we do not live a life of certainty. It’s easy during times of extreme uncertainty to be nostalgic for a time when we knew what our daily lives looked and felt like. What you have experienced, however, is predictability… not certainty, and your most challenging times can also be the most rewarding. Look for the opportunities.   

You may find the Change Cycle model a useful point of reference here. 

Change Cycle model

Your mood is understandably impacted by changing events: loss, doubt, discomfort, discovery, understanding, to eventual integration. You will not feel capable of being positive every day, and that is okay and perfectly normal. Aim to find some positives through how you frame your experiences, e.g. that may be a list of small wins each day 

4.4. Tips for managing uncertainty

Use our video (made during the pandemic) to think about how you'll manage uncertainty.

   
*See Transcripts of Video Content section for a transcript of this video.

4.5. Planning top tips

Long term planning concentrates on the process by which you will achieve your goals – you may not be able to identify every step in the process now, but you can add an initial deadline and review as you go along – be mindful and prepare yourself psychologically that the situation may continue to change:
 
  • Reflect and adapt to the changing global social and economic situation 
  • Once a day, read or watch the news (if it’s affecting your mental health, choose a trusted source and avoid over-reading, and/or follow a sector publication or one trusted news source)  
  • Research – gain a broad knowledge, but focus on key areas of interest 
  • Use technology to your advantage 
  • Identify where you can add value in different workplace scenarios 
Use expert projections to think about when would now be realistic to enter and progress in your chosen career – consider what you would feel fulfilled by and develop your professional experience in the meantime:
 
  • What is your current mindset? You've just read about negative mindsets in the What Next? section, do any of these resonate with you? 
  • What behaviours did you notice in your initial response to the situation? Have any of these lingered? What impact are they having?
  • What are your values? 
  • What are your transferable skills? 
  • Where do you need/want to work? e.g. a specific city or county
  • Which organisations and sectors are a suitable match? 
Research immediate opportunities and those which will become available to you later.  

4.6. Valuable behaviours and mindsets

It is inevitable that you will have days where you feel less able to deal with your career planning..you could liken this to motivating yourself to stick to a diet/exercise plan. Some days it can feel impossible. 

Uncertainty can be difficult to manage for longer periods than you’re used to, this is especially difficult if you thrive on planning. Feeling out of control can have negative longer-term impacts, so plan small steps to take control now 

Build an understanding of the below skills and consider your own examples of these to share with employers. It’s possible you already had examples from your past experiences, but you likely have them in abundance now. Click on the skills to see a definition: 

5. Adapting your career plan to take advantage of current opportunities

When you begin the process of career planning, you first consider the basics like your values, and motivations, followed by sectors or employers of interest, the salary you’ll need in order to pay your bills, care for your family, etc. and the location of the role… and with each of these there will undoubtedly need to be compromise. This process hasn’t changed.

In the short-term at least, movement around the country and around the world was, and continues to be, affected by the global health crisis. This not only impacts plans to travel, work, or study abroad, but also movement between countries and cities in the UK. As a result of lockdowns, you may no longer physically be in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, Dundee… when this was where you intended to start your graduate career. If this is the case, try not to panic. Alterations are inevitable in every career planning process, but… you may now know of other opportunities you hadn't considered or be able to work remotely. Many organisations took steps to capitalise on the challenge and offer opportunities in different ways.

Take these examples for instance:

  • A business which has previously relied on high in-person footfall into their retail outlet which improved its online presence to allow customers to continue buying products
  • A technology start-up selling collaborative digital platforms which had an increase in consumer interest as more organisations transitioned to remote working and required additional staff to deal with increased workloads
  • An SME with established targeting for one demographic unable to rely on sales to that one group which required a new marketing strategy

Graduates are ready with up to date and transferable skills to step in and support those organisations to innovate.


5.1. Where are my skills relevant?

If the role or sector you have been working towards has been impacted, it’s natural to be concerned about how to adapt. Here are some tips to think about what other options might suit you:

Review graduate vacancy sites and look at the types of opportunities available

  • Do any appeal?
  • What are the entry requirements?
  • Which skills can you confidently demonstrate?
  • Are there any skills you’re currently missing?

Once you’ve identified some roles that sound appealing, conduct further research

  • Use Prospects Job Profiles to explore what the role involves more broadly and investigate where opportunities are available

Prospects Job Profiles

  • Use the vacancy boards listed in the Profiles and sources recommended to find linked opportunities

After completing the steps above, identify sectors where your skills are relevant

  • How is the wider sector performing?
  • Which organisations are the key competitors and are there any opportunities? Are there other employers in the market you could approach?
Follow up on any areas requiring development

  • Can you reframe any of your current evidence to partially address the weakness?
  • Can you take a free course online?
  • Would part of the organisation’s induction process upskill you and how might you explain this during the recruitment process?

5.2. Immediate opportunities

There are opportunities closer to home than you think:

Work shadowing someone in your household: Many organisations asked their employees to adapt to remote working so there may be an opportunity to gain some hands-on experience in your own home. Remember to treat this with the professionalism it deserves. If your mum is an Assistant Director of her business, you cannot treat her like your mum during work hours. Reach out to your immediate network and explore what’s possible.

Online mentoring: similarly, reach out to your extended professional network via LinkedIn and/or your university’s Alumni platform. If your career plans have now changed, either as an interim measure or your career research has taken you in a different direction, this is a great opportunity to connect with relevant contacts and seek out new ones to gain some insight. Your university may offer informal or formal mentoring connections through the Alumni or Careers departments so make sure to review what’s on offer. Universities also have alumni communities on LinkedIn which you can tap into to expand your knowledge in your areas of interest. 

Taking an online courseyou may wish to consider the wide variety of courses available (many are available free or at a discounted price) or look into longer-term digital learning opportunities. OpenLearn, FutureLearn, and LinkedIn Learning are useful places to start to explore options to upskill, or to find a course you’d like to take for your own interest or personal development. 

OpenLearn

FutureLearn

LinkedIn Learning

5.3. Employment opportunites

Organisations found and are still finding ways to adapt and innovate, finding new niches in the market, changing existing processes, and expanding virtual and digital offerings.

Opportunities via recruitment agencies: many agencies specialise in certain sectors or roles. This is a great time to register and take a bit of the legwork out of your current search. Where vacancies are available, organisations will be keen to fill those as soon as possible. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) offers an online directory of UK agencies. Keep in mind that many of these opportunities will not be advertised elsewhere so consider registering with several agencies.

REC

Virtual internships: during your job search look out for employers advertising “work from home”, “virtual opportunities” and similar. Milkround has produced some tips to think about when searching for a virtual internship. Many employers were already transitioning to remote working models, and the process was sped up during the Covid-19 lockdowns, so more employers are gaining confidence to offer these types of opportunities. If you were planning to start your career in a certain location, this could be your opportunity to do so, without having to be physically there.

Milkround tips

Employer projects: depending on the opportunity, the job titles can vary, including the formality of the language used. Synonymous with the gig economy, options could include micro-internships (short-term but structured), ad-hoc project work (you fill an immediate need), and many variants in between. Examples include research, marketing campaigns, technology installation, tutoring, writing/editing (often digital content like blogs), etc. Organisations now looking to innovate may not have a position open longer-term but have immediate opportunities to fill.

Use our Navigating Job Search section to find vacancy sources.

5.4. Impact to overseas opportunities

In the short-term, free movement globally was restricted. Many countries chose to close their borders. If you planned to work, study, or travel abroad, these plans may now no longer be possible. Some overseas opportunities, primarily in larger organisations, continued to be available virtually including graduate roles and internships.

International travel will continue to be disrupted as countries deal with outbreaks and the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Some countries have been more affected than others during the global health crisis, particularly those without robust healthcare systems and they may take longer to recover.

Although disappointing, remember that this is only a delay to your plans and does not mean you cannot revisit them once the picture internationally is clearer.

5.5. Impact to further study

If you have carefully considered further study, this can offer you an excellent opportunity to gain a richer, deeper learning experience and add value to you personally and professionally. If your chosen course is in another country, you should use the university’s website for updates and contact them directly for support with queries about your personal circumstances. Free movement globally may be impacted for some time, so it’s important to consider your preferred back-up options.

Potential ongoing adaptations in the UK include:

  • Blended or 'hybrid' learning (recorded lectures with in-person seminars or vice versa)
  • Divided degree cohorts to allow social distancing

Many graduates use further study as a back-up option. If this is your only driver, take a step back to take stock, and ensure it’s not a knee-jerk reaction.

Some enter further study with the mistaken belief that it is a guarantee of a higher future salary. This can be true, however, it is not a guarantee, and is more likely if you are choosing to specialise. Again, if this is your only driver, make sure you have considered your other options as further study is a large investment of time and money

With the potential alterations in mind, take some time to think about your preferences. If your course/university of choice adapts and what they offer changes, i.e. it’s delivered fully in a virtual learning environment or is blended-learning when you anticipated in-person teaching, are you still happy and comfortable to complete the course? Ask yourself some important questions:

  • What is your learning style?
  • Does the method of teaching suit your style? What adjustments could be made?
  • Do you have access to relevant resources and equipment at home? E.g. personal computer, internet, workstation including desk and chair
  • Have you identified any potential barriers? E.g. a mental health condition or distractions in your home like family or housemates

Some specialist courses may no longer fit into your career planning, e.g. if you decided to retrain to take up interim opportunities. Factor this into your planning, as a different course may now be more relevant. Remember to think about availability, location, and cost. 

You may now wish to consider existing distance learning options from providers such as the Open University. Distance learning offers you the flexibility and freedom to learn at your own pace often while continuing to work/earn or care for your family, for example. You will benefit from the skills developed as a result of the self-driven approach needed for this type of study, but this can also be one of the key challenges. Open University courses also tend to offer a longer study period to enable you to fit study around your existing lifestyle.

Open University 

6. How to capitalise on the situation and stand out

Use the Developing self-awareness activities in this section.

Possibly without realising it, you have gained a wide range of skills you can highlight as part of the recruitment and selection process.  

There was a lot of advice on how to make the most of time spent indoors. You may have felt very motivated and used the time to read, learn new skills, take up a new interest/activity... but for others the main achievement was adapting to a new and confined way of living, which shouldn’t be underestimated. We each have our own definitions of success, especially in unprecedented circumstances.   

Consider the following questions: 

What are your points of pride in your handling of this situation?

What evidence do you now have of transferable skills, including planning, critical thinking, and resilience? 

What have you achieved during the transition? What activities did you get involved in and what skills and qualities can you now demonstrate

  • Maintained a positive, driven outlook and mindset 
  • Managed your schedule to ensure you could complete all your coursework
  • Adapted to all classes being delivered online 
  • Used degree knowledge to share important health and social messages digitally
  • Supported friends and peers in group activities 
  • Offered opinions to the university to support it to take informed action for students 
  • Learned a new creative skill such as writing, painting, graphic design 
  • Took a coding course and gained a certificate 
  • Showed resourcefulness  
  • Supported others – neighbours, family, friends 
  • Volunteered (with the NHS, a local charity, of your own accord to support your elderly neighbours) 
  • Successfully navigated lockdown alone 
  • Managed your workload and looking after your family, children 

Remember that employers seek evidenceIt’s not enough to state you have the skills, your task is to convince the employer you have them. Use this time to collect your examples.