At the beginning of this year, students were getting ready to enter what was predicted to be the strongest job market in over ten years. Unemployment was at record low levels, stock markets had reached new peaks, and the job market was looking promising with many career opportunities for students looking to graduate in the next few months. All of this was until COVID-19 occurred.
To say things have been flipped upside down seems like an understatement, as we stare at one of the most significant recession anyone has seen or heard of. We are seeing businesses on the verge of bankruptcy, including some of the biggest names and employers of graduates. As a result, many have cut a large percentage of their employees, frozen hiring for the foreseeable future and therefore nearly eliminated many career opportunities for graduates. Buckle up everyone because this is going to be a bumpy ride.
Why Has COVID-19 Caused Such a Large Impact?
All businesses rely on demand for their goods or services to sustain themselves, and as COVID-19 spread and countries started enforcing lockdowns, the need for these goods and services has rapidly decreased. Simply put, customers have just vanished. No company can sustain itself if it has no customers, and regenerating demand for products is going to be one of the biggest challenges for governments going forward.
With the most recent estimates predicting at least two years for the economy to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels, it is not good news for these companies or graduates actively seeking career opportunities.
Businesses have all of a sudden been left with large overheads such as a sizeable workforce for whom they don’t have enough work for and long term lease commitments for thousands of square feet of office space, which they don’t need, because they are no longer hiring as previously planned. You don’t need a masters in accounting to realise that these large overheads, coupled with lower demand for goods and services, leads to higher costs than income, making it unsustainable for a business to operate.
What can we expect in the next few months?
More bad news I’m afraid. Deloitte and PwC have cancelled their entire internship programs for 2020 leaving many graduates without any viable career opportunities. Large companies including Dow Jones, AirBnB, American Express, Buzzfeed, and British Airways have also cancelled their internship programs and job offers. Many other companies may also follow suit, and if you were expecting to start an internship or job in the next few months, you should have heard from your employer by now. Check out this website to see the true state of the internship market.
A study by the Royal Bank of Canada on the long term impact of graduates entering the workforce during a recession found the consequences often remain with them for much of their career. The study showed that they are less likely to be in a management role or a skilled position by the time they hit 30 and tend to see their wages grow slower than graduates who entered the workforce prior to the recession.
This could be attributed to recent graduates taking jobs they are overqualified for due to a lack of any viable alternatives. In the long term, this impacts them because over 50% of your increase in total earnings over your career happens in the first decade of your working life and much of this time will be lost doing underskilled jobs instead of building up marketable skills. If you have not already done so, this is a good time to do some career planning.
Ok, enough bad news, give us some good news
It’s not all doom and gloom. There are a lot of companies and broader industries that are doing well and will be great places to work and gain experience. Many marketing agencies are doing well as businesses rush to them for help marketing their products and services. We have also been contacted by a range of companies asking for interns to help them with their supply chain and logistics as a result of COVID-19.
In the medium term, it is expected the economies will recover to pre-COVID-19 levels in just two years despite some forecasts showing a 30% contraction in GDP. To put this in perspective, the 2008 recession led to a 2.5% contraction in the UK’s GDP and took over five years to get to the same pre-recession level. This is something we can all be optimistic about as the effects may not be long term and career opportunities may increase sooner than expected
What Skills Will I Need in a Post COVID-19 World?
It is widely accepted that there is going to be a significant shift in the way we work. Previously, working remotely was seen as a perk and a way to attract the best talent. However, when we come out of this, working from home will be seen as an equal alternative to working from the office. Instead of working from the office for four days and one day from home, this could get flipped the other way around. From a business’s perspective, this reduces their costs and the employees have a better quality of life, it’s a win-win situation. One of the biggest positive outcomes from this pandemic has been businesses have started to realise working from home can be productive, and many are learning to trust employees to get their work completed without them needing to be in a traditional office environment.
As a result, many employers may now be looking for graduates to have different skills so they are able to work from home effectively. These include excellent organisational, communication and time management skills as well as being able to work independently. Although these are not new skills, the way they will be applied will be very different going forward and your ability to showcase these skills can help differentiate you from other candidates.
How Can I Find a Job in a Recession?
If you are wondering how to find an internship or a job, the easiest way is to look at what companies or industries are still performing well during the crisis, for example, Amazon and many other e-commerce companies. Businesses who offer online services are currently thriving due to the increase in remote working. It is likely that many companies in these areas may be hiring. Use job sites such as Linkedin, Google, or Jooble to search for current career opportunities.
If you are still studying or have recently graduated, be sure to make use of the many resources your university has to offer. Many students never even speak to the careers department at their university, but they often provide valuable support for both students and recent graduates to help you best showcase all of your skills. As well as this, career departments often post job listings specifically aimed at graduates as well as jobs being offered by the university itself so this is often a great place to start your job search.
Another alternative is to employ yourself by starting a business. There is no better time than a recession to start a business; you will have a natural advantage compared to the incumbents in the industry. You should have lower fixed costs, access to cheaper talent, office space and marketing, and your suppliers will be eager to get any business they can so expect lower costs than during a boom period. It is likely you will understand the technology and the latest trends in social media better than the incumbents and this will help you market your products or services more efficiently. Fun fact: CP was founded soon after the last recession
What Other Options are Available to me Now?
If the recession only lasts two years, doing a master’s could be a good option. The risk here is you are committing your time, effort and money in fees and lost earning, and there is no guarantee the economy will be in better shape when you finish your masters. However, having a masters degree will enable you to apply to higher-skilled and better paid roles and will help you stand out from the many other graduates trying to get a job. If going to university is something you are considering, check out my blog next week where I go over some questions you should be asking your university.
Carla Ferrero, Founder of career consulting firm Ni-Cons, is an expert in the field of career consulting and employability. She predicts 2020 would be a great year to go to university because universities will have a more flexible entry criterion, including extended application deadlines, as a result of a lower number of students applying. If you were sitting on the fence or have already made up your mind, this could be the best time to get into a great university.
Remote / Virtual Internships
We see first-hand how difficult it is to get internships and graduate jobs in this climate. However, remote internships offer a way to help you in finding a career. Employers looking at your CV, in the future, will be wondering what you did during these times to help develop your skills. If you can show them you managed to get yourself a remote internship, it will set you a step above others who did not make the most out of this time. Check out our blog on the benefits and drawbacks of a remote internship to find out more about them and whether they would be a good fit for you.
Going forward, there will be a lot more remote career opportunities opening up and it could be a viable alternative to working from an office. It is definitely worth considering in your career plan.
If a remote internship is not for you, don’t worry, there are still other ways you can make the most out of this time. You can perhaps learn new skills like programming or volunteer with a local charity; the worst thing you can do now is to do nothing and expect something to happen.
Although this pandemic may have changed all your plans and left you feeling uncertain on your next career move, there are still many career opportunities available to you. By participating in a remote internship or completing a masters, you may come out of this with new skills and a better career plan. Or you may decide to start a business which might just become the next Netflix- as we know it today, Twitter, or Uber.
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