The class of 2020 are undoubtably facing challenges as they graduate into a world affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In order to support our graduates we decided to reach out to the class of 2008, who faced similar challenges in graduating at the time of the financial crash, when many graduate recruiters withdrew their vacancies. In adapting our graduate success template to include more pertinent questions, we received some fantastic advice from the alumni who had first-hand experience of graduating into an uncertain job market.
Combining our alumni’s experience and suggestions with resources of our own, we hope that these blogs may offer you practical advice and support from the alumni who had first-hand experience of graduating into an uncertain job market. You can view the responses from the Class of 2008 in full on our website.
One of the key questions we asked our alumni was what experiences do you think have proved beneficial to your career journey? And, whilst a few of them mentioned further study, the majority of answers highlighted having gained work experience in a multiplicity of different forms during their time at university. From leading the student body as chairwoman to carrying out fieldwork, working part time to prevent employment gaps or volunteering in the community, it is clear from our alumni stories that work experience can be gained in various forms.
Prior to graduation, many alumni noted the benefit to their career of undertaking internships. Daniel Wölk (MA Hons Economics), who now works as Director, Valuation & Transaction Advisory for a residential real estate company, went as far as to state that his internships were ‘hands down the #1 reason I got a job offer in 2008’. It is true that internships constitute a healthy addition to the work experience section of your CV, but undertaking work experience can be beneficial in other ways. Katie Winstanley, who studied History and now works as a Corporate Communications Lead at a National Emergency Service organisation, commented that
‘History was a great subject to study as it offers so many career options. The internship at the Naval Historical Centre allowed me to experience a role I had not previously considered but one I found to be interesting and varied and well worth progressing as a career option.’
Despite the recruitment challenges in 2020, there are still internship opportunities being advertised. The University is currently working with a number of SMEs to support a graduate internship in a variety of roles and sectors, to find out more visit our website. There have also been a number of virtual internship opportunities being made available, which are free to take part in. Check out InsideSherpa and RateMyPlacement for more information.
Before embarking on a specific career path, especially one that requires further study or training after your undergraduate degree, testing the water of your chosen job can prove a vital step in ensuring you are suited to the role, and that you are satisfied with this fit. Ulricke Goossens (MA Hons Sociology and Film Studies), who now works as an Invoice Controller for a wholesale consumer electronics company, praised her post-graduation internship at UNHCR for the fact that it ‘helped me realise that it's ok to make mistakes, and hard work and dedication are rewarded.’
Despite the benefit of an introduction into possible career paths, internships can take up a lot of your time, a situation that is only made harder by the current pandemic. A number of our alumni noted that working during your studies, participating in extra-curricular activities or volunteering all provided the opportunity for them to develop key transferable skills. Reflecting on previous experiences, Brian Muguto (MA Hons Management Studies), who now works as the head of Strategy for MediaCom, accurately summed up the benefits of part-time work when he said
‘Even though some experiences were out of necessity i.e. to pay bills, they all added value to my character, my soft skillset, team working, communication, budgeting, and just simply having the responsibility to carry out tasks that contribute to business outcomes.’
If you are looking for a job at the moment be sure to log on to Career Connect, where we advertise a range both part- and full-time positions. For more flexible work we have put together a Wakelet board to highlight jobs as they come up. You can access it here.
Every little helps, and work experience in every form can open doors for you that you never before thought were there. Genevieve Chavarria (MA Hons English Literature), who now works as an IB Diploma Programme Coordinator and teacher at an International School, reflected on her experience
‘I volunteered with St Machar School in Aberdeen for a few months. That helped me gain experience with children although I never wanted to become a teacher…In hindsight I think all the various jobs I did led me to teaching eventually’.
There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer at this time. We have curated a Wakelet board to highlight just some of the options available. You can find it here. This article also provides excellent examples of ways you can volunteer from home.
If you are graduating now and feel you have not gained sufficient work experience, it’s not too late to get out there. Make the effort now to get a job or work on your transferable skills through volunteering or other means, and you never know where it might take you. Jennifer Hill (MA Hons French and Spanish), who is a French Customer Service Advisor for Wex Europe Services, recommends that new graduates
‘Be open to anything, I never imagined I would work in customer services, and whilst I don't want to do it for the rest of my life it's a job with a good work life balance, I mostly enjoy it, I still get to use my degree and it can provide opportunities for progression and transferable skills.’
Finally, knowing your strengths and what you can bring to a job is one thing, but articulating this information to a potential employer is another. By conducting an audit of your skills you can ensure you are evidencing them on your CV, and help you to identify gaps which may inform your career development planning. Mhairi Gowans (MA Hons History and Art History), who now works as an Online Engagement Officer for the Alumni and Fundraising team at the London School of Economics, provides a strong case for reviewing your skills when she notes that ‘I was able to use marketing experience I had gained working in museum education to move into digital communications.’
It is important to take stock of the skills you have developed during your time at university in order to articulate your experience constructively on an application form or in an interview. We have created a handy skills audit guide which will take you through reviewing your skills and making sure you have evidence to back each of them up. You can find it here.
The advice continues with part 2 of our blog! Read it here.