Having started my role with ReputationInc in the summer of 2019, a couple of months before my graduation from the MA in Public Relations from TUD (formerly DIT), my experience, from applying for roles, attending interviews and onboarding with clients is already vastly different from what the class of 2020 and beyond will face.
A high degree of uncertainty faces this year’s graduates and for many their job prospects at the moment might seem dire. With fears of a second wave, it is appearing difficult enough to get a foot on the job ladder, let alone in your first-choice field.
Ireland’s Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said last week that young people have been hit the hardest by this pandemic, and the latest figures from the CSO confirm that youth unemployment is up a startling 45%, but what can young graduates do now to prepare themselves and be ready to secure a job post pandemic? Below are some of the lessons I have learned over the past 12 months that might be useful for graduates looking to obtain greater security for the future.
In a previous blog, I wrote about upskilling. Upskilling should be a continuous goal and you should always be reaching to learn more and expand your skill set throughout the lifespan of your career. While the pandemic may have created more challenges in obtaining your dream job, now is the time to look at what you can do to bring you closer to making your dream job your real job. Take this time to upskill, and if necessary, to re-skill. With some job sectors taking more of a hit than others, graduates need to be able to adapt. Be prepared in the sense that if the prospect of getting a job in your specific field seems unlikely, look around to see if there are any additional online courses you could do or possibly consider furthering your education. When I graduated from a two subject moderatorship arts degree in Trinity, I was under little illusion that I would need to further my education elsewhere in the hopes of finding employment. If you have been considering further education, I would say now is the time. You will be coming out the other side of the pandemic in a better position for employment.
Utilise your contacts
It is important to remember that everyone has had that first job experience. Every employer or employee that you get in contact with has been in your position. Each one of them have gone through interview processes and struggled to get a job at a certain point in their life. If you have contacts that you can reach out to and utilise, be it over the phone, email or on LinkedIn for a bit of guidance and a chat, do. In my case, having still been in the middle of my masters with just the end of a dissertation to write, I still had full access to some of my lecturers who were on hand if I needed help. It is highly likely that if you reach out to someone you know in your field, they can offer you support and would be more than willing to assist if they can. It is also worthwhile speaking to your peers, by hearing what they are doing and what steps they are taking, this will help you feel more on track.
Now is not a time to be picky, as graduates likely know. It’s more important for employers to see a CV with a couple of jobs and activities put in during this time than a CV with big gaps and no effort made of gaining any work experience. Future employers will appreciate how you handled an incredibly difficult time and showed resilience by adapting in the face of this pandemic. Silicon Republic recently published an article on a new initiative, Covid Interns, set up by two Business Students from Trinity College. The idea is to pair both SMEs who may be struggling to adapt, with graduates or students who may have been left looking for work, to help with aspects in their business, be it with digital skills, graphic design, finance or accounting. Both the SMEs and young graduates will reap the rewards by the graduates gaining valuable experience and utilising their skillset, and for the SMEs getting the support they require.
Make sure that you are immersing yourself in your chosen field as much as possible. Think outside the box and constantly strive to stay up to date with what is happening in your industry. Follow industry leaders on social media, engage on Twitter and LinkedIn and don’t be afraid to share your thoughts, opinions and challenges through your own platforms. You will be surprised how many people in your chosen industry or field will be more than happy to connect with you on LinkedIn and help you with any queries you might have.
My own journey
When I left my secondary school five years ago, I never imagined ending up where I am today - with a career in reputation management. But the rewards to this job are endless. Working in this industry where we can support our clients with their business while getting the opportunity to be creative and innovative offers everything I want in my role. And as every day brings new opportunities and challenges, I am constantly learning and growing professionally.
It is important to remember that while not every job may be your ‘dream job’, each role gives you the opportunity to learn more about yourself and your interests, shaping and honing the skills you have to offer. None of us are going to come out of this pandemic unscathed and your true strength of character will be shown through the resilience and determination you show during this difficult time.