Job hunting in a COVID world?

Introduction

With Employability Week commencing next week, 2-6 November 2020, we wanted to share this wonderful, empathetic post by UEA alumna, Isabella Luba; Issy will also be talking to Norwich Business School students about working in marketing and PR on Wednesday, 3 November, as part of the event.

We are here to support students and alumni, so do please take full advantage and benefit from the support services offered by Norwich Business School, UEA CareerCentral, the Library services and the advice of the academic team. Remember that everyone experiences small setbacks in their career – particularly the most successful who welcome challenge. 

UEA CareerCentral can offer support for 3 years after graduation. This includes one to one support, quick queries, longer 45 minute guidance appointments and mock interviews for job and further study applications. Contact career.central@uea.ac.uk in the first instance to book an appointment.  Graduates can also access vacancies and support via GradCentral  https://www.uea.ac.uk/careers/graduates and this service is available for 3 years after graduation.

Do remember to book your places for Employability Week and alumni may also register their interest by emailing J.Bach@uea.ac.uk.  


Tips for survival by Isabella Luba

I finished education and started job hunting in a ‘normal’ time; a time before words and phrases like “lockdown”, “COVID 19” and “economic downturn” were part of normal vocabulary in everyday life.

I can only imagine how tough it must be for those who have just finished their education and are looking for a job right now. The least I can do is to try and offer some comfort and help.

I work in Recruitment and have done for the last five and a half years. I specialise in Early Careers, so it’s my job to know all about entry-level hiring (think internships, apprenticeships, graduate schemes, junior roles, placement years, career changers, etc.).

I graduated from University six years ago but I remember that Summer, after graduating, as if it was yesterday. You move back home with all your stuff, you get back to your childhood room and you realise – boom – that you just dropped off a cliff. No more timetables, no clear path of education or training ahead, just a huge abyss you’ve fallen into.

Then the questions start: “What are you going to do now?”; “What have you got lined-up?”; “What are your career goals?”; and so on.

You answer with the standard: “I’ve only just graduated so I’m going to take some time to have a think and apply for some jobs”. But, really, all you want to do is weep over the fact that you now live with your parents instead of your friends. You’re completely ‘lost’. You’re missing “Uni life”. You have no money in your bank account and student debt. The real answer to all these questions is: “I have no idea!!!!!!!”.

News coverage about redundancies, furlough ending, a ‘second wave’, tier systems and predictions of an even worse recession ahead, doesn’t exactly leave you with an optimistic mind set to start job hunting. BUT at least everyone’s in the same boat. There’s comfort in numbers…right?
The truth is, it’s tough!

I know nothing about your own current situation, but I wanted to offer some general words of comfort. So, I thought I’d share some action points – all of which are FREE and pretty much everyone has access to (if you have the internet). I hope they help!

  1. Breathe! Stress is terrible for the body and at times like these, most people’s stress is through the roof. So, get breathing. It’s FREE! You can type into YouTube ‘three minute breathing exercise’ and in three minutes you may have helped clear your mind to give you just a few moments of stress-free time in your day.

  2. Get Active! This doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym every day. It could just involve a gentle daily stroll. “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t … freak out as much!”. Yes, I did just quote Elle Woods. (‘90s babies you know what I’m talking about!)

  3. Use YouTube! Get off TikTok and get on YouTube. Who didn’t lose hours of their life to TikTok in lockdown? Start falling down the YouTube rabbit hole instead. Don’t just watch any old rubbish, start watching TED Talks or ‘How to…’ videos about Coding or cooking or Excel – whatever you’re interested in. And then:

    ➢ Get lost in the ‘Day in the life of…’ videos. If you don’t know what you would like to do job wise, start watching these and see what you fancy. For example, if you know you like numbers, but aren’t sure if Data Analytics is really for you, type in ‘Day in the life of a Data Analyst’ and take a look at some of those videos.

    ➢ Then progress to other videos related to the field that you’re interested in. For example, ‘A day in the life of a Senior…’ or ‘How to train to be an…’ or ‘Best ways to become a…’.

    ➢ Once you have a key area or role you’re interested in, see if there are any Training videos you can watch on YouTube to get familiar with the work. YouTube is a great way to learn if you’re a visual learner. For example, if you’ve discovered Digital Marketing is a field you’re interested in, and the role you’re fascinated by is Paid Search, then search ‘Paid Search: training for beginners’, and get lost in the world of Paid Search tutorials!

  4. LinkedIn! Make LinkedIn your new go-to site. We all spend endless time on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. We browse, we read, we watch, we comment, we post.

    Do the same things but on this business platform instead:

    ❖ YOUR PROFILE. Who hasn’t spent hours scrolling through someone’s perfectly curated glossy Instagram page and then spent more hours trying to make theirs look just as good? Well, do the same on LinkedIn. Stalk your friends, ex-friends and acquaintances who are at a similar life stage as you, see whose you like and what you like about them. Also, look at people in a position you aspire to be in: what looks good on their page? Then start building yours. Include a little mini blurb about you and what you’re looking for right now and make it clear that you are currently available and looking for a job. It’s not copying – it’s clever (plus it will never be like someone else’s because your education and career path is unique to you.)

    ❖ GROUPS. Start following groups that you’re interested in, whether it’s ‘working in STEM for science students’ or ‘women in business’ or ‘TEDspire TED Talks’. Whatever it may be, there will be a group you can join.

    ❖ RESEARCH. Every business out there now has a LinkedIn page. Start following the companies you’d like to work for, or just the ones you think sound cool to start with – who knows it may lead you somewhere. Google ‘Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to work for 2020’ and start following those less popular businesses too. It’s not always about the big names!

    ❖ NETWORK. Start connecting with people. If you think working in Marketing sounds fun, start connecting with some ‘junior marketing assistants’ and ask them how they started out or how they got the job. Educate yourself on the different jobs out there. If you know you love maths but have no idea what job you could do, Google ‘top jobs for maths graduates’. If you come across a role like ‘Actuarial Analyst’ and you don’t know what that means, head to LinkedIn and connect with someone who is an Actuarial Analyst and ask them what they do. If they don’t reply then ask another and send out 10 messages, someone will reply.

  5. Do something – anything! I know it’s not easy now. The standard ‘summer jobs’ you could once get (think: bar work, retail work, supermarket work) may not be as simple to get anymore or even available depending on what tier you’re in. Everyone’s on the lookout for jobs and vacancies have heaps of applications. That means it’s hard to feel productive and it’s hard to bring in any money. I’m sure at this point I’m meant to say something like “build a business online and make your own money”, “make something and sell it on Etsy”, “start doing freelance work”, which are all great ideas – if you can do them. But they’re all still quite tough to do and take time. If you can’t pursue any of these options right now, then maybe investigate other options, for example volunteering, charity work or speaking to an elderly neighbour on the phone. It doesn’t matter what it is you do but it will give you some structure to your day. If nothing else, you could just build a routine for yourself around something you love. For example, if you’re interested in food and nutrition then you could set yourself a goal to research one new thing about food each day and set yourself a challenge of making the healthiest meal you can for the cheapest price. If your passion is sport, set yourself a fitness challenge or start a blog. If your passion is yoga, set yourself a stretching challenge. If your passion is train spotting – go and spot as many trains as you possibly can and try and beat your target each week!

    My point here is that, no matter how lost you may feel, just do something each day to give you purpose or a sense of achievement. There’s no excuse! Everyone is capable of doing something, just find out what your ‘something’ is.

    NOTE – When you go to an interview and recruiters can see a gap in your CV in 2020 – they won’t be surprised. We know the world went through a global pandemic but the people who will stand out are the ones who did something in that time. It doesn’t need to be a big thing or an impressive thing, but just something you can talk about passionately. Mainly we just don’t want to hear ‘I binge-watched Netflix and played C.O.D’. At least have set up a blog reviewing every Netflix series you watched or create an online tournament where you made and coded a spreadsheet keeping score of all your friends’ COD skills. Just don’t waste time, make something of it.

  6. Stop Predicting! Who knows where we’ll all be or how the country, even world, will look in the next few weeks, months, or years? Nobody knows what’s going to happen to the virus, to the country, to the economy or to our careers. Whether you’re the CEO of a huge business, the owner of a local bar, or a student who has recently graduated – we’re all in the same boat and no one can predict what is going to happen. So, stop trying. Just let it go. All you can do is the best you can in this moment. Do your research, do your thinking, do your training and better yourself so that once life opens up again, you can smash it!

    To end with a quote to help us focus less on ‘the 2020 we all wanted’ and more on ‘the 2020 we have’:

    ‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending’. C.S Lewi

Article by: Isabella Luba, Head of Early Careers, Merkle EMEA

Introduction: Jenny Bach, Marketing & Business Relations, Norwich Business School 


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