The Unemployed Graduate
Building Resilience in Unprecedented Times
2020 has been a year of numbers: covid cases, days of lockdown, guests per household. But these aren't the only numbers that have defined my year. Number of applications, number of rejections, number of times I've been told 'you're in the top 1% of candidates to have made it this far, but...'. At the beginning of February 2020, I was starting my last year of Uni and excitedly applying to graduate programs. I was certain I'd have a shiny contract at a major firm for 2021 signed before August. Instead, I've had a lot to think about as a young jobseeker trying to enter the market when unemployment is the highest it's been since I was born and the country entering a recession for the first time in 30 years.
And the numbers do show it. Out of interest, I scraped the data from one of the job sites aimed at university graduates that I've been using. With a little bit of excel magic, this is what I've found:
NB This data includes both paid and unpaid opportunities. Unfortunately, due to how they are categorised, my data doesn't sort unpaid virtual internships from normal internships. However, to provide a bit of insight in how these fake internship programs impact the data, number of postings labelled as graduate decreased annually by 31%, whereas internships only decreased by 14%. Anecdotally speaking, I also observed that especially around May/June, the majority of job postings were for these unpaid virtual internships.
At the worst of the covid lockdowns, there were over 60% less job opportunities published than in the same month of 2019. Over the course of the entire year, this totals to a 26% reduction in the number of job opportunities published for new graduates compared to in 2019. While things have started to look up in this December past, the economy still has a long way to go. In my planning for the coming year I need to consider that not only am I competing against the usual number of graduates from my cohort searching for a job, but I am also competing against all those from the cohort before me who failed to find a job or were made redundant throughout 2020. It's frightening to think about.
What I've learnt from this is that I need a change of approach and the readiness to change my plans. My biggest lesson is that I've got to lower my standards. Yes, my friends who graduated from the years before me jumped into shiny 60k a year graduate programs, but that isn't a realistic option for me anymore. I've got to aim for low-paid often mundane jobs, preferably still in the industry or with companies I'm aiming to work for; I have to take what I can get. Even so, that isn't the be all or end all. The goal is simply to have a job. My father's bit of wisdom on this topic is that the easiest time to find a new job is when you already have one. My sister has stepped forward as an example here. She spent six months working in a call centre and very quickly moved on to a role as a case manager at another firm for 20k a year more.
Secondly, I've had to make sure my copious free time at home is productive. With covid restrictions and very little externally forced routine, it's incredibly easy to fall into a pattern of sleeping all day and wallowing in the sense of hopelessness and depression. Now is a good time to upskill myself. I've taken the passion project approach and have been working
on learning a new foreign language, but other smart things to do would be to pick up a couple of online courses in in-demand skills such as data analysis or programming. Thirdly, I've started considering paths that I previously had completely ruled out. After five years of studying a double degree, I'm tired of it and ready to work, but the more rejections I get, the more attractive studying a master's degree looks. Yes, it will be terribly expensive, but it will give me two more years to sneak in an internship or two that will make up for the industry experience I'm still very much wont for. It will also give time for the economy to settle and hopefully recover a little.
Finally, all this free time and countless job interviews (with their matching rejections) has made me reflect on who I am and what I really want to do when I grow up. I've been so laser focused on a single career path for the past few years but now as I've been forced to look beyond that, I've started to realise that maybe that's not what I really want to do. For all intents and purposes, I call myself a finance major and have been looking at opportunities that reflect that title but surprisingly, the idea of disappearing for a year or two to teach English in Hungary has been looking more exciting than a traditional office job ever has. Nevertheless, I think this past year has been a major reminder that we can't predict what the future has in store for us. And in the end, with a bit of adaptability and resilience, everything will turn out alright.
P.S. If you know anyone who's hiring, I'd love to get in touch!
B/Business & BA International Studies
Wed 20th Jan 2021
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