How you can still plan for your future career in the Covid-19 crisis

“How did you make use of your time during the Corona virus lockdown?”  “What did you learn about yourself from the Corona virus lockdown period?”  If you were told to work from home for a month, how would you approach it?“  “Tell us about a time where you had to deal with a challenge?”  These may well be some of the most frequently asked questions from graduate recruiters in the future.

Making the best of the current situation and trying to find some positives from what is an unprecedented and unpredictable set of circumstances, could well help demonstrate your resilience,  initiative and flexibility in the future. For now, it can help keep you feeling positive and staying motivated in the month ahead. 

Below you have some proactive ways you can take control and move forward planning for your future career: 

Think about the future and start planning 

At this challenging time, the future can look uncertain. Having a plan A (and a plan B) is one way to take some control of the situation.  You can use the Careers Service career planning guide here to help your career planning.​ Also, take time to think about how the Coronavirus epidemic might impact on future careers you are interested in and the professions which are likely to be more in demand as a result of it. Currently public health, health and social care, logistics, and certain areas of retail and technology spring to mind; but do keep yourself updated by following the news. 

Review your CV 

Knowing how to write a professional CV can make all the difference to standing out and is a skill you can make use of throughout your career.  Have a look at How to write CVs and covering letters on the Career Service webpage and follow up by sending your CV to us for review. We can help you improve it and show you how you can make the most of your experiences so far. A CV review can also be a good way to start a conversation about skills you could like to develop, and finding the right opportunities for this.  

Map and develop your employability skills

Much of the emphasis graduate employers place on requirements is about behaviours or competencies, sometimes referred to as soft skills or Employability Skills. Have a look at the Skills Workbook to help you reflect and identify what skills you have developed through your experiences. Consider part time work, volunteering, what you have gained from your course, specific projects or involvement with societies or sports teams. Use the mind mapping tools to build up your skills inventory, ready to use for applications. Use the skills audit to identify examples and to consider if there are any ways you could be developing specific skills more during the crisis. Even the process of having to stay at home has required you to adapt to using remote technology and learning virtually, given you opportunity to develop your ability to be flexible to change, be organised in how you use your time at home and change how you communicate with others. 

Develop your hard skills via online learning

There are other valuable skills which you can develop during this period of COVID-19 isolation: For many graduate jobs, you actually need a combination of the employability skills outlined in the Skills Workbook and hard skills: These are the practical and tangible things you can do and offer and these are sometimes, but certainly not always, more sector specific. Examples of hard skills are social media management, PR, web development or analytical tools (e.g. Excel, R, SPSS), communication platforms and planning tools (microsoft project, gantt charts, agile platforms), coding and data analysis/management. Hard skills can also include specific knowledge and skills you already have from your degree. Hard skill requirements vary from role to role, but the ones mentioned above will be valuable to many toles and workplaces.

There are loads of websites where you can do free online courses. A great resource which is free to students from University of Brighton is  Linkedin learning. There are courses on here from a few hours to several weeks and covering areas such as excel, google analytics, project management, video editing, photoshop, web design etc. There are lots of other places to learn skills remotely and Youtube is perhaps the most widely used. The advantage of sites such as Linkedin Learning is that you may get some certification on completion. Other platforms to explore are cursera, udacity and udemy.

If you are not sure what type of hard skills would be useful for your future career, just have a look at some current vacancies and see what the essential requirements are. Using your time to develop some hard skills shows you are proactive, aware of what employers want and could also make you stand out from other applicants in the future. 

Network actively online using LinkedIn   

One of the most effective ways to make contact with professionals, to get advice and build your professional network, is via LinkedIn. Now is the ideal time to develop your LinkedIn profile and learn how to use the site effectively. LinkedIn is used by every industry and sector. This video Linkedin for students gives ideas on creating a profile and networking. Linkedin works at many levels and is also appropriate for students who wish to gain experience and advice. Some of the best people to connect with are alumni from the university. Once you have a profile, you can search by ‘school’ for the ‘University of Brighton’ and then look for alumni in certain industries or who studied certain courses.  There is a lot of goodwill out there and many people (not all) will do their best to help and point you in the right direction. You could also connect with guest lecturers you’ve been impressed by, employers spoken to at events, fellow students including research students, Students Union officers. Equally it is fine to connect with people you have never met before. 

You can contact the Careers Service to have feedback on your Linkedin profile and explore how Linkedin can help you in your job search.  

Attend online events and conferences

Many career events and conferences are still going ahead, though taking place online, so keep an eye out on your usual events pages including the Careers Service blog and twitter accounts, where we post opportunities. Other places to keep in mind are prospects, targetjobs, gradcracker if you are studying a STEM subject, and Studentcentral for your course. 

Volunteer 

We would not want to advocate that you do anything that puts your or others’ health at risk but there are volunteering opportunities which are still viable and will make you stand out. Our volunteering service Active Student  has opportunities for students wanting to help out and volunteer also during the Corona virus crisis.  A great way of developing your employability skills further. 

Gain a Mentor 

The Careers Service has several mentoring schemes, including the award-winning Momentum Mentoring, where students can be teamed up with a professional to gain support and advice for their skills development and career planning. Have a look to see if mentoring might be for you here.

Start a blog​ 

Blogging is a briliant way to show your communication skills and your passion for a subject or profession. You don’t need to be an expert, you just need an opinion/ideas or something you care about. There are many platforms for starting up a blog site and this link has advice o​n where to start, though there are so many other places to find advice and inspiration. If you don’t want to create your own blog, you can contribute to other established blogs. If you want to get into a competitive industry such as journalism/media, politics or law, then having a well written blog is one way to show your ideas and dedication.   

Get ready for the recruitment process 

Even if you are in your 1st or 2nd year at university, now is an excellent time to build confidence with the various recruitment processes commonly used. These include application forms, online tests, telephone and video interviews, strength and competency interviews, assessment centres and situational judgement tests. Starting with application forms, you’ll find that a lot of graduate employers ask similar questions, looking for examples of skills shown in the Employability Skills Framework, in addition to more sector specific skills. You could use this time to create a bank of examples you will be able to use in the future and write them up, using the  Skills Workbook. ​Having practice in this will save time, improve your applications and also help identify any gaps in your experience and of course prepare you for the real thing. ​Target Jobs offer a free graduate benchmark which is a good place to start with online tests and you will also find comprehensive bank of advice and practice tests on the Careers Service website.

Often what follows the online tests is an interview. Interviewing is a skill, so one thing you can do is start to get used to talking about yourself. Have a look at our advice page on Preparing for interviews. Taking the time to do this will really help in the future.  If you’ve never had an interview and would like to have a go and get some feedback, you can contact the Carers Service to book an appointment for this.

So what will you do?

Even if you just choose to do two of the activities above, you will have plenty to talk about if you are ever asked about how you   moved forward positively during the Corona virus crisis. 

For further personal advice and guidance, please get on touch, the number for the Careers Helpdesk is 01273 642855 or email careers@brighton.ac.uk