If you are in your final year at school, college or university, you are likely anticipating some big and unexpected challenges when it comes to your future. Locked out of the library and in your house, you are probably still waiting to hear about how you will get the qualifications that you have worked so hard for. But by the time you get to June or July you will be asking, what happens next? Will we still have careers after Covid-19?
No one is going to be able to give you a definite answer about how to plan for your future at the moment. What data we have suggests that young people entering the labour market are going to find it tougher than ever as employers cut back on jobs for school leavers, apprentices and graduates.
As you face this situation you should remember that it is not a judgement on you. There will still be jobs out there, but if you don’t get one straight away, you won’t be alone! You can’t direct the global economy, but you can work on the things that you have some control over.
Firstly, try to recognise that this will pass and that you should remain positive. Yes, it is likely to impact on your plans. It may mean that it will be more difficult to find the job that you want. But you have some control over your life, and you can make choices about how you respond.
Secondly, seek help. Find a careers adviser through your school, college or university — we are still here offering careers support remotely. Careers professionals can help you to explore your options and find opportunities. Some of you will have serious and immediate concerns about your family, your finances and part-time work that has suddenly disappeared: your school, college and university can help you to deal with these problems as well.
Thirdly, try to consider how you spend your time while you are social distancing or self-isolating. Now is a good time to plan for your future, do some research on careers and think about what interests you.
But, be careful of too much introspection. Your career is not just about what you do in the future, it is about what you do now. Our careers are how we make our own lives, but they are also how we influence the world around us. So, even though you might be in isolation, try to keep reaching out and participating in the world.
“Be careful of too much introspection. Your career is not just about what you do in the future, it is about what you do now.”
Continue to study. Although it may feel like you have been banished from education, most schools, colleges and universities are doing their best to provide you with an opportunity to learn. You may still have a chance to influence the qualification that you will receive. Do your best to keep studying and let your teachers and lecturers know when you are struggling.
Keep well. It is important to look after your physical and mental wellbeing. Thankfully there has been a lot of helpful information and online tools to support this, such as NHS Every Mind Matters, Mind and Student Minds. One of the most important things is to stay connected to your friends, family and peers. Ask them how they are, what they are doing and how you might support each other.
Do something to help others. During the crisis people will need help. There are several places where you can volunteer, and to help make this difficult time less difficult for others. These include mutual aid groups, the British Red Cross and NHS volunteering.
You might also spend your time doing something that you enjoy or are good at for the pleasure of others. Start an online support group for your peers, write letters to care homes, share your best bread recipes online — you get the idea!
Reimagine your future. Many of us have found that the crisis has led to reflection about what we want to achieve in our lives. As the nation claps for the frontline NHS staff risking their lives to treat Covid-19 patients, it is only natural to examine your career plans under a new light — even if you didn’t know that you had a career plan before. In times of crisis it can be useful to think about what other rewards you are looking for from work, beyond money or status.
Speak for your generation. The crisis isn’t just going to impact on you, it will also impact everyone else who leaves education this year, and maybe next year as well. Speak up for yourself and those like you. The government needs to hear young people’s voices as it considers how to address Covid-19 and its aftermath.
Another way to look at this might be to consider how you will answer the following interview question: “Tell us about your experience of the Covid-19 crisis in 2020.”
What would you like your answer to be?
Korin Grant is a careers consultant at Loughborough University and co-author of the Graduate Career Handbook. She has more than 15 years’ experience working with students on employability and career development