Graduating in 2020 was not quite what I was expecting. I don’t think it was what anyone was expecting at all. Finishing off my degree on campus, celebrating with my friends (many of which are now across the ocean), having a last day at uni, walking on the graduation ceremony… that is what I was expecting, but you all know what we got instead.
That’s okay. We are living in the most uncertain and turbulent times of modern history. It is anxiety triggering, it is scary, and if you are graduating soon or just recently got your diploma, you know how it feels. But I don’t want to dwell on the negatives. Instead, I want to share my own journey of graduating in times of COVID-19. I hope it helps some of you to feel more optimistic about the near future, but I know where I stand and I know not everyone is as privileged as I luckily am. In that case, I hope you know that I empathize with you and acknowledge that your challenge is bigger than mine ever was.
I think graduation starts to hit you as early as September. You need to plan for what comes after that. If you intend to start work, in October you might already feel you are late – I did. I hated all the work application processes and as a result, I failed at it. I found it daunting spending over an hour in a virtual assessment that would tell me five minutes after submission that I did not fit for the culture of the big corporations (because that is the only thing I was considering). So here is lesson #1 of what I learned: There is a whole array of businesses outside the big guys that want you and would be great to work for. You might also want to consider them.
I did make it, at least, to the last recruitment stage of one of my applications. I was for once hopeful I might actually land a job after finishing university. However, when the pandemic hit the world hard in March, their recruitment was put on hold. At that point, I had to resort to plan B: a Master.
Continuing my studies after graduation was something that not only I hadn’t planned but actually didn’t want to do. During my time at Hult, I learnt how much I love to invest myself into projects and getting things done. I was ready for work, and going on to study seemed like being untruthful to what I truly wanted. However, I still applied to one Master at King’s College London on the very last day of open applications, just in case.
I got in. I was also admitted into a Master’s at Hult because of the Dean’s Award. So suddenly, I could very elegantly sweep my job search failure under the carpet and secure something to do by September 2020. I accepted King’s and lived happily ever after the rest of the summer – only I knew I had taken the easy way out. Lesson #2: the easy scape gate won’t bring you to where you want to be.
I seem to get very lucky with opportunities that come up to me. In July, a friend of mine contacted me to see if I was interested in a job as a content writer in the start-up she was working at. Why not, I said. And there, without searching for a job I got an internship! (This has been my one and only internship because I also failed during uni years to get into one – same reasons apply). So by the end of July and until the end of September, I worked as a marketing intern for CFTE, the Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship. Lesson #3 – or rather a positive note–: opportunities might be waiting for you around the corner even in times of COVID-19, when you least expect them.
When it was about time for me to start my Master I got cold feet. I will skip through the reasons, but the big one looming over me was the realisation that I never wanted to do a Master straight out of uni and my work experience during my internship had reinforced this. So, lesson #4: I wish I had played closer attention to lesson #2. Luckily enough for me, I could call off my Master and return back to work as a full-time employee, as I had planned to do after graduation.
The situation of the world today is upsetting, and graduating now does certainly not reflect all the colours of the rainbow. I know many recent graduates don’t share my luck: I have a supportive family that could afford to pay my studies for another year while the storm was raging in the economy when I didn’t land a job. Nevertheless, I hope my journey does bring some light into the opportunities that still exist for recent graduates and send a message that things can work out in the end.