Job hunting post-coronavirus: A fruitless endeavor?


Like many other penultimate year students, the feeling of elation and relief that came with my internship offer in March was undercut a month later when I realised (as I was frantically packing to leave university before lockdown was announced) that it was unlikely that it would actually go ahead. Although most of my fellow interns-to-be were disappointed,  we concluded that we were ultimately lucky to be both healthy and able to quarantine safely. I considered myself extra lucky that I had another year of university to sort out my future before being flung into a post-coronavirus job market.

[blockquote author=”” ]Economic devastation is more concentrated in some sectors than others[/blockquote]

As many well-meaning but repetitive emails from various companies have told us, this is an unprecedented and challenging time. Translated from the elusive language of graduate recruitment teams, this means that the future of the economy, and by association the future of many a hopeful graduate, is completely up in the air. Employers have been somewhat blindsided by both the transition to working from home and the financial loss that has come about as a result of the lockdown. In response, many have withdrawn job offers, deferred start dates, or moved roles online. Summer internships, where graduates are typically screened for longer term job offers, have been deferred by some firms or outright cancelled by others. Overall, according to Prospects, 28% of graduates have had their job offers rescinded or deferred as a result of COVID-19. For comparison, in 2009, just after the financial crash, 9% of employers decided to revoke offers.

The numbers are certainly bleak, but we shouldn’t completely despair (or sign up for a panic masters) just yet. As pointed out by Stephen Isherwood, the Chief Executive of the Institute for Student Employers, the economic devastation is more concentrated in some sectors than others. For example, graduates hoping to work in hospitality and tourism may struggle far more than their peers in technology. Larger corporations may also be a more attractive bet for graduates, as international firms are making a concentrated effort to keep their graduate employment on track despite the pandemic – albeit with pay cuts. By comparison, small and medium sized companies are more focused on keeping financially afloat instead of recruiting new talent.

[blockquote author=”” ]Graduates are in a prime position to be exploited by businesses[/blockquote]

As was the case pre-pandemic, any bright spots found in such a strange time may be hidden behind a paywall. Whilst there are many benefits to internships moving online, including the opportunity for students to save money by not having to relocate, this also depends on having decent wifi coverage and a quiet space to focus. These are luxuries that students from lower income backgrounds are less likely to have access to. Affording to live whilst working for free is a barrier that was in place in many industries before the pandemic, however in these times it may become more common as the competition for jobs becomes fiercer than ever. Josie Dobrin, chief executive of social enterprise Creative Access, has said: “I’ve seen people talk about volunteering [for roles that] are staff jobs. They know that if they are volunteering it will look good on their CV.” It seems that, in the state of economic limbo that comes with a lockdown, graduates are in a prime position to be exploited by businesses: particularly ones looking for ways to claw back any lost profits.

Image: Gloria Bell via Flickr

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