Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday 22nd February 2021 appears to signal a light at the end of the tunnel. According to the current roadmap for Spring 2021, the English public can expect a return to normality on Monday 21st June 2021, subject to the success of the previous three phases. If we do reach this point without setbacks – i.e., without any extra lockdowns or the introduction of more tiers – it seems possible that 2021 graduates could enter graduate positions in person.
Despite the hope of the government’s announcement, graduating students will have to fight in a challenging job market. According to UK Graduate Careers Service 2021, there still exists ‘considerable uncertainty for graduate employers and the wider economy because of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic’. There also still exists ‘considerable uncertainty’ for graduates in 2021 as they enter this unstable market. June 2021 will be the first time that many people will return to in person work since the introduction of first national lockdown in March 2020, a period that saw hundreds of thousands of Brits lose their jobs and even more placed on the government’s furlough scheme. As well as people who have come out of work, this year’s graduates will also be joined by 2020 graduates. The UK Graduates Careers service reports that employers have received ‘41% more graduate job applications’ this year in comparison to the 2019-2020 period. It seems inevitable that graduates must work even harder this year to stand out.
So what can you do to stand out?
Here are some ideas for QM students looking for more experience or knowledge, which is especially helpful if you have limited work experience. Almost all of the options below are free and accessible to all QM students (with a stable Wi-Fi connection), however there will be other resources available such as General Assembly and FutureLearn, if you are willing to put money towards your course.
Set up in 2013, Bright Network connects students with employers, providing ‘insights and advice to succeed as the workforce of tomorrow.’ Bright Network is free to join and has job boards for internships, graduate schemes, and immediate jobs. The site also offers a virtual Internship Experience and are launching a third round of internships in May 2021 after the success of their two previous rounds in June and December 2020. Previously, Bright Network has offered internships in Commercial Law, Consulting, and Business, Management and Operations, just to name a few. The experience runs as a series of presentations from industry professionals, including employers like Google, P&G, and PWC. At the end of the experience interns will put together a presentation to fit a given brief.
Bright Network also runs an Academy, which is accessible to members. The Bright Network Academy runs different online courses created to help students develop knowledge and understanding of a range of different skills, sectors and companies. Courses range from core knowledge, like CV writing, to specific career-orientated skills, like Getting started with Python.
Open University offers free online courses in a range of disciplines through its website OpenLearn. Unlike Bright Network whose Internship Experience takes place over a few days, OpenLearn allows you to work through courses at your own pace. Courses range in difficulty from Introductory to Advanced. At Level 1 you can learn basic and essential concepts, and if you feel confident enough, at Level 3 you can gain a more critical understanding of a certain subject.
Alongside the perks of a LinkedIn account (e.g., its networking capabilities, CV builder and job board), LinkedIn offers LinkedIn Learning, a platform similar to Bright Network and OpenLearn in that users can complete courses in return for a certificate. LinkedIn Learning is perhaps more ideal for a graduate developing their tech skills, such as proficiency in Excel or photo editing, as it offers more career specific courses. The courses on LinkedIn are in-depth and created by industry professionals. The only downside to LinkedIn Learning is that, whilst the site offers a free month trial, any use after this requires a paid membership.
As Queen Mary students, we have access to the QM Careers website. Here, you can access the Careers board and QTemps to find both part-time and full-time jobs, as well as a graduate schemes and internships. QM Careers also offers free consultations to discuss career options, edit your CV or conduct practice interviews. You can also access online careers events (which are also emailed to students regularly) with successful QM Alumni who have become industry professionals. QM Careers is a great resource for graduates entering an uncertain job market as alumni can still access support for two years after graduation.
So, I’ve completed online courses, what do I do after that? Sometimes, employers are not just looking for academic success. Is there another way to stand out in an interview or to make your CV more noticeable, especially if you have limited experience? Your extra-curricular activity could perhaps be the edge you need to stay ahead. Taking part in a society, or volunteering, could help you give examples of skills you have developed, like leadership and organisation. Business moguls, like those of Silicon Valley, or Bright Network’s James Uffindell, recommend reading for success. A book commonly recommended by these successful people is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Reading outside of your degree not only shows a breath of knowledge, but can demonstrate how you can be adaptable and work outside of the box.
(Featured Image Credit: @marvelous from Unsplash)