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Graduate chaos: how COVID has affected my job hunt

Written by Laura Lees

“I’m dreading graduation,” is a phrase I have heard multiple times over the past few months. It is usually thrown around between final year students at University, fearing their entrance into the working world. This year – for me at least – is less to do with my debut into the “real” world, but the fear of not being able to secure a job, scheme or placement at all.

It comes as no surprise that COVID has had a huge impact upon the job market. With the introduction of the furlough scheme and heavy restrictions on the retail and leisure industries, there have been many job losses throughout the UK. Many members of my own family were furloughed, with some losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Consequently, many graduates and people out of work have been applying for entry-level positions and graduate schemes.

Friends of mine who chose to go directly into work are now abandoning their careers, with one who was working for TUI being on furlough for almost 9 months. Now working at McDonalds, she tells me that she left her job before she was “inevitably let go”. The small travel office in Wigston remains shut still, with no indication as to when – or indeed if – it will reopen.

With the market so oversaturated with prospective employees and the additional complications of COVID, jobs are being snapped up by those who have established careers and relevant experience in their fields. This is putting pressure on the graduates of 2020 and 2021, as there are so many people searching for jobs that simply are not there. Retail and hospitality jobs, usually accessible for most people, are no longer viable options in the pandemic, with sites being closed or having such strict restrictions that they are haemorrhaging money.

Whilst graduate schemes are running, they are doing entirely online assessment centres and video interviews, creating further technological turmoil in an already stressful situation.

I personally have experienced multiple website crashes deleting my saved applications. One particular instance involved the oversubscription of a video interview software which caused it to malfunction. Despite my panicked screeching at the dreaded ‘wheel of death’ loading screen, it crashed, deleting all footage I had recorded and saved during that session which had taken me almost an hour to complete.

Luckily, the problem was quickly rectified, but the situation served to highlight just how different the already challenging application processes are for graduates in this pandemic.

My mother retired from her job as a Human Resources recruiter for a large company around five years ago. Still in contact with many friends from the same department, they have messaged her periodically, expressing their disbelief: “More applications over the past two days than we had for the whole of last year,” one text read. “Tell Laura not to worry if she doesn’t get a grad scheme this year – it is chaos out here.”

But I am worried – and how can I not be?

Having applied for around 15 different graduate schemes myself, the true impact of COVID-19 is becoming clear. Many positions I applied for are so oversubscribed that they cannot even provide basic feedback for those who do not make the cut. The frustration of completing multiple online tests (with the most time-consuming having 14 different stages) only to be rejected with little to no feedback, nor suggestion of where I may have gone wrong, has left me demotivated.

As I was unsure whether to do a graduate scheme or a masters, I chose to apply for both. This proved to be a popular choice with my peers, with some giving up on graduate schemes entirely after a few rejections and focusing on masters applications. Whilst a few of my friends have jobs lined up for them after they graduate, the overwhelming majority have chosen to continue their education either at Leicester or back in their hometowns.

As national lockdown restrictions continue through the remainder of the winter, the only thing to look forward to is the gradual increase of daylight as we move into spring, but not even the prospect of warmer and lighter weather can deflect from the chaos of a supersaturated job market and the gloomy outlook for the economic future.


Laura is a final year BA English student and resident of South Leicester. She enjoys poetry, local news and reading.

Image by Sigmund, from Unsplash.

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