This article is part of a series exploring job-hunting in the pandemic and the difficulties that face young people in particular. The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect Backbench’s stance as a whole. To find out more about the campaign and how you can contribute, click here.
I am a landscape gardener. This is a statement of fact, not pride, nor shame. It is a job that, three months ago, was otherworldly to me. But it is a job, nonetheless.
I decided, after university, there was no thought more unappealing than sitting in front of a laptop for eight hours a day. So, with this in mind, I resolved to pursue a living in a field far from academia, to give myself a break and to process the unimaginable situation we find ourselves subjected to in 2020. It is far from my dream career, but it is a job.
This is not meant to elicit pity or sympathy; I chose this path for the short term and it is one I am happy with. Instead, this is an attempt at understanding the crises which now face every graduate: the graduate job market and Covid-19.
They are now inextricably paired for our ‘Covid Generation’ and unfortunately, a resolution is beyond me.
The graduate job market is competitive. It is more competitive than it has ever been. The need for postgraduate qualifications for ‘entry-level’ jobs is more pressing than ever. It is these which often hinder even the most accomplished of graduates as they try to apply their degree and find a job.
It is indisputable in 2020 there are more undergraduates than in previous years; approximately 1.9 million according to one government briefing paper. All this in a year which the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicted would be a tougher year to graduate than 2008-09.
You hear the stories, almost of mythical status, of graduates, with excellent degrees, applying to hundreds of jobs. You don’t believe it. But then you are faced with another day sitting on the sofa writing CVs and cover letters that you know will remain unanswered and, you suspect, unread.
At this point I realise I sound cynical, embittered and pessimistic. However, I remind myself, I’m lucky. I have a job.
Covid-19 has contributed to this already difficult situation. The closure of hospitality venues in particular is problematic. Traditionally, hospitality is an industry in which many students are employed. They are places in which students can find respite from their studies both as employees and clients. We can’t work in pubs to earn money and can’t drink in them to forget about this inconvenient reality. Plenty of students who don’t wish to move into a full-time career role immediately upon graduation work in non-academic jobs to sustain themselves. It can be hard to know where to turn.
My career ambition is to become a journalist. It suits my aspirations and I know there are certain qualifications I must attain to fulfil this ambition. It can seem there are infinite hurdles to bridge before we get where we want to be, and the finish line keeps moving.
I concede this is a bit depressing.
If you are struggling to find a job, it’s not what you want to hear. But I believe it is an accurate picture of job-hunting in the pandemic. As life approaches a return to normality, with the promise of vaccines, it stands to reason the economy will follow suit.
I, however, am not an economist.
But, as the bars, pubs, restaurants and sports venues reopen and we can all hug our elderly relatives without fear we may accidentally killed them, the graduate job market won’t shift very far. Covid-19 has exacerbated, not created, these problems. For this crisis there is no vaccine.
Versatility will be the order of the day in the post-Covid job market. The ability to turn your hand to whatever necessary may set you apart. Or it may not. I’m yet to understand how laying patios is helping me become a journalist.