Graduating during COVID-19 as a young woman

There are many trials and tribulations that come from graduating as a young woman. But, let’s not let these unprecedented times slow our journey!

Graduation is fast approaching me. Like many final year university students before me, I sit in front of my computer for hours, frantically trying to find job opportunities. As I scroll down job boards, uncertainty grows inside me. I start to doubt my own abilities and value as a future employee. I start to question whether I will achieve my future professional goals after graduating. Slump in my chair, I sit facing the dull glare from my computer- fearful of the next unknown stage in my life.

Unlike other graduates before me, I am navigating this process amid COVID-19. Having to apply for jobs during COVID-19 seems hard. But, applying for jobs during COVID-19 as a young women belonging to an ethnic minority, seems impossible. Young women are amongst the groups most affected by the crisis.

Data shows that women have experienced greater declines in employment than men. And that 36% of young women, compared to 25% of young men, work in sectors that have been shut down during lockdown. As a young woman I am experiencing these ‘statistics’ first hand. The emotional impact from uncertainty and dwindling hope after every rejection letter is overwhelming.

Despite my fears and doubts, I have decided to use COVID-19 as an opportunity for self reflection and self growth. Mulling over the affects of the pandemic will not aid me in navigating my career ambitions. I have started to learn how to be more optimistic about the opportunities that have arisen from lockdown. I would like to share what I have been doing and the ways I have stayed positive in these unprecedented times:

1. Take time to think about what you want to do after graduating

Being in the education system since a young age means that we have had little time to reflect on who we are and what we want to do. Let’s take advantage of the slower pace of life presented to us because of the pandemic. By spending time reflecting on what you have done in the past and what skills you have acquired you will be more prepared when applying for jobs. Reflect on the attributes you will be able to bring to a workplace and decide if the career you are pursuing matches your interests, values or skills.

2. Get digital!

COVID-19 has meant that we are restricted in the amount of contact we have with other people. So it is time to get digital! Invest time in updating your LinkedIn profile, for example. LinkedIn can be a great opportunity for you to start creating a professional network. I have found that a great way to do this is to search for people on LinkedIn who are working in your dream job. Contact them and ask for their advice and what their journey was to getting that job. The more knowledge you get, the easier it will be for you to follow your dreams.

3. Volunteer for causes you care about

Volunteering is a great opportunity for you to develop hard and soft skills, such as communication and team-work. These skills make you more attractive to employers and better able to progress in your work. Many people decide to change their career direction or discover new passions through volunteering, as they find the courage to manage their own projects. This can be life-changing. Volunteering can also lead to future work opportunities, such as social work, non-formal education, mentoring, project coordination, youth work, and more.

4. Get new skills

Use this time at home to be productive. It is a great way to show future employers that you were able to stay positive and that you turned a crisis into an opportunity. For instance, you can learn a new language, start a business or take free online classes. It is another way to develop your abilities or get new skills. Make sure to keep a note of any transferable skills you are learning and add them to your CV.

Author: Anjana Ahilan, Red:GLOW volunteer, United Kingdom.

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