5 ways to use this social distancing period to enhance your future prospects!


By Connie Evans / 22 May 2020


Illustration by Julia Welshman

The coronavirus pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption for people in Britain and all over the world.

As a final year university student, I find myself feeling ungrateful and selfish when I become concerned about my future and what it may bring. However, providing you’re aware of the life-changing difficulties that others are facing (if you’re not, have a read here) then it’s okay to acknowledge your own struggles. It’s okay to be worried about your job prospects, how you’re going to afford to move on from university life, and what your first move may be after graduating. If your graduate plans have been put on hold as a result of coronavirus, here are a few things you might be able to do to make sure this time doesn’t go to waste.

Consider postgraduate education

There is often the presumption that a master’s is only worthwhile if it will improve your employment prospects, whether by allowing you to obtain a higher paid role or perhaps allowing you to apply for roles that you wouldn’t otherwise be qualified for. However, what is sometimes forgotten is that postgraduate courses are also a great opportunity to enhance your learning and broaden your knowledge of a subject you love. For those who do arts and humanities subjects in particular, a master’s can allow you to explore an area of your course that you may have really enjoyed during your undergraduate learning, but felt as though you didn’t get long enough to fully engage with. A postgraduate degree can also be a great way to improve certain skills, such as written and verbal communication, research, and critical understanding, that you may have initially developed during an undergraduate degree but could work on expanding further.

Just because a master’s isn’t a requirement for the role you’re hoping to fulfil in the future, it is by no means a waste of time. However, it is nevertheless important to remember that deciding to enrol on a master’s course should not be a decision you undertake lightly; they’re costly in terms of time and money. If you’re not in a position to undertake a masters, whether that be as a result of the financial burden or other responsibilities you may have that just won’t allow for it, then there are plenty of other ways you can expand your academic skills which may benefit you in the future (and even if they don’t, they’re a constructive and worthwhile way to spend your time!).

Consider learning or improving a skill

Learning a new skill or brushing up on an old one may be a good alternative to a postgraduate course if you don’t have the time or money to commit to the latter.

The majority of us will have learnt (perhaps in the loosest terms if you’re like me!) a language at secondary school, and if this isn’t a skill that you’ve had to utilise since, now could be a good time to go back to it. There are so many online language learning resources and apps available that mean learning a language is far more accessible than it used to be. There are also more intensive programmes such as Rosetta Stone; however, these can be rather pricey. Alternatively, apps such as Duolingo and Babbel are free to download initially and then if you find that they work for you you’re able to make in-app purchases for more flexibility and options. As well as specific apps and learning programmes there are plenty of free resources online – granted these are often aimed at school-aged pupils, but if you’re just starting out with your learning or need to get yourself back up to school-level, these can be a great place to begin. Aside from languages, you could also consider reading and researching your areas of interest in order to further your knowledge and understanding, which may really help you stand out amongst other candidates in future job interviews.

It’s important to remember that not all skills need to further you academically. Creative crafts can be just as rewarding; think about taking up something such as drawing or knitting. Or, if you’re into sports and fitness, why not start running or hula-hooping? This seems to be quite the craze in the current climate, and has benefits for your mental, as well as physical, health. 

Look into getting a part-time job

Although the graduate job market is looking pretty bleak right now, getting a part-time job isn’t impossible at the moment. There are certain industries that have been looking for more staff due to an increase in the demand for their products and services. The most obvious options here are supermarkets or food and drink stores, and jobs within the transport industry. The market for them is definitely competitive; however, if you keep an eye out and get in as many applications as you can, you might be able to nab yourself one. Although it may be a slightly different role to what you envisioned for your freshly-graduated self, it will still give you the opportunity to earn some money and keep yourself busy and social (something which we’re all most definitely struggling with at the moment!).

Think about postponing travel plans but don’t feel as though you’ll never have the chance

I know a lot of this year’s graduates will have been planning a gap year of sorts – a time to get yourself a part-time job to save up some cash that you can then spend on travelling and seeing the world before seeking out a long-term career. I think it goes without saying that travelling will not be on the cards for the majority of us for quite a while.

However, please don’t feel as though you’ll never have the chance. Don’t look at it as though travel plans have been cancelled: instead, try to see them as having been postponed. This is most definitely easier said than done, but think about how you can reshuffle your timeline to account for travelling in a year or so from now. There is still the opportunity to get a part time job, as long as it won’t jeopardise yours or your family’s health and wellbeing. The money you earn from this can still be saved into your travelling fund, and if anything you’ll have a longer period to earn more and therefore travel more freely when the time comes!

Don't give up

Although the arrival of coronavirus has initiated the departure of many of our plans for the near future, don’t let this destroy your ambitions completely. The job market may well be suffering; however, your dream job can still become a reality. It is most definitely worth sticking to your guns and ploughing on with your job search. Many companies are still hiring, some with the option of delayed or more flexible start dates in order to compensate for the state of flux imposed by the virus. Others are continuing to hire graduates and those just starting out, with the caveat that they will be working remotely via online methods until it is safe to return to normal working environments. Although the hiring rate is greatly reduced at the moment, this doesn’t mean that companies don’t require graduates to fill roles and start work. Finding the jobs and securing the interviews may be a little tougher, but if you’re committed to finding the job then it’s a challenge rather than an impossibility.

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