An Open Letter to the Graduate Class of 2020…

Graduate boy

To the graduate class of 2020,

Right now you may be feeling a mix of emotions – relief and pride that you’ve achieved your degree (brilliant!), dampened by disappointment that your graduation ceremony and celebrations have been cancelled or postponed, plus concerns about what’s next…
There’s a lot going on in the world just now, things that are much bigger than us – and we’ve been hearing from lots of you. Many of you are understandably upset that your career plans have been derailed by coronavirus and you’re scared about the future. You’re feeling rather helpless and invisible, but you’re not. We’re here and we’re listening to you.
No one can take away the years of study you’ve put in. Getting a degree is a massive life achievement and you should take a moment to pause and reflect on all you’ve learned, and all you’ve done so far to prepare for the big wide world.
Congratulations class of 2020, you did it!

The bigger picture

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has hurt the jobs market, graduate recruitment, work experience opportunities and devastated industries like travel and events. The good news is the UK hiring rate, although down by 40% compared to last year, stabilised in May, according to LinkedIn. Meanwhile, the latest data from Adzuna reveals that new job vacancies have risen for a fifth consecutive week.
There will always be things that are out of our control, be it coronavirus, Brexit, economic recession, or austerity. Worrying about factors we cannot change is simply a waste of energy. Instead, we must focus on what we can control, and take small steps to move forward.
Don’t ever feel that university has been a waste of time. While finding a job is more difficult at the moment, once things get moving again you will be better placed than many people because of your degree. According to Government data, working-age graduates had higher employment rates and earned £10,000 more than non-graduates in 2018. And, with a proactive approach, there are plenty of things you can be doing right now to improve your employability, your skills and your prospects.


What to do first

We suggest working through this checklist, so that when recruitment takes off again, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running:

  • Unpack and declutter, selling any unwanted belongings you’ve brought home from university

  • Register on the electoral roll, not only so you can vote in elections, but also to maintain a good credit score

  • Switch your student bank account to a graduate account as these usually offer preferential terms to help you reduce your student debt e.g. a free overdraft (many banks only reduce the 0% limit over a period of months or years)

  • Prepare your CV, clean up your social media profiles, adjust privacy settings and complete your LinkedIn profile

  • Start researching industries, businesses and roles

  • Do some online networking while people have more time to talk to you

  • Create a routine that includes exercise and relaxation techniques like meditation and mindfulness for good mental health


    Set goals

    Write down three things to do this month that would make your life better than it is today. e.g. read an educational book, run 5k, and sign up with an elderly telephone befriending charity. These small wins will build your confidence and have a snowball effect as you become more and more proactive.


    Use this time

    Your attitude and experience during tough times – i.e. what you did during lockdown – may well come up as a question in a job interview. Think about how you would answer. Can you show that you took the initiative, were you proactive, did you learn a new skill, or help someone in need?
    Now is the time to start a new project and challenge yourself. Perhaps you could learn a language or a musical instrument, or research your family tree. Maybe you could take an online course in Photoshop, quantum computing or bread making! Now is the time to do something you may never have done without the luxury of time.
    There are thousands of free online courses available on sites like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, OpenLearn, and Coursera. Some learning sites offer free month-long trials (just remember to cancel before your card is charged).
    Challenges like these will not only give you a sense of purpose and achievement but also confidence, new skills and emotional resilience.


    Show you’re adaptable

    Change is a part of life and, as we’ve seen, life can unfold in very unexpected ways. It’s important to show you’re flexible and can readily adapt. From that point of view, this is an opportunity to pick up valuable transferable skills that you can use to demonstrate your value in a job interview.
    For example, if your eventual plan is to work in events, you’ll need to demonstrate that you can work as part of a team, that you can communicate well, and that you’re self-motivated. What could you do now that would exercise those skills?
    Think laterally. Could you set up a community Facebook page to bring your neighbours together online, or could you offer your spare time to help a charity improve its digital fundraising capacity, or help a small business move its service online? All these demonstrate initiative, creativity and adaptability, key skills that will be in demand when recruitment takes off again.


    Job hunting

    Don’t give up on your job hunt but be prepared to go where the work is. Industries like hospitality, events, retail and travel are unlikely to be hiring. Avoid these for now and focus your efforts on the industries and businesses that have had an unexpected boost due to coronavirus, like food, delivery services, medical supplies, PPE manufacturers, communications software providers (like Zoom), and healthcare. Extend this list by thinking about what needs and opportunities have arisen as a result of the pandemic.
    If work experience is what you need to boost your employability, take a look at virtual internships, in which you’ll be set a series of tasks and mentored virtually at home from a laptop. You may find these advertised on jobs boards such as LinkedIn, or look at specialist sites like InsideSherpa.
    For more on job hunting through a pandemic, we’ve put together this useful guide, and we’re happy to answer any questions you have. Contact us through social media or email
    However worried you might feel, you aren’t alone. You’re job hunting during an international crisis that has caused people of all age groups to be furloughed and made redundant. But it won’t last forever.
    Change creates opportunity. We have seen hundreds of creative new ideas borne during lockdown and inspired by the times. Careers are long and full of twists and turns so just because you can’t start off the way you intended, it doesn’t mean you won’t end up where you want to be.
    This crisis is a test of your mettle. Use it to do some good, for your community and for yourself.

    The class of 2020 may become the most entrepreneurial, lateral thinking and creative graduates we have ever seen, because of the circumstances we’re in. So don’t despair, use the time and adapt your vision, for now.
    We wish you luck.

    Sophie & Julie

    Co-founders of HelloGrads