I’m graduating in the middle of a worldwide crisis, am I doomed?

With most of the world being on lock-down, May 2020 is a really scary time for all the young people who are graduating or about to graduate this spring. I mean, it’s already hard enough to find a job when you don’t have experience, but the news all around is bombarding us with the impending recession, the redundancies, the furloughing (raise your hand if you learnt that word in the last 8 weeks), the doom and gloom such as we haven’t seen since World War II, in short, the apocalypse is here.

Or is it?

There’s no denying that the situation is far from ideal, the lock-downs around the world have put millions of people out of a job, and that sucks – big time. That leaves us with a choice: give up or roll up our sleeves and keep trying.

Giving up is easy, but it doesn’t pay the rent, but don’t worry, I’m here to help you and I’m a leading expert in graduating during a crisis. Yours truly graduated and got a job during the pit of the last recession. You may have heard of it, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2007-2008 – if you haven’t, it’s on Wikipedia. Well, in Spring 2008, I was putting the finishing touch to my dissertation ("Women in employment law - a comparison between France and the UK") to wrap up my Master’s degree in law. On July 7th I defended my dissertation in France while living in the UK, and on August 11th, I started my 1st real job… in Dublin as a video games localisation translator on a 3 months contract.

So what did I learn from that amazing experience?

The odds that a recruitment agency will be able to help you find a job are slim to none.

Why? Companies pay recruitment agencies a fee to introduce suitable and pre-qualified candidates to them. A graduate, regardless of their academic achievements and grades, does not warrant spending thousands of euros on introduction fees for, especially not in a time where the money is tight everywhere.

A university degree does not determine your worth to a company.

Unfortunately, graduating from university at any level does not guarantee you a job or a specific salary. Sure you’ve got the academic knowledge, but that doesn’t prove that you will know how to do the job. Companies are taking a risk by hiring someone with no experience; the person will need to be trained, they won’t be efficient straight away, they may not even be good at the job. From a company’s perspective, the training and the ramp-up period before the new employee is ready to work on their own costs money – so you may get a salary increase once you’ve shown your value to the company, but don’t expect your starting salary to be amazing (yes, even if you have a master’s degree).

Competition is fierce.

This is probably not news to you, I dare say. Between all of your class graduating at the same time and all the people who have lost their jobs recently, there is a surplus of candidates on the market. I know it’s hard to hear, but it’s not about you. Your CV was rejected, you weren’t progressed through the process after the initial phone interview. There’s no point asking for individual feedback, especially if you were rejected on application. The hard-to-hear truth is: there were other candidates more qualified than you were.

It’s hard to stand out in a sea of similar profiles.

Legally Blond - Elle Woods pink scented CV gif

And it’s even harder if you have little to no experience outside of academia. So does that mean you have to write your CV on pink scented paper or for a more 2020 equivalent, use Tik Tok for your CV? Probably not. Unless you’re applying for a super creative role or it’s a requirement from the job description, obviously.

So sit down with your CV and really take the time to think about all your summer jobs, your part-time jobs, your volunteering experience, your personal projects, and extract your learnings and your achievements and everything that you have done that is transferable to the job.

During my interview for that Localisation translator job, I was told that I had never worked in an office before. True. I had not, however, I had worked as a group leader in a language camp for 3 summers, where I reported to a specific person for activities, to another person for anything related to students and administration, and to a third person for the overall day to day management, which showed my ability to work with different departments that have different and (sometimes) competing priorities.

Don’t apply for every single job advertised out there.

I know it can be tempting - after all, we’re all a bit desperate when we are looking for our 1st job, especially during a recession – but really, let’s not.

Multiple reasons:

Keep track of where you applied. You don’t want to apply for every job open in the same company. Your applications will go into the same system and the recruiter and/or hiring manager will be able to see it. Why is it not a good thing? Well, we all like to feel special, don’t we? If I can see that you applied for 5 different jobs in 4 different departments, it doesn’t really demonstrate that you really want any of these roles. Instead, it gives the impression that you just want to work for that company, regardless of the job, which doesn’t really bode well for retention.

The 1st phone screen question: “why are you interested in this role with us?”. In my 10 years in recruitment, the number of times I’ve heard various versions of “Oh, hmmm, I’ve applied for 200 jobs at this point, I don’t really remember what role I applied for with you” or worse, when you have been referred by an existing employee “Oh, well Joe works with you and he said I’d be very good at this job”.

You’ve applied multiple times for the same jobs through different channels (LinkedIn, Irish Jobs, Indeed, Referral). If you think it shows interest and motivation, sorry to disappoint, but it doesn’t. What we, recruiters, think when we see that, is a candidate that did not read the job description or doesn’t remember where they previously applied. So not good.

Writing a CV is hard.

Oh yes, it is. No question there. Whether you’ve got 3 months experience or 15 years, it is always a struggle. It takes TIME. A lot. If you were thinking that you could get your CV ready in 30 minutes and that you could use the same one for every job you apply to, I am sorry to say you were sorely mistaken, my friend.

Thankfully, Next Generation put together CV templates to help you get started on the right foot. You can check all the tips that we have prepared for you here and use the CV template that is the most appropriate for your area of expertise.

You can do it!

So overall, you are not doomed. You may have to work hard to get that 1st job after graduation, and it may not be the exact job that you studied for, but it’s just a detour. There will be multiple recessions and crisis during your working lifetime. It’s not ideal that you’re graduating in the middle of one, but not all is lost, you will get that 1st job!