Graduating in 2020 – Making the Best of Challenging Times

Global Employability

If you’d been told a year ago that the commencement speech to the graduates of 2020 would be delivered by the CEO of Alphabet and Google, along with the former President of the United States, Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, and that there’d be performances by Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and the South Korean band BTS – you may have pictured a glittering stage in a hall full of starry-eyed students ready to take on the world.

You may not, of course, have imagined this happening on You Tube. But, truth, as they say is stranger than fiction. It’s exactly what happened.

The class of 2020 is graduating at a time when the world, as we know it, has changed. What we’re facing today is a 180 degree flip from what was supposed to be. This generation was set to inherit a robust economy and an all-time low unemployment. Instead they are entering the worst job market since the Great Depression. And this is why it’s important, more than ever, for the graduates to know what they want, stay focused on their goals, find the bright spots where the opportunities are (some industries are affected worse than the others) and strategize the best they can to navigate through this unenviable job market.

Also, before we look at how to make the best of a bad situation (and where some of the opportunities lie), here’s a sliver of hope. According to LinkedIn’s data on job postings, businesses in many parts of the world are trying hard to get back to normal. As economies have begun to open, hiring data during the last two weeks have been showing signs of recovery.

If the countries that are seeing a slight rise in hiring after reopening are any examples to go by, then we may see similar trends in elsewhere too – as economies open up and start to get back on their feet. Of course, the recovery will vary by country, but the signs are encouraging (we’ll take any good news we get right now).

Last week we covered the areas of opportunities in a post-COVID world. Today we look at what a new graduate can do to make the best of the situation.

Get down your blinders. Readjust your expectations, and think outside the job.

To begin with, you should zero-in on where the growth is. This may or may not be in your area of study. For instance, healthcare and tech are seeing immense opportunities, so if that’s your domain, you should figure out what specific areas are poised for growth.

Also, it’s usually a good idea to look at past precedents for learnings. If you speak to those who graduated in 2008 (during the Great Recession), they’ll have many pearls of wisdom to impart on job hunting during challenging times. One of these is the fact that you need to be realistic in your expectations, and also broaden your search. If you can’t get the job you want, then get creative and look at non-graduate jobs to tide over this time. For instance, one of the most in-demand jobs right now is that of contact tracers (yes, it’s a thing). Four months ago we didn’t know what that was and now it offers huge opportunities for employment (at least for a while). In the US, health departments are looking for thousands of people to do this job and, by some estimates, between 100,000 and 300,000 contact tracers will be needed across the country based on the current infection rates. And this could earn you up to $65,000 per year. Not bad for a recession year, to put it mildly.

This is only one such example of looking beyond the usual areas to stay afloat right now. As you do a thorough study of your field – look at opportunities you may not have considered normally and see how your skills can be applied in some other domain. Follow trends and job boards and stay updated with the new developments that might give you an insight into how to proceed. In 2008, even though unemployment soared, many organizations (in the UK) reported unfilled positions. These were in tech, math, science, engineering and in digital. So opportunities do exist, you just have to know where they are and see if you can avail of them.

Explore internships

A job would be ideal, but in the absence of that you could look for internships too. It’s important to keep your radar on for these. Many organizations are going ahead with their summer internships, albeit virtually. For instance, in April Citibank India organized a virtual induction and training program for interns from the country’s top business and graduate schools. Similarly, in May Amazon launched a 6-8 week global virtual internship program for undergraduates, MBAs, and graduates. These were for business roles, across technology, consumer business, operations, finance, HR, devices, and Amazon Web services. And Google, of course, went ahead with its summer internship, only it made it virtual.

You need to do your homework and figure out the best internship program for you.

Acquire the table-stakes skills

As the world goes virtual, there are a few skills that are an absolute must-have; digital and soft skills being two of them. The combination of the two has now become imperative to surviving and thriving in the workplace. As businesses move to remote-first models, engaging effectively in a virtual realm has become necessary. The requirement, thus, is on only to acquire digital skills, but also soft-skills like collaboration, communication and virtual team-work.

The truth is that remote working is radically transforming the job market, something that could actually end up benefiting new graduates. With organizations going fully remote, working is becoming location agnostic – it’s becoming a truly globalized job market. If Facebook, for instance, is making work from home permanent (for some people), then will it matter if the person is living in California or New Delhi? Probably not – as long you have the set of skills needed for the job.

So, it’s a good idea to invest in honing your digital skills. But first you need to know what these are and do a diagnostic-check to understand what these skills mean in practical terms.  PwC, for instance, offers a free Digital Fitness app, that lets people assess their skills. It’s a good idea to carry out such an exercise.

It’s not as bad as you think…

True that this is an extremely challenging year to be entering the job market – but there are opportunities being created and signs of recovery are starting to show. It’s important to watch the trends and keep building on skills. As Sundar Pichai said in, what will down in the annals of history as a historic commencement speech – “Be open, be impatient, be hopeful. If you can do that, history will remember the Class of 2020 not for what you lost, but for what you changed. You have the chance to change everything. I am optimistic you will.”

Date added

Filed under:

Global Employability


No spam, just your favourite topics.

Choose Insight topics that you are interested in to subscribe for your personalized newsletter.

A world
of possibilities awaits.
Join the movement.
Find your perfect university,
in one of 40 countries all over the world
Prepare for the future,
whether at university, business or in employment
Secure your future,
through STEM courses
Connect with leading international companies
and unlock the potential of your team
Fill in the form, so we can contact
you and start our journey together.