What it’s really like to enter the workforce post-pandemic
The pandemic hit everyone hard, but graduating students seem to have been the most affected as job opportunities dwindled and the prospect of working in-person declined. Emily Lowes, marketing manager of Raptor, considers the long-term effects of this change through a Q&A with one of her colleagues, a recent university graduate.
Raptor considers the impact of the pandemic on graduating students
With over 1.5 million students graduating from university since 2020, a mass of graduates entering the workforce have seen the impact on their graduate opportunities. In May 2020, Prospects’ student study saw that 29% of final-year students had lost their jobs, and 26% had their internships rescinded or deferred. These impacts led to 29% of students considering a career change. But looking beyond statistics, how does this manifest itself in the experience of an individual student?
We interviewed one of our account executive team, Lucy Vevers, who graduated from Exeter University in 2021, to understand her experience of entering the workforce for the first time, and the advice she’d give to future graduates to secure their dream job in marketing.
How did you first become interested in a career in marketing?
I have always had an interest in marketing. I studied psychology and economics at A level, and a combination of the two led me to my degree choice. The study of people has always really interested me, as well as learning about consumer behavior. When I had the opportunity to pick optional modules at university, I would always select marketing modules. However, working in marketing is very different from the theory you learn in your degree – in a good way.
What were the key challenges you faced attending university during the pandemic?
The first major challenge was the inability to socialize with other students. With nightclubs and campus closed, all of our major locations for socializing and making new friends had been taken away. We had to stay in our university houses 24 hours a day, and this undoubtedly had an effect on our mental health – especially during deadline season as we were unable to go out and have fun to release after an essay submission.
Another challenge was that all our lectures and seminars were moved online – this was a very different learning experience, which I would say hindered my ability to learn. In my personal experience, students on Zoom calls were less willing to participate and many had their cameras off (probably still in bed). This meant that discussions were very limited.
How did this impact your employment opportunities?
This definitely made it much harder to find a graduate role. When applying for jobs, we were in competition with not just our year group but also the year above who were unable to start work during the pandemic, making the application process twice as difficult. Additionally, my work experience in Easter 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic, which meant I was unable to gain any insight into exactly which area of marketing I wanted to pursue. This made it more difficult when applying for jobs.
Following the pandemic, what did you value most when choosing an employer?
I looked for an employer who offered flexibility with working from home and also understood the importance of a good work-life balance. It was also important to me that my employer offered mental health support. The pandemic affected everyone in such different ways, and I wanted to work with someone who was understanding and sensitive to each employee and their circumstances.
How did remote working impact your entry into the workforce?
When I first started my job, we were all working from home. It was very difficult to form friendships with my work colleagues when we were only speaking over video calls. You just do not get that same social interaction over the phone that you do when meeting in real life. I would say this delayed my ability to settle into my new company and really get stuck in with the work that I was doing.
What are the best things to have come out of the pandemic?
The best thing to come out of the pandemic is definitely an emphasis on the importance of not taking anything for granted. Social interactions, with colleagues and friends, were seen as a norm before the pandemic. I now really appreciate every social event that I attend. I also have a new love for long walks and being outside. I would have previously preferred to spend my weekends at home watching TV, but I now love to get out of the house – which is great for getting fit and healthy.
What are you doing now?
Now I work as an account executive for student marketing agency Raptor. My primary roles involve managing a team of student brand ambassadors, organizing logistics for events and communicating with clients about the progress of our campaigns. I am also the social secretary for Raptor, which is lots of fun to get the team motivated and encourage bonding outside of the usual working day.
It is also great to be working with students because it feels as if I am not yet in the real world. I am still holding on to that last bit of university that we missed out on and living through our student ambassadors.
What advice would you give to a student trying to gain employment in the post-pandemic world?
The first piece of advice I would give would be to take every opportunity that is available to you as you never know what is around the corner. You also have to remember that one opportunity normally leads to another.
The other piece of advice would be that networking is key. Utilize the connections you have surrounding you as much as you can, because people are always willing to help you gain experience and ultimately find the career that is best suited for you.
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