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How I Found a Graduate Job During the Coronavirus Pandemic

How I found a Graduate Job During the Coronavirus Pandemic main image

For those who graduated in the summer of 2020, right in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, finding a graduate job has been no easy task.

Many graduates are stuck in a loop of applying for jobs and being told they don’t have enough experience. We spoke to three lucky graduates who have managed to find full-time graduate roles during the global coronavirus pandemic. 

They offer some good advice for graduates still searching for jobs and for students who want to know how they can maximize their chances of finding work after university.

“I found the job application process draining”: Campaign Executive, Mollie Earnshaw

Mollie

Mollie Earnshaw is an Advertising and Marketing Communications graduate who studied at University of Huddersfield and graduated in the summer of 2020.

Mollie started her new role as a Campaign Executive at digital marketing firm, Zeal in August, where she works in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) department.

Gaining work experience at university

At university, Mollie completed a placement year at a local digital agency, working as a digital marketing assistant. This placement year taught her about technical SEO, content creation and email marketing: things she believed helped her get her current role.

Alongside this, Mollie completed marketing-based courses outside of university, including HubSpot, SEMrush and LinkedIn Learning to help her prepare for her career.

She said that completing online courses is “a great way to impress potential employers as it shows you are willing to put the time into learning new things.”

Because of her experiences, Mollie knew exactly what she wanted to do when she left university. She said: “SEO is something I have always been particularly interested in, doing a digital marketing module in my last year of University and also SEO being a part of my previous part-time role made me realize this was the part of digital marketing I wanted to do.”

Mollie’s new role encompasses many aspects of what she learnt at university and in her placement year, including creating SEO on-page content, client content strategies, research, posting, link acquisition campaigns and gaining coverage for clients.

“Zeal is an agency with many clients. It’s very fast-paced and what I do day-to-day varies,” she said.

The “tiring and disheartening” process of job applications

During her final year at university, Mollie worked part time at another company, hoping that she could stay on there after she graduated. However, due to COVID-19, this wasn’t possible, and Mollie started searching for a new role.

“I think already being in a part time role, albeit an insecure one, helped me on my search,” she said. “I think it looked good to potential employers that I was already in a marketing role, as it showed I was equipped to do the job.”

Mollie applied for around eight roles on Indeed and LinkedIn. A recruitment company also put her forward for several roles. Unfortunately, these were unsuccessful.

“I found the whole process of writing cover letters and amending my CV to suit each employer draining,” she said, “but I also feel very lucky I didn’t have to apply to that many. I know many graduates are still on the look of for roles.”

Although Mollie said that most of her friends have now found jobs, she said applying for jobs was “tiring and disheartening.”

She said: “The recurring theme was people applying for jobs only to be told they needed more experience.”

After this, Mollie started looking directly on marketing agency websites to see if they had any job postings. Using this method, she managed to land three interviews, one of which was for Zeal.

Interviewing over Zoom and starting remotely

Mollie had two interviews at Zeal. One was over Zoom with her now line manager and one was in person, with Mollie delivering a presentation on a new campaign strategy for one of their clients.

In her initial interview, Mollie said: “we just talked through my CV and just had a general chat about my time at university, digital marketing, SEO, and Zeal”.

She was offered the job and was able to come into the office for two weeks when she first started but is now splitting her time between going into the office and staying at home.

She said: “I actually like the balance of being at home and at work – it’s nice to have a change of environment.

“I’m also completely set up to work at home, we have work laptops we can take home with us and I have equipped myself with a back support and laptop stand so my home office (kitchen table) is comfy!”

“I wanted to go travelling”: Account Executive, Ria Chowdhury

Ria

Ria Chowdhury was planning to go travelling after graduating from Cardiff University in the summer of 2020. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, she was still set on moving away so only applied for a few jobs.

Ria explained that most of her friends from university had now found jobs but that the way they got these jobs varied.

She said: “Some people I know have had grad jobs lined up since 2019 whereas other people have ended up in careers, they hadn’t previously thought about applying to.”

Using the university job portal to find work

Ria found her current job at Working Word PR on her university’s job search portal. She said: “I only knew about this portal because I had to use it in my second year to find voluntary work for one of my modules.”

Ria’s role at Working Word initially started as a two-month internship but this turned into a full-time job afterwards.

To stand out to employers, Ria used the work experience she had gained at university. “The biggest asset on my CV was the ambassador program I took part in with the dating app Bumble,” said Ria. “This was a very social media orientated role which set me up to talk about social media influencers, marketing and analytics in the interview.”

The application process at Working Word was entirely online. Ria had to submit a CV and cover letter, and this was followed by an interview on Zoom. 

Ria said: “I was offered the job in the middle of August. I was super pleased but also nervous as I realized this meant having two weeks to move back to Cardiff which I hadn’t prepared for.

“I didn’t even have accommodation and I had to stay at some friends’ houses for the first few weeks.”

Working during the pandemic

Ria said her new job is going really well. She said: “I’m really enjoying working in PR and communications, a sector that I hadn’t even considered at the start of this year.”
Ria was working in the office for her first month at the company, which she said she felt “super lucky and grateful” to be able to do.

“It meant I could meet my colleagues and get valuable advice and experience,” she said, “which is really important when you start a new job.”

However, due to new coronavirus measures, Ria has been working from home, but says she’s hoping to go back to the office soon, “even if it’s just for a couple of days a week.”

“Searching for jobs in the pandemic was challenging”: Junior SEO Executive, Abby Fraser

Abby

After graduating with a first in Business Management and Marketing in the summer of 2019, University of Leeds graduate, Abby Fraser, decided to go travelling.

When Abby returned, the UK had just gone into lockdown and she realized finding a job would be challenging. She applied for around 20 graduate vacancies and didn’t hear back from many of them in the first few months.

“One graduate role I applied for in April I only heard back from this month,” she said.

Another frustration for Abby was the high number of unpaid work experience placements and internships being advertised, with each of them asking for one to two years of experience. She said: “This was something neither I, nor most graduates, would be able to accept.”

“I know a lot of graduates currently looking for work,” she said. “Some of my friends from University have just graduated this year with first class undergraduate degrees and first-class master’s and yet still cannot find work.”

Finding work

Abby found her current role, working as a Junior SEO Executive at digital marketing agency Distinctly after a challenging job search process

She applied for a graduate role at a large company and got to the final two candidates but was not offered the position.

A month later, one of the people who had interviewed her for the role got in touch to tell her of a similar vacancy in for the digital marketing firm they used, which happened to be Distinctly.

She said: “I contacted the agency and was set up with an interview for the position, which I believe hadn’t been advertised yet. The rest is history!”

Interviewing with Distinctly

Abby had three interviews with Distinctly, over the phone, over video and in person. Although she had done a few video interviews before, she found that face to face interviews made her feel a lot more comfortable.

Abby said: “I’m really enjoying my role here at Distinctly, particularly the fast-paced environment that comes with working at an agency.

“I felt really welcomed by all the team members and despite the pandemic I have been able to get to know everyone really well.”

Distinctly are currently working in the office before the UK’s November lockdown starts. Abby said: “Being able to come in every day has really made the onboarding process smoother and more enjoyable.”

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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