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7 ways to increase graduate employability during lockdown

By Prospects

Thursday 16 July 2020 Careers and Jobs

Thanks to COVID-19 opportunities for work experience are a little thin on the ground at the moment but there are still a variety of ways you can put your time in lockdown to good use.

According to research from Prospects 29% of final year students have lost their jobs and 26% have lost their internships as a result of the current coronavirus situation. A further 28% have had their graduate job offer deferred or rescinded.

In the survey of nearly 5,000 students and graduates job losses and fewer opportunities have left almost half (47%) of finalists now contemplating a postgraduate course and 29% are considering a career change.

Almost two-thirds of final year students now feel negative about their future careers, while the majority reported that they are lacking in motivation (83%) and feel disconnected from employers (82%).

However, while all this sounds pretty negative we're here to tell you that there are plenty of things that students and graduates can do to boost their employability while staying at home.

An increasing number of employers are setting up virtual work experience schemes, enabling students and graduates to gain essential experience from home. Here are some other positive things that you can do that employers will appreciate.

Pick up a hobby

We've all got interests that we'd like to indulge 'if only we had the time'. Well, now all we've got is time so view lockdown as the prefect opportunity to cultivate a new hobby or interest.

While group hobbies (such as sports) are off the agenda there are still a variety of options for you to consider. For example:

  • learn a coding language
  • write a novel
  • learn how to cook
  • get outside and figure out how to plant and grow
  • learn how to play an instrument
  • start a book club
  • teach yourself to draw or paint
  • take up photography.

Starting a hobby demonstrates initiative and a passion for learning. It'll also help you occupy that tricky 'hobbies and interests' section of a CV or application form.

Take an online short course

There's no better way to improve your graduate employability than by embarking on a short course to improve your skills.

Short, online courses are available in a range of subjects so if you want to learn how to use a certain piece of software, discover what's involved in a particular role or brush up on soft skills there will be a course for you.

The course doesn't have to be related to your career. Any course taken demonstrates to employers your initiative, drive and organisational skills

Course providers include FutureLearn and Coursera and a number of universities run Massive Open Online Courses (MMOCs), which are free to join.

If you'd like to commit to something longer term an online Masters might suit you.

Learn more about online learning 

Start reading

It might not feel like it now but lockdown and social distancing restrictions will eventually come to an end. When they do you want to be as prepared as possible for the world of work.

Use this time to do some research into the industry and sector you want to join, paying particular attention to companies of interest. To find out what certain roles involve, see job profiles

While the majority of organisations have halted recruitment, this won't always be the case so keep up to date with preferred employers by following them on social media.

Now is also a good time to do some interview prep. The companies still recruiting are now using methods such as phone and video interviews  so make sure you know what to expect.

Improve your online presence

Take a look at your social channels and ask yourself if they're employer-friendly. Employers do look at a candidates social media channels to gauge whether they'd be a good fit for the job/company.

To tidy up your social channels:

  • Adjust your privacy settings. If you don't want recruiters to be able to see your profiles make sure they're set to private.
  • If profiles are public delete any posts that could damage your chances of success, for example wild holiday pictures or posts containing controversial comments or bad language.
  • Consider whether your profile handle looks/sounds professional? If not change it.

To improve your presence:

  • Follow organisations and professional bodies of interest to keep up to date with the latest news and developments.
  • Like, comment and interact with employers and peers.
  • When posting include relevant hashtags to ensure your posts are seen by the right people.
  • Think about setting up separate work accounts.

Also, if you're not on LinkedIn you should be. Join and start building your profile now.

Learn more about social media and job hunting

Sign up as a volunteer

While many internships, work placements and work shadowing opportunities have been postponed, there's nothing to stop you gaining experience as a volunteer.

Volunteering looks great on your CV and will give you excellent examples to use during job interviews. Activities don't have to be related to your career, you'll be surprised how many transferrable skills you gain.

A lot of community/group projects have been put on hold and you obviously can't volunteer abroad right now but there are still plenty of opportunities to volunteer online or to carry out solo tasks in your area.

Charities such as Age UK, Mind, Refuge and Shout all need telephone or virtual volunteers during this challenging time. The NHS is asking for check-in-and-chat volunteering to support those at risk of loneliness during lockdown.

Alternatively you could collect shopping or medicines for vulnerable people in you community or volunteer as a delivery driver.

To find out what you can do search Do-it from home.

Learn a language

Having a second (or third) language under your belt can help you to stand out in a competitive jobs market. Business in all forms is increasingly international so mastering a well-used language such as Portuguese, Spanish, French or German will often give you an edge.

The hard work and dedication that learning a new language entails is bound to impress employers.

There are plenty of online and auditory resources available to help you to become bilingual, as well as a number of apps.

Craft the perfect CV

Don't neglect your CV just because you think there are no opportunities out there at the moment. When the time comes to apply for jobs you'll wish you’d kept it up to date.

If yours could do with a bit of TLC now's the time to do it.

Spend some time casting a critical eye over your CV. Does it contain unnecessary information? Is it formatted correctly? Does it include all your skill and experience? Could you personal statement do with a rewrite?

Discover how to write a CV and take a look at writing a personal statement for your CV and our example CVs for inspiration and guidance.

Now you're aware of all the career-boosting activities you can do in lockdown don't forget to add any skills and experience gained during this time to your CV.

Find out more