A Note on Careers – Christopher Manley

Here is an article written by our Careers Consultant, Christopher Manley, just to offer some advice and reassurance given the current situation.

Who would have thought something so small it can’t even be seen without a microscope could cause such a huge amount of difficulty? Who could have predicted this? What impact will it have on jobs, careers and future options? Any universal answer to that question is a long way off, but here are some thoughts about things which individuals could keep in mind:  

·        It isn’t your fault. This is intellectually obvious, but – for some students, some of the time – can be harder to accept emotionally. It means that if ever something doesn’t work out as planned and there is a voice in your head which says ‘It’s because you’re rubbish. You’ll never amount to anything’, you may need to make a conscious effort to answer back.  If you don’t have that voice, be kind to those who do. If you do have that voice, ask it whether it has any evidence. You are a Warwick undergraduate doing an intellectually challenging degree, so you already have evidence to the contrary. This is particularly important in situations such as when in response to your perfect application to your ideal position you get that horrible e-mail which begins: ‘Thank you for your application. We regret to inform you that on this occasion we will not….’ Anyone who claims that doesn’t hurt is a rare human being – or hasn’t yet experienced it. But getting that e-mail has absolutely no relation at all to how the next application might go. Family and/or friends who can tell you that you’re still wonderful (which you are) after that sort of setback, and give you the strength to try again,  are really valuable. 

·        Don’t assume without checking that it is worse than it is. Yes, there will be fewer vacancies in some sectors. But it simply is not the case that Covid-19 has put an end to any hope of employment for an undergraduate doing a challenging degree at a well-regarded university.  

·        You can still do good things. There are some fortunate people who thrive on the unexpected and maybe even prefer it – lucky you if you are one of them – but a lot of people would prefer things to go according to plan and get frustrated and dispirited when they don’t. But that completely understandable response doesn’t mean that there are no other options worth pursuing. This is a real example: an organisation in a town not so far from Warwick is looking for people to deliver groceries across a larger housing estate to people shielding there. Even if you lived there (which statistically speaking is unlikely), that might not be your sort of thing if your original plan had been to – say – undertake a numerate internship with a large corporate organisation. But any undergraduate or recent graduate from that locality who does volunteer on that estate will not only be doing a good turn, but will probably gain a lot from it – organisational skills perhaps, communication skills very probably, problem-solving skills possibly too, quite probably several others. Certainly more to put on the CV than the student who ends up doing nothing because their perfect thing wasn’t available. Future employers will be very odd organisations indeed if they don’t understand that for most of us, plans needed to be modified during a pandemic – but they will still have a preference for students who got involved in all sorts of things. And of course a lot of opportunities will be on-line, so there are some opportunities for those of you who are shielding. 

·        Now is not for ever. What you do alongside or directly after your studies does not have to be for life. Of course that doesn’t mean that what you do immediately has no relationship to what happens next. But you may be able to be flexible. Roles in some areas – logistics, health and care and IT, for example – are likely to grow, so new opportunities will emerge.

Remember that all current students are going through similar challenges. Students who ask for and offer support for and to other students often find a supportive response. And if it is professional careers advice and guidance which you need, that is what the Careers Team of Student Opportunity exist to do – have a look at https://warwick.ac.uk/services/careers/ to remind yourself of all the information and support available.