If you’ve been losing sleep thinking that this pandemic will hold you back – think again.
While it may be true that Covid-19 has thrown students into a tough situation, it is also true that these students have strengths and skills that set them apart from every other generation of studiers. Students don’t really need to be reminded that they have an aptitude for going the extra mile. But we DO think it’s important to remind our student community of all the ways those skills can be used to enhance career prospects …
Perhaps the greatest skill you will have developed. Digital skills top the list for potential employers and as a student studying during the pandemic, you have not only had to use these skills, but will have honed them. From online meetings with your peers and tutors, to taking part in online events and utilising a range of software to help you complete your studies, you have done it all!
Now is the time to start a digital skills journal – write down the individual kinds of software you have used, its function, your current level of proficiency and where you want to be by the time you start interviewing for jobs, and save examples of your work if relevant to form a portfolio. Keeping a journal is important, as you will come across A LOT of different, but sometime similar tech, that you will struggle to remember.
Of course, Microsoft Office skills are vital, but take note of any niche software, particularly if they relate to new and emerging technologies (think Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality) or business trends (think social media platforms and scheduling software). Maybe you used Adobe suite to create graphic designs or edit PDFs – all software is relevant.
How will these digital skills help you to do the job you are applying for? Use the digital journal to help prepare for interviews and you are already helping yourself stand apart from others.
Who can fail to adapt when rules are changed so often? And you haven’t just had to adapt your approach to socialising, you’ve had to make major changes concerning your studies. You have truly evolved.
A move from face-to-face teaching to sometimes partly or often solely online learning – TICK. Consider this point a tree from which other branches grow – each branch can be labelled with one of the other skill sets covered in this article, plus many more. If you don’t believe us, grab paper and a pen and start a Pandemic Skills mind map. Go on, use some CREATIVITY! You’re welcome …
The world of business changes every day and change can come in the form of emerging technologies, a change in customer trends or an announcement about merging corporations aiming to join forces to retain their lucrative market share. In short, adaptability is a skill needed at all times, everywhere.
How has the pandemic helped you to become adaptable and how will this experience continue to help you in future? What was most challenging about the changes you have had to make and how did you overcome this challenge? Life is all about challenges and education and work are no exceptions to the rule.
Keeping your distance over the past year has had a positive impact on more than just your health – you have learned to work alone. This doesn’t simply mean sitting in your room and staring at walls when you’re not reading pages of a textbook, it means you have learned to take responsibility for your own schedule, taken a more active role in communication and shown leadership in effectively becoming a manager-of-self.
Showing initiative and responsibility is of vast importance to hiring staff and questions that explore abilities in these areas are likely to surface in an interview with the Human Resources department of a future company you apply for. Your approach to studying in the pandemic should be the first thing you call on to answer these.
Think about your major achievements over this period and how you have approached autonomous working. Be ready to talk about task prioritisation, time-management and why you are proud of what you have achieved.
It is likely that you and your peers will have developed a whole new approach to teamwork and you may actually be working together more than you were previously. Online study and support groups are always important, but they will form a greater function now to allow students to share ideas and stay connected when working from home.
Consider any group projects you have been working on and whether you had a specific role. Consider the type of career you want and review job ads for an entry level position. Now refer back to those group projects and roles and see how they fit with the ad: How did you build rapport with others in the group? What methods of communication did you use to stay in touch? What can you discuss at interview that will show you are an ideal member of the team?
Covid-19 students could write a book on endurance! And that’s ideal, as the ability to keep pushing on and seeing a task through despite challenges is an essential requirement of any worker. This skill strongly relates to motivation and adaptability. Have you found completion of a particular piece of coursework to be challenging during the pandemic? What did you do to stay on track?
Remember that even the best marathon runners need to slow down to grab water. Endurance requires rest breaks and being prepared to share your relaxation and wellbeing skills will also make a good impression. Are you aware of the wider wellbeing support CUSU and the university offer students? Do not be afraid to quiz future employers about the health and wellbeing benefits they have to offer you – this shows that you value yourself and expect the same from an employer.
It’s worth thinking about the wider picture here and considering extracurricular activities. For those of you part of a society or perhaps involved in activities outside of university, this could be particularly useful. Showing that you have active interests that you develop in your own time shows that you are motivated to develop personally as well as professionally. A work/life balance is important in today’s world and showing hiring managers that you spend time achieving personal goals shows a true commitment to success.
Have you been motivated by a peer or provided the motivating force for someone else? Calling on experience as a Peer Mentor or Mentee will make an excellent example of motivation. In fact, acting as someone else’s study catalyst and encouraging them to react and work hard in any possible way would be a great thing to add into a cover letter, as would acting as a mental health advocate or having another similar function.
Have you taken part in any university or student union competitions or contests? Ones that require you to submit a piece of professional work can give you that something extra to talk about. Special programmes like Engage To Achieve and the Leadership Award can prove that you go the extra mile and make a golden addition to your CV.
How else have you used time during the pandemic to focus on achieving your study goals? What can you still do? There will never be a better time to engage with the Employability team at CUSU, as well as our many other divisions. Opportunities for students to progress are varied and vast.
Here are a few that might interest you:
The Leadership Award
Three types of recognition: Gold, Silver and Bronze. The LA aims to recognise students who participate in extracurricular activities and provides solid recognition of your achievements for your CV.
The scheme allows you to enhance your career prospects and get professional experience. You might opt to take a work placement with CUSU or a school within the university, get your first taste of teaching or volunteer in the local community.
I Love My Course
Talking about your experiences with your studies will probably form the first sentence that comes out of your mouth in interview. Submitting an entry to ILMC will only help you to approach this with enthusiasm and pride.
Even if you don’t win, just taking the time to advertise and promote yourself for a role shows a professional attitude. If you do win, you will be able to talk about the huge variety of successes you’ve had in that role, successes that benefit not only you but the entire student body.