‘Coronavirus has robbed me of my dream job’

By Lora Jones
Business reporter, BBC News

Image source, Kate O'Loughlin

“Coronavirus has definitely cost me, at least temporarily, my dream job.”

For Kate O'Loughlin, a 24-year-old student from Dublin, the summer after graduation looked exciting. She had internships and job interviews lined up at music labels and events companies that she had been trying to break into.

But then coronavirus hit. Offers were withdrawn one by one.

“My heart was set on starting out, so having that taken away from me was absolutely gutting," she says.

"I was hoping to get some experience to really kickstart my career in the music industry and climb up the ladder.”

Kate has also put off plans to study a master's degree at either London or Belfast over money worries. Coronavirus means a lot of her paid work has been pushed back.

“It’s quite possibly robbed me of my dreams for 2020, but obviously everyone’s health has to come first," she says. "I’m trying to remain as positive as I can.”

Scaling down

Just a couple of months ago, young people across the UK were set to enter a hot job market. Employment stood at a record high.

But many employers are now putting off hiring, or even making staff redundant, as coronavirus has forced them to change their business plans.

More than a quarter of businesses are reducing the number of graduates they recruit this year, according to a recent survey by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE).

The virus has also affected internships, which will be reduced by 31%, it said. More than two-thirds of those 124 companies surveyed were cancelling work experience.

Rebecca, a 20-year-old communications student at Glasgow Caledonian University, lost her first work experience opportunity because of the outbreak.

Image source, Rebecca Thomas
Image caption,
Rebecca saw her first work experience placement cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic

She had arranged a week-long placement as a TV assistant at the Men’s World Curling Championships. As large-scale events were cancelled, Rebecca’s placement was too.

“I was really excited for my first proper work experience and was hoping to build up my CV,” she says, adding she was "gutted" when the opportunity vanished.

“But the organisers have said they’ll keep us in mind for future events once all this is over, which I’m hopeful for.”

Young people ‘disadvantaged’

Stephen Isherwood, the boss of the ISE, said that more support was needed for young people like Kate and Rebecca in these uncertain times.

“The future success of the country and its businesses is bound up with the skills and talents of young people. We need to make sure that a whole generation isn’t lost.”

He added: “They will be disadvantaged, not only by entering a competitive jobs market, but also by having their chance of work experience cut. Those who are lucky to have already secured a job may also find their offer reneged or deferred.”

Big tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, have made public statements that their interviews will now take place over video platforms.

Other employers are putting off interviews or internships altogether, until a solution can be found or social distancing measures are relaxed.

Justine is a 22-year-old master's student coming to the end of her international commercial law course.

Image source, Justine Tanomjit

She was headhunted for a job at an insurance company in her hometown of Telford, but the final interview was cancelled just before lockdown measures kicked in.

“I felt let down as I had never been contacted for a job before and it was in line with my degree. I thought it was a good match, considering I would be finishing my studies soon and it would be a good chance to acquire some relevant work experience.”

Justine says that several friends have also had job interviews pulled or postponed.

“Looking for graduate jobs after university is always hard and a confusing time for many people, so this will have only amplified our anxieties,” she says.

Graduating into a recession

Justine adds that she’s also worried about the possibility of graduating into a recession.

That can have a lasting impact.

Graduates of the 2008 financial crisis not only saw a hit to their earnings, but increased odds of ending up in a lower-paid occupation.

According to the Resolution Foundation, the chance of a graduate working in a low-paid job rose by 30% and remained higher a full seven years later.

But Charlie Ball of career advice website Prospects.ac.uk urges young people to remember that “serious though this situation is, it is also going to be finite, and compared to a conventional recession, businesses expect it to be relatively short.”

He adds: “If your plans fall through, try to make sure you have something to show recruiters when we start to come out of this.”

How to build your CV in the coronavirus economy

  • Try some free online courses, such as on LinkedIn Learning or Future Learn
  • Start a blog or YouTube channel about a topic you’re passionate about
  • Update your CV and ask for feedback from careers staff if you’re at university
  • Contact people in industries you’re interested in moving into via email or social media and ask them about their work
  • Sign up for a volunteering opportunity
  • Apply for a key worker role to earn income and talk about in future job applications or interviews

Tips contributed by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services

For young people like Kate, there are many reasons to try to stay optimistic too.

“I’m using this time to get creative and see what ways I can work around things,” she says, having set up a music PR business in September.

“I may have to go back to retail part-time in order to keep the business going, but we are doing the best we can and maintaining a positive attitude.”