You're certainly not alone..
So many great work and professional opportunities couldn’t happen this year, or at least not in the form originally intended. Employers and graduate recruiters know that. From talking to them, I know that employers are also pretty sympathetic to the situation students found themselves in during and immediately after lockdown. After all there was such a lack of even the most traditional student summer jobs in hospitality and retail…jobs which can still showcase your employability.
So here is a great opportunity to demonstrate that despite the impact of Covid on your work experience plans, you were actually doing more than bingeing on Nordic Noir or Marie Kondo-ing your sock drawer (was that just me?). Addressing at least some of these questions in your applications allows you to show recruiters that you don’t make a drama out of a crisis.
Adaptability and flexibility:
• How did you pivot to take account of lockdown and “make the most of a bad situation"?
• What examples of adaptability can you give: changing summer holiday plans, getting involved in local community or volunteering initiatives, taking on family caring responsibilities, focussing on getting fit maybe or addressing long term “To-do” lists?
• Did you take whatever work you could, however supposedly “menial” and can you showcase the employability that flows from that experience?
• How did you care for your physical and mental wellbeing? And that of others?
• How did you protect your work life balance while you were locked down but studying online? How did you schedule your time off?
• Perhaps, sadly, you had to get to grips with broken contracts of employment, travel insurance claims or Health and Safety policies? These are all important life skills!
• Can you talk about your enhanced self-awareness and showcase reflective skills? What did the Covid 19 situation teach you about yourself, your values and priorities? Did it give you insights into how other people live? How did you re-evaluate your life and career plans?
• How did relationships with friends, family and other connections shift during this time? What has that taught you about your communication, listening and empathy skills?
• Sitting at a desk in your home office (AKA bedroom) day in, day out can sap anyone’s proactivity and enthusiasm. Employers really value people who can find ways to be energetic in their attitudes to tasks and problems despite being physically isolated. Independent thinking, self-drive and self-reliance are key when WFH; what evidence of these can you demonstrate?
• What online learning did you take part in: uni modules, LinkedIn Learning or MOOCs? It’s important that prospective employers can be confident they can effectively onboard you remotely if necessary…something that was very widespread for placement students in recent weeks.
And here’s another bit of good news too; it’s perfectly fine to say that you had work experience lined up and that it was cancelled…..perhaps setting out what you had aimed to gain from the experience and how you have plugged the gaps in alternative ways.
I would really encourage you to give yourself credit for what you have learned, achieved and become this year…even if it wasn’t what you’d planned and dreamed. Don’t forget that employers and recruiters are parents, siblings and friends too…they’ve seen and been through the challenges of 2020 just like you. A positive and mature attitude demonstrating that you are a glass half-full person with a creative approach to adapting to life’s brickbats…that’s what we in the Careers Service want to see when you show us your CVs and cover letters!
For more about how to make effective applications in 2020 see our resources on MyFuture: