Coronavirus / Job market

Graduating in a recession: top tips from Warwick Alumni, part 1

There has never been a more turbulent time to graduate from University. There are fewer jobs; the job market itself is in flux with a number of sectors struggling for survival while others are either flourishing or beginning to emerge. The employment landscape is therefore shifting, although at this stage it’s too early to know exactly what it will look like some months from now.

We have however experienced recessions before, with or without COVID 19 adding a layer of uncertainty and complexity. We decided to ask Warwick’s alumni community for their hints and tips on graduating in challenging times. We were inundated with responses with some great advice; more than will fit into one post – so instead we will present a series of posts over the coming weeks featuring advice and encouragement from those who have gone before you. We are grateful to all alumni who have contributed to our posts.

Alison Duncanson (MSc CPSychol, Diploma in Coaching, Centre for Lifelong Learning)

alison BlogAs a Chartered Psychologist, I have worked for most of my career with people in their work from graduates to senior business leaders, consulting on change projects, designing assessment centres and developing leaders.  As we all know these are unprecedented and difficult times. Something I want to say as an organisational psychologist is that to be able to navigate something as difficult as this and find a way forward can give you enormous strength as you embark on your career. When graduates start work, they are often very bright, used to things going well for them, getting the results they want, deciding a plan, putting the plan into action and succeeding in the plan. The reality of work, but particularly the reality of complex organisations and the world of change in organisations is that this does not always happen.

Resilience written out with scrabble pieces on wooden table

So if you can start the journey of your career with some experience of navigating change, uncertainty and finding a way forward when presented with setbacks, this can only help you to build some of the skills needed for a successful career. You can deepen your personal and professional development with any adverse experience and as an employer I would be looking at how you have handled your setback and transformed it for good.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can I use the challenges I am facing to strengthen skills for my future career?
  • What opportunities may be open to me currently to develop my employability?
  • What different path or mindset do I need in the short term to move forward? 

Stuart Humphreys, MBA Warwick Business School.

It may seem a little trite for me to say I feel fortunate to have graduated during one major economic downturn and to have subsequently graduated again during another. During the period running up to each award ceremony, it was almost impossible to know how to make the best use of my new shiny qualification.

My bachelor’s graduation took place in 1985 in a decade that heralded huge transformation in industry, commerce, innovation and international trade. My ‘lifeboat’ career choice was to teach Mathematics to inner city teens – partly to ‘give back’, partly to continue my ‘leisure career’ in track & field but mainly because I had few other viable ideas. The worldwide web was invented and everything changed again; I switched career following a period of distance learning and embraced the computer age.

Challenge concept in word tag cloud

Many years, and more changes in work, later I was fortunate to gain a place on WBS’ Exec MBA programme, in March 2007. Having finished my dissertation in 2009, with no hint of austerity measures, I quit my job and set up a small consultancy offering business consulting services with a fellow Warwick MBA alum. As a current colleague remarked recently, ‘not exactly the best time for a start-up, particularly a consultancy start-up’. He was right, commissions and assignments were difficult to land; we worked with clients in the UAE, USA and UK occasionally all at the same time, in the same day. It was exhausting, stressful and the most intense period of learning I’ve experienced.

Many of you will, no doubt, be worried about your fate in the current economic and social climate, wondering if your qualifications actually matter, whether you should take time out or jump at the first opportunity. No-one can really answer the question of ‘what should I do?’

My advice…

  • Cherish what you have, draw on and give to your relationships, seek out guides, mentors and role models, don’t try to be someone else – be the best you can be in whatever you do. 
  • Above all else, bear in mind that everything you’re experiencing today adds to your skills, knowledge and to your ability to change course if that becomes necessary.
  • Although you are leaving Warwick, your experience of Warwick and the Warwick Alumni network will be with you wherever your career choices lead you; use it.

Good luck to each of you, for what I hope will be an eventful journey.

Warwick Graduates can access our recent careers webinar recordings which include topics on resilience and self-reliance. For recent graduates who have not yet joined Warwick’s Alumni Community  find out about the benefits of keeping in touch.

And for inspiration and entertainment hear from English and Theatre Studies alumnus, Michael Punter

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