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Surviving final year in a global pandemic

Maeve in Madrid

In the summer of last year, I was adjusting to life in a new city having just started an Erasmus work placement in Madrid. I was enjoying my new independence, tapas, and post-work sunbathing. By March of 2020, a global pandemic had well and truly made itself known throughout Spain, and my international experience, like so many other things, came to an abrupt end.

Suddenly, I was back living at home, completing my final year online and coming to terms with the pending post-graduation panic. It was all a far cry from the pre-pandemic blissful ignorance I was enjoying this time last year. 

Final year is stressful at the best of times, with countless deadlines, exams, job applications and big decisions. Combine that with a switch to online classes and a global pandemic looming large in the backdrop, and it’s a recipe for final year fear.

Learning to adjust

The switch to online learning was something I, like many others, found very daunting.  Microsoft Teams classes and breakout rooms were not how I had imagined my final year of university to be, but I am learning to embrace the positives. For starters, I love avoiding early winter morning commutes to 9am classes. Moreover, I’m recognising that the skills I’ve gained by being thrown into the deep end of online working will be highly valued amongst future employers. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, the need for virtual work skills is no longer limited to telecommuters and global teams; it now extends to most office work. The virtual skills I’ve developed through being immersed into the world of online learning are truly indispensable and highly valuable to employers, so I’ll remember to show them off in my next interview. 

Maeve in Madrid

Looking to the future

And as I begin to look at interviews and how my post-university career path will begin to take shape, I’m aware that my comfortable student bubble is about to burst and real adulthood and responsibilities are looming. 

‘What are your plans after university?’ is a question that rings throughout final year, and while some have a five-year career plan up their sleeve, I count myself among the many who haven’t figured out what I’m doing at the weekend, never mind next year. 

If you’re in a similar situation, and are finding your future really daunting, fear not. Here are some tips that have helped me: 

  1. Don’t get caught up on what your friends are doing. It’s easy to feel that just because everyone you know is applying for Big 4 grad schemes, you should too. It’s important to think about what’s best for you, and understand what you really want. Queen’s Careers Service is on hand to help support you in deciding what to do next. You can book a 1-1 appointment with a Careers Consultant to discuss any aspect of your career management or even receive feedback on your CV/LinkedIn profile. 

Book an appointment in MyFuture

  1. Explore your options! Research, research, research. Graduate jobs are not the only option. Think about postgraduate study – maybe a Master’s programme will be the next step for you? Or, with vaccine hope on the horizon and a slow shift back to normality looking increasingly promising, why not think about working, studying or volunteering abroad? Queen’s Global Opportunities Team can advise you about programmes available. You can arrange a virtual appointment with one of the team to chat about the travel options available to you through MyFuture.

Search Global Opportunities

  1. Leverage the new skills you’ve developed. Although this year has not been the most ideal in terms of academic experience, think about the skills you have developed through its challenges. Not only will employers love those new virtual working skills, but also the adaptability gained by facing a having to suddenly adapt to online classes, resilience gained by facing and persevering through your studies during a very difficult period, and undoubtedly problem-solving in overcoming various issues and problems brought about by the challenges of this year. Think about how to showcase this new skillset, considering how this relates to your ‘selling points’ for your next interview. Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills website has some great interview tips and advice to help you think about this.  
  2. Find comfort in the unknown. Be at ease with the fact that 2020 has been completely unprecedented. It is completely normal to feel anxious and unsure about what your next step is. It’s important to remember that your future isn’t a race or a competition, take your time and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your classmates or lecturers. If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, there is support available in the form of Queen’s Wellbeing who are on hand to help those struggling through these very strange times.

Contact Queen’s Wellbeing Service

If you are unsure about your next step after graduation, there are lots of tools and resources available to you on our website. 

Explore your options by School or Sector.

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Film studies graduation Linkedin MEDIA Programme Networking Pandemic Student blogger

My Goals Before I Graduate

Student blogger Dara O’Donnell from our MEDIA programme shares her pre-graduation career game-plan, including leveraging the power of LinkedIn to make vital contacts.

As a final year Film Studies and Production student here at Queens, it has been a whirlwind to say the least and not how I expected to be partaking in my last year at university. For the most part, the switch to online learning was daunting and difficult to get to grips with, being in a practical field that relies on hands-on work and lots of group collaboration. Nevertheless, we adapted quickly and moved on. Personally, I look forward to the exciting times ahead, albeit uncertain, that is to come of final semester and graduation of 2021.

Facing the world of work

Before the pandemic, being a nearing graduate was just as nerve wracking an experience as it seems to me now. With levels of unemployment rising and general anticipation in the air about our future, it is easy to get lost in it. However, it is not all despair, there have been lots of promising opportunities presenting themselves for graduates, surrounding this new world of remote work, affording the chance for people to gain experiences of remote internships for global companies, without having to say those emotional goodbyes to friends and family.

Deciding my path

Like most graduates, I am not 100% clear on what path I want to take for my future career. What I do know is that it belongs somewhere within the creative industry. Therefore, in realising this and approaching the new year, I am taking it step by step to apply myself and achieve some goals before I graduate, setting myself up for the best possible future.

My goals

Some of these goals include; creating an engaging LinkedIn profile that will showcase my personality and ultimately attract potential employers and building a solid creative portfolio to advertise my creative skills. When restrictions lift, I am excited to get out there and film more projects and overall work to improve my creative ability, expanding skills and networking with other like-minded people in the field.

Even in these daunting times, I am optimistic and anxiously looking forward to the future and the wide and many possibilities that are presented after graduation.

Read more from Dara:

How leverage Queen’s online careers portal MyFuture.