- Chelsea Wong
What now? Graduating in a Post-Pandemic World
© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri
The reality of future career anxiety for recent graduates in a post-pandemic world.
With the COVID-19 pandemic commencing in 2020, it disrupted lives all over the world. One demographic which changed drastically was the one of university students.
Over the pandemic, lectures were no longer in person, tutorials were moved online and there were less reasons to go on campus to socialise with friends you made. Life became more secluded as it would take extra effort to keep in contact with classmates, more difficult to find the motivation to work remotely, and still somehow have some sort of social life with the controls put in place in the country.
For final-year students, the pandemic meant we lost two years (out of four in Scotland) of what is meant to be part of 'the best years' of our lives. A time thought to be filled with fun, laughter, and socialising whilst studying a degree we (hopefully) like, became rather gloomy and depressing as we fought for any semblance of normality. As well as this, we had to start considering what was to come of us next, what we would do after we graduate, and having to constantly answer the question of ‘what do you want to be?’
Throughout this entire year, final-year students have been scrambling for any chance of an internship, placement, work, volunteering, or anything to increase their future career aspects. The future career anxiety fuelled motivation to be any step closer to their future goals. We started realising that some of our friends want to be librarians, teachers, and economists. We found out who likes their degrees and who’s just so close to the end they may as well finish and move on. We find out about what drives people and what their passions in life are.
The thought of future career anxiety was seen all around me, so much to the point that I ended up writing my thesis on it and how it relates to social media usage and personality traits. With over 100 respondents in my questionnaire, it was clear to me how much anxiety we were all feeling about our future. The pandemic took away various opportunities for us, where some of us had placements and internships that were canceled, which made us feel like we were going backward, rather than toward our futures. However, the anxiety we all possessed also encouraged many of us further to make the most of what was left in our university careers, finding any opportunity we could and fully thinking about what we wanted our lives to look like post-pandemic and post-uni.
Most people seemed to have at least an inkling of an idea of what they wanted to do after they graduated. Especially those in their final year, people were drawn to further education or going straight into work. Those who looked into master's programmes found themselves not ready to go into the world of work just yet, deciding to further their skills. Many of us fear the lack of employability, so finding work in some way seemed the most attractive goal. Individuals however who weren’t as sure of what they wanted to do after they graduate were uncertain of their options or what they wanted to do that ‘seemed right’ for them. It is obviously important we should try to find jobs we like, but with the lack of choice and opportunities put in place for us, it can be quite difficult for us to think that it is possible, and instead just want a way to land on our feet. We should be greatly sympathetic to university students, as university was meant to be a joyous part of our lives, where we weren’t just there to educate ourselves but also to make friends and most importantly, make memories.
Future career anxiety increased extortionately as the process of figuring out what we wanted to do in our lives was fast-forwarded. Now the pandemic is over, we have started to see people blossom again as opportunities have once again started to open up and increase for our benefit. The pandemic has drastically changed the world of work. There is also now more chance of working remotely and even in countries you may never have to step foot in or meet the colleagues you supposedly work with. The pandemic might have taken a lot from us, but we are finally starting to gain insight into what our futures could be. And that future seems rather exciting.