It is not common for fresh graduates to be left in a lurch while they had planned a successful transition to becoming a working professional. Unfortunately that’s what the coronavirus pandemic has done to hundreds and thousands of students worldwide. The good news, however, is that all is not lost. The world hasn’t come to an end (and isn’t likely to), scientists are working overtime to develop a vaccine and many world economies are slowly limping back to normalcy.
Students are in a dilemma and that’s understandable. Until now they haven’t had to witness such tough times. Most read about past horrors in history text books never imagining that a global pandemic of this magnitude could befall on them. Covid-19 came suddenly. If in mid-December, 2019 people read stray news about a virus infecting people in a province called Wuhan in China, by March, 2020 many European countries were reporting escalated cases of people falling victim to this virus. Countries were left with no option but to declare a state of emergency. With little knowledge about the nature of the virus and only information available that the virus spread from person to person through touch or exposure to an infected person, most countries announced lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus.
In many countries lockdowns extended over weeks (and even months) putting economies in jeopardy. Numerous small and medium sized companies, both in organized and un-organized sectors, had to shut shop because of the looming uncertainties of the times. According to International Labour Organisation (ILO), SMEs are the major job creators and recruiters. With many of them shutting down, it has meant that there is a serious job crunch in the market. This is going to directly impacted fresh graduates who do have a degree but no experience to secure a job.
What Students Can Do Overcome These Challenging Times
There is no doubt that students studying or with a degree in professional course have been left in a lurch because of these prevailing conditions. For students with a financial background, especially those studying or having completed financial planning, must be prepared to fight a tough battle to secure their dream jobs. There is no use sugar-coating the reality for the young graduates – the journey ahead is tough. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Unlike the 2008 recession, this time all job opportunities haven’t closed. There are many sectors that are recruiting fresher even during the pandemic. The industries related to travel, tourism, hospitality, leisure and entertainment have suffered the greatest loss. Financial students can, for the time being, stay away from these industries and focus their attention on sectors related to banking, financial institutions, mutual funds, wealth management, tax/audit consulting, stock market, insurance and so on.
While it is natural to stress and worry about the coming days, it is important that students keep their morale high. Surfing too many news articles (most painting a grim picture) isn’t going to help. Though we are not suggesting you to stop following news, do not become obsessed to the point where you worry too much. Among the many things this pandemic has taught us, one has been to not lose hope. Mental illness in the form of depression, stress and anxiety have all been fallouts of the pandemic. Young minds have been most harshly been affected by stress because of the prevailing conditions. Constantly worrying about the uncertain future, helplessly looking for jobs and finding few windows of opportunities is adding to their worries.
It is important to overcome stress and look at the brighter side. Due to the persistent lockdowns and regulations, you now have the time to better yourself – to make yourself job worthy in every aspect. Use this time to prepare yourself for upcoming job interviews. Understand how the financial institutions work and how you can fit yourself in a lucrative position.
Ways to Become Job Ready in Times of Pandemic
- Enhance Your Skills – A degree in financial planning means that you have taken the right step towards a fast-moving career. But is that good enough, especially when the world is struggling with a pandemic that has affected nearly 28 million people (and still counting)? The competition is going to get tougher in the coming days which means that you will have to fight harder for a job. Your degree in financial planning, though highly specialised, may not be enough. It is true that through the period of your education in financial planning you may have learnt a great deal and have had the opportunity to interact with industry experts, but you will need to put more on the table if you want a better job tomorrow.
You are likely to also have a professional CFPCM certification (which is offered along with most financial planning courses) but you must also ensure that you know enough about general ledger management, quantitative data analysis, financial management, data processing, cost analysis, cash flow management etc. If you don’t know any or even one of these, use this time at home to brush up your skills. Enrol in online courses, participate in webinars and attend online talk shows to expand your knowledge and vision.
In a post-COVID world, employers are likely to look for youth who have been pro-active during 2020, even while sitting at home. Just because you have been mandated to be home doesn’t mean you cannot learn, at least not anymore. You may have finished your graduation or post-graduation but there is no end to learning. Learn and enhance your skills.
- Search for Online Internship– A professional degree in financial planning and financial analysis will take you a long way. But is a degree enough? Most certainly not. We have already spoken about the need to enhance your skills. While you do that, while you enrol in online courses and participate in webinars, you must also look for internships. Even if they are small gigs for a few weeks or months, don’t reject them. Internships will open your avenues, expose you to a professional work environment and also help you climb the rope of success. If you have already done summer/winter internships before, you will already know how beneficial they can be. But if you haven’t experienced it yet, now is a good time. Many companies, especially small finance-related firms may offer online internships for fresh graduates. Look up for such opportunities. Just because you are sitting at home doesn’t mean you cannot work.
- Prepare an Attention-Grabbing CV– How do you reach recruiters? How do you convince them (without meeting them) that you are good at your job? Answers to these questions lie in a nicely done CV or curriculum vitae. Most first-time job seekers do not realise that a CV is a marketing tool that can turn your employment opportunities around. Not only must the CV list your academic qualifications and job experience but also explain why you are perfect for the job. Your CV must highlight your qualities (which shouldn’t be generic and run-of-the-mill) and must also include a personal summary.
Oftentimes you can get confused between a CV and a resume. Know and understand the difference. A resume is a one-page summary of your skills, qualification and experience. The idea behind a resume is to allow a recruiter to glance at the piece of paper and determine your value. A CV, on the other hand, is longer and detailed. Ideally, you should have both as you don’t know which may come to use when.
- Grow Your Network – In today’s competitive job market, an average youth must have more than skills and academic qualification. You must know the right people to even get a job recommendation. In a post-COVID world this is going to assume even bigger importance. Once the pandemic reaches its far end and businesses start re-opening, you will find numerous job openings. But remember you will not be the only one looking for a job. The pandemic has rendered many jobless. They will be vying for the opportunities you had pinned your hopes on. The competition is going to get tougher. Use this time to know the right people within your industry. The best platform to expand your network is undoubtedly LinkedIn, though you could also explore other platforms. You will find numerous top-level financial executives posting, commenting, initiating dialogue and more. Participate and learn from these interactions.
- Understand the Industry – You may have learnt spreadsheet, accounting and many other things abut finance while studying. However you have to acknowledge the demands of the changed times. 2020 changed so much around us that we don’t know what the ‘new normal’ will be like. This means that you will have to continuously expand your horizons to fit in. But how do you do that if you don’t know the dynamics of the industry? That’s why we suggest you to understand the finance industry before becoming a part of it. Read books on corporate culture, follow blogs or vlogs of established people, try to understand what works and will work in the future. Every industry is bringing in new policies to adapt to the changing times – from social distancing norms to work-from-home culture – everything is changing. Understand the change.
- Work on Your Communication Skills – One of the least acknowledged skills for someone in the financial sector is communication skills. Most times financial experts must also possess good communication skills so as to explain jargons to a common man in simple words. Unfortunately not many realise the power of it. If until now you have neglected your interpersonal and communicative skills, don’t do that any longer. There are numerous courses available online on improving communication skills. Enrol and learn. You can also do it yourself by widening your horizons by reading lots of books and by practicing public speaking. Your communication skills will also determine how well or bad your interview goes. Work on your communication skills today.
- Learn to Work Remotely – Among the many changes that happened in 2020, one is the culture of work-from-home. Until the pandemic, work-from-home was a flexible option offered by corporates to help their employees balance work and life. Today it has become a necessity. Tomorrow it is likely to become a norm. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 25-30% workforce will continue to work from home multiple days a week. Are you prepared to adapt to this change? Probably not, considering the fact that until now you have attended college, met your friends at cafes, watched movies in theatres and basically done most things outside of your homes. But the new work culture will demand you to sit at home, work from home which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Working from home will mean you must have the necessary gadgets and equipment in place. A laptop, mouse, keyword, a dedicated workplace is a must. You must also be able to work without distractions from family. So, before you apply for any job make sure you have these things in place.
In it’s early days, Covid-19 had brought the world to a standstill. Few months later, economies are slowly opening, businesses are re-starting and the world is still figuring out what the new normal will be like. As businesses and governments do their part in restoring normalcy (albeit a new kind), you must also play your part. As a finance student, it is your duty to be a future leader and help the world get back to its old days. If you want to do so successfully, you have to adapt, adopt, learn and grow. Dos not waste your time sitting at home. Do not lose hope. These are not going to help you further your career. There is no doubt that these are challenging times, but when has mankind not fought back and risen above all odds? If our ancestors have done it innumerable times, so can you.
You have the time right now, so utilize it in the best way possible. Do not while away your time right now only to regret later.