Mapping out your career ambitions for 2021 and beyond

Cleanlight Kabutey DOKU

Covid-19 presents a unique problem, and many graduates are finding ways of going around this while maintaining their career ambitions. The uniqueness of 2021 is because the pandemic has caused a disruption in many careers, forcing people to rethink their options.  Again, the unemployment situation is worsening; nearly a third of firms are cutting their graduate recruitment.

With the unemployment situation unclear, what are the options for those finishing studies during the current crisis? Some graduates have been searching for jobs or waiting to hear back from employers about their application, while others may have been accepted for internships, seasonal jobs or full-time jobs after graduation and are not sure whether these confirmed opportunities are at risk, or whether potential opportunities may be cancelled by employers.

So, what do graduates need to do to keep their career ambitions on course for 2021 and beyond?

Be calm. Continue to do the right thing

The first thing graduates need to do to sustain their career ambitions for 2021 and beyond, irrespective of COVID-19, is to remain calm and continue to do the right things. This is not the time to panic. During this difficult time of unusual circumstances, it is important to stay focused. There is no need to panic. Crises like COVID-19 present numerous opportunities.

We can attest to the fact that many new businesses are springing up; people are venturing into new areas; businesses that we initially were not aware of are now visible; and t platforms like zoom were virtually unknown, but COVID-19 has brought them to the limelight. Now it is a tool that many people use around the world. Their popularity and usage of their platforms have also shot up significantly. That should tell us that there are still opportunities in these times and so you must be calm.

Study the market to know where to position yourself to take advantage of these opportunities. Instead of panicking, reflect on your skills, your experiences, and the knowledge you’ve acquired and any additional work experience, internships and extracurricular activities that you’ve gained during your career.

This is the time to re-examine your skills, work experience, the voluntary work you’ve done while in school and see how you can make use of these skills and experiences. The more you plan, research, and build your experience and skills, the better position you will be to apply for opportunities when they arise.

Seek short term work

Seek short term work or work outside your area of expertise. These jobs may not be the type of work you may have anticipated but having an income can help you navigate these uncertainties after graduation with more confidence. Short-term work may at least help you keep yourself afloat; earn an income so that you can be energized to pursue the opportunities that will come by in future.

Consider areas like food delivery services that usually witness increase in patronage during crises and pandemic. During such pandemics, there are several government restrictions that are imposed on citizens, but you realize that several essential services exist within the medical services, delivery, and supply services and so many others are still running. So, if you want short term work outside your area of expertise, it is important that you consider these areas so that you can earn an income.

The good thing about engaging in these types of work is that it helps you improve your CV as you gain experience, which boosts your career in the long run. Alternatively, there may be opportunities to develop skills you can leverage later when applying for future job. Skills like complex problem solving, remote software use, etc can go a long way to position you well for the job market. Remember, do the little things that come your way.

Volunteer your skillset

The third thing you can consider is volunteering. A lot of people downplay the impact of volunteering activities in their career growth, but the fact is that they play a very important role in shaping your career. You can volunteer in schools. In Ghana, for example, schools have just reopened, and many private schools need teachers. Go to such places to volunteer your service.

Teach the children for a period; acquire teaching experience and this shows employers how versatile you are. Schools also need cooks, cleaners, part-time teachers, etc. You can also volunteer in food banks and in charities, orphanages, etc. While you do this, do not compromise on the safety protocols. You want to stay healthy to take advantage of the opportunities that will emerge post COVID-19.

Take up virtual learning

Virtual learning is the new way now. Most of the learning programs are being carried out virtually and it is important that you take advantage of them – an opportunity to acquire knowledge and opportunities that you will not be able to do physically.

There are tonnes of webinars that are being offered online, which offer varied degree of knowledge in diverse fields so it is important that whiles you wait for future opportunities in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, you take up virtual learning – particularly in fields that you may not be familiar with, but you may have interest in them somehow.

This is the opportunity to take up courses in these areas virtually. It is also an opportunity to acquire additional knowledge while familiarising yourself with virtual learning and conferencing tools. A year or two ago, nobody knew about Zoom, MS Teams, and most of the video conferencing and virtual learning tools that we have around now.

You can also learn foreign languages. There are websites like Rosetta Stones, Duolingo, fluence where you can learn all sort of foreign languages from Spanish to Italian, to French, to German and all these languages that we tend to ignore In Ghana. In Ghana, we mostly focus our attention on English; but it is important that you learn foreign languages and what better time to learn one than this period of uncertainty.

For instance, Ghana is surrounded by French-speaking neighbouring countries. There are also French companies in Ghana. Aside these, most of the UN agencies in Ghana require basic knowledge of the French language as an advantage for some roles. Having a working knowledge of French will be a good advantage for you as a job seeker.

The other thing you need to do as part of your virtual learning is to take short professional development learning programs. There are several of them online. Subscribe to them for free. Others come with a token. All in all, it is important that you take up these virtual learning and professional development programs for your own good. It is also important that you take up online or virtual certification skills classes.

So, you want to develop skills in specific areas? This is the time for you to take up these skills including vocational and technical skills and craft. This is the opportunity to learn bead making, all forms of vocational and technical skills. You do really have to immerse yourself in them from 8:00am in the morning to 5:00pm, but just an hour of video tutorials a day is enough for you to be skilful in these vocational and technical craft in two months or three months.

You can also learn graphic designing because a lot of things are virtual. Learn how to do simple artworks to market a product and all these things can be self-thought virtually. In your attempt to learn these additional skills, it is important to be weary of unnecessary added debts. You don’t want to take up so many courses that you cannot pay for because like I already indicated, some of these courses need you to pay a token or subscribe or pay something small. So just take those you think you can afford so that you do not stress your finances during this period of uncertainty.

Prepare yourself for remote hiring

The fifth thing you need to do as a young graduate, someone looking for job, somebody who recently lost his job to keep your career ambitions on track is to prepare yourself for remote hiring and online networking alternatives. Most organisation have moved their hiring, interview and all that networking alternatives online. So, they do not engage people face to face again.

There is a plethora of video programs that they use to do these things, so it is critical for you to prepare yourself and be breast with how to carry yourself when you get such opportunity. It is important to be comfortable with remote hiring and online networking opportunity during this pandemic.

Virtual opportunities have become more popular now. Practice mock interviews, video interviews and phone interviews. I work with GIZ and some few months, ago most of their interviews were done virtually so I know people who got employed through virtual interview and many other organisations have also resorted to virtual interviews. So, rehearse them, acquaint yourself, familiarize yourself with some of these virtual platforms or how they are done so that you do not find yourself wanting when an opportunity presents itself during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is also important to know that remote interviews can have unexpected quirks. There may be challenges and issues that are not be present during these interviews. How do you position yourself in front of a camera? How do you talk during remote interviews? How do you keep a voice tempo so that they begin to grasp what you are putting across? It is important to always rehearse these virtual interviews and make yourself ready for future interviews.

Social cues that you need to know when you speak without interrupting someone during a video call maybe different from a face to face conversation. How do you interrupt? How do you come in when someone is talking during a video call?  Practice some of these things.  Familiarise yourself with some of these video conferencing tools.

You can also join any professional interest and industry group online and interact with similar professionals social account to expand your network or even improve your online profile. Many people are getting offers through these online interest groups. You may think they are not important, but there are so many professionals in various reputable firms on LinkedIn, for instance, who know the opportunities that exist in these fields even during this Covid-19 pandemic. Get to know them.

Let them know about your profile and they will gladly recommend opportunities you qualify for in the future. Another important thing you need to do is to remember to update your CV and your cover letters. You will be doing yourself a disservice if you fail to document the acquired skills and activities on your CV. Change the wording; use catchy words – words that will get the attention of recruiters. In no time, opportunities will come your way.

>>>The author is an Advisor at the Ghanaian-German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration (GGC). His areas of interest include Migration and Reintegration of return migrants, social protection, public policy and governance, and career guidance training.  The GGC is the go-to-hub in Ghana for all matters on migration, employment, and reintegration. It is an initiative commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations. At GGC, you can access support services such as individual counselling, referral advice, career coaching, reintegration support, among others. Send an email to the team at [email protected] or follow on facebook (Ghanaian German Centre) 

The opinion of the author as captured in this article does not represent the position of GGC, GIZ Ghana or BMZ.

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