Job hunting as a graduate during a pandemic

As of this week, 228,858 people will receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). Niamh Talbot explains how this has impacted job prospects for graduates.

Due to Covid-19, many college graduates are struggling to find work. Photo from Pixabay

Job hunting as a recent graduate always has its challenges but now even more so than ever. Youth unemployment now stands at 45% in Ireland, according to the latest CSO figures.

Last summer, around 60,000 final year college students went out into the workforce with hopes of finding their dream job. However, only 16% of graduates looking for their first job since March have been successful, with the new cohort of graduates from the summer set to hit ‘job hunt fatigue’ by Christmas, according to staffing business Walters People Ireland, who surveyed 1,500 Irish graduates.

The graduating class of 2020 have faced even tougher competition than previous years, with over one million people currently out of work and a huge drop in the number of roles available.

The City spoke to a recent journalism graduate, Ellen Kavanagh, who feels it’s harder than ever to find a job in the field you’ve studied in.

“Job-hunting in the midst of the pandemic is utterly bleak. There are so few positions available right now, and even less that I’m qualified for or have a genuine interest in,” she said. 

Kavanagh also spoke about her difficulties with the current overcrowded job market, as someone with not much experience.

She said, “Within an hour of receiving a job alert on Linkedin, there are already 200 applicants. Competition is fierce and it really demotivates you. I’ve heard stories of people in recent months being let go of positions they’ve had for years that are now back on the job market. I’m competing with people with years of experience, knowledge, connections and industry practice. Most companies aren’t interested in your degree if you have no professional experience to accompany it.”

Kavanagh said the stress of job hunting has taken a huge toll on her mental health and that she feels as if she’s out of options.

“I’ve been told by many to take a job in a supermarket until the worst of the pandemic blows over. I have absolutely no qualms about working in retail, but it feels really depressing having studied for years to earn an honours degree only to apply for a job that doesn’t even slightly relate,” she explained.

“The worst part is that there’s no real escape. I can’t just emigrate and try my chances in another country. It’s really heartbreaking, to be honest. I know everyone is experiencing their own issues right now, but I really feel like recent graduates have drawn the short end of the stick. All I can do is continue to apply but it’s really hard not to feel hopeless right now.”

“All I can do is continue to apply but it’s really hard not to feel hopeless right now.”

Orla Moran, who is General Manager at IrishJobs.ie, said they have seen a 40% drop in the number of postings on the site since Covid-19 hit. Moran advises that young people should make the most of the free time they have available so they’re ready once they secure an interview.

“When you do get a job interview, future employers will be asking how you spent your time during the Covid-19 pandemic. They will want to hear that you spent the time volunteering or working on a project in your area of expertise, so I would suggest you try not to have big gaps on your CV for this period, even if you are out of work,” she said.

Holly Perry, a student recruitment associate, at one of the Big Four accounting firms, has been working hard to make things easier for recent graduates and gave similar advice.

She said, “Many companies are still recruiting, business is booming in some areas and we are continuously on the lookout for good talent. My advice for any grads searching for open positions is to keep positive and continue to upskill during your job hunt. This is so important right now with so much competition. When applying for a role make sure you tailor your CV and cover letter to the job spec and list out what skills you have to offer for that position.”

With the country moving to Level 5 restrictions, the unemployment rate is due to keep on rising. Does the government need to do more for our country’s graduates?

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