Final Year University Student to Professional Life During a Pandemic

By Naomi McAleer, Junior Consultant

Before writing this, I was tempted to follow the common narrative of “overcoming challenges in unprecedented times” and then throw in the classic line of “navigating uncharted waters”. But, for the sake of originality and also to sprinkle some positivity on what has been far from an ideal start to 2020, I’m going to come at this from another angle.

Although I’m not denying that times have been tough, I think it’s important to reflect on what I have learned over the past couple of months, and what I plan to take away from my experience.  

I received an email from the Vice Chancellor of my university at the beginning of March informing the entire cohort of students that, due to the Coronavirus outbreak, its facilities would be closing and any further classes would be cancelled for the remainder of the academic year.

My final year of university being cut short wasn’t surprising to me – the Coronavirus-themed news stories were hard to miss. Initially I was like “Why me!”, not because I was about to miss the last few classes of university, but because I just found out that Covid-19 was about to rob me of my cap and gown photo-op scheduled for July, with the chance of using #Classof2020 on my multiple planned Instagram posts squandered in the process.

During the thick of lockdown, trying to finish my dissertation and complete group assignments via Facebook Messenger and FaceTime wasn’t easy and any schedule or routine I originally had at university went out the window. An upside? Further realising the power of positive thinking and the benefits of good old-fashioned teamwork. I don’t think I could have coped so well during the last couple of months of university without the perseverance and unwavering willingness of my friends and I to support each other.

Prior to the pandemic, I had already received an offer to join the team at Full Circle as a Junior Consultant once I had finished university. My 4th May start date had the potential to change as the Coronavirus situation developed. However, in mid-April, Simon (Managing Director), gave me the opportunity to commence my role remotely. I was not sure how starting a new job from home was going to work out, but it was actually entirely stress-free thanks to the support I had from the rest of the team.

Having already secured a graduate role before things took a turn for the worse, I can’t comment on what it is like trying to navigate the current job market that, let’s be honest, has seen better days. From talking to other students and my friends who would have graduated alongside me this year, things are really difficult and although there are still jobs out there, competition is even steeper. A silver-lining? Although it is unlikely anyone would trade their job for more spare time to listen to podcasts and register for free online courses, you really can’t knock them and I know that was my backup plan if things didn’t work out for me job-wise this year.

It’s cheesy to say – but everything is temporary, and at times like this it is important to make the best of a far from ideal situation. Before starting my new job, I spent my spare time resting and doing things I usually wouldn’t have had time to do – like read a book that wasn’t for the purposes of uni. The pandemic has given me the opportunity to spend quality time with my family as well, something which is rare nowadays.

So, I am 8 weeks into my new role, and I feel really settled despite how strange the past couple of months have been. Although the Coronavirus has taken so much from people, it has likely made us all a lot more resilient, and most importantly, more appreciative of everything we do have – rather than the things we don’t. Not only do I have a job I love, I have a plastic graduation cap that my friends bought for me on Amazon. Not quite the same, but I’ll take it.

Leave a Reply