Recent graduates from colleges and universities face challenges in landing a job in their field of study, 25% end up working in low-skilled jobs. This situation has been worsened by the COVID-19 crisis. This article is to invoke action and self leadership to get ready for the intended employment and future growth. There are 3 key actions that can change the course for recent graduates and help them achieve their goals.
The world is changing at a rapid pace, especially with the disruption and academic pause brought about by COVID-19. The future holds a high level of ambiguity instead of promise for students. Though universities start virtual classes in a matter of days, students still face uncertainty due to postponed semesters. Many have come home from universities abroad or from another province in Canada. There is no clear directive yet on how exams will be conducted, how will the practicums and co-op take place. This has a huge effect on the timeline and the learning outcome for each and every student out of 68,000 expected to graduate per year. (Ontario Universities data).
The biggest challenges faced by college/university students are related to delays in school courses and timelines, leading to uncertainty about future employment opportunities.
Youth Unemployment Rate in Canada increased to a record high of 27.20% in April from 16.80% in March of 2020. (TRADINGECONOMIS.COM).
Ontario is known to be one of the toughest provinces in Canada for young people who are looking for work, where unemployment rates are higher than the national average.
25% of youth are underemployed – they have a degree but are working in a low-skilled job. Rural youth find themselves in an even tougher situation, as they do not have tools, training or access to opportunities to help them reach their full potential, after finishing school.
During my mentoring opportunities with university students, I realized that a majority face some common issues after their graduation, COVID-19 or not.
Students graduate with a heightened sense of accomplishment. Rightly so, they have earned a degree, but some get into a cycle of low self-esteem and decreased self-assurance soon after the job search fails to produce results. Their false sense of being invincible wears out and their future pathway becomes very muddy and treacherous. They feel a lack of validation when faced with the decision for which direction to take.
After graduation they have lost contact with the career counselor and do not have a coach/mentor who can help them evaluate potential or offer sound perspective for the many options that are available. Overall, the graduates have a well-earned degree but they lack the job readiness. They lack a structure where they can access tools, training, coaching and networking opportunities with experienced professionals who can help them process essential information and strengthen their decision-making capabilities to induce progress. The enthusiastic and the laid – back ones, all face the same question right after graduation:
A few actions that worked with my mentees:
Start with influencing your own thoughts, feelings and actions to identify your Goals and Ends. Then define the finish line if you have not already done so during school.
In Cambodian folklore there is a story of a duck that set out on a journey. She came to a fork on the road and couldn’t decide which way to go. So she decided to ask the rabbit who was sitting nearby. “Hello rabbit which road should I take, the one on the left or the right?” The rabbit said, “Where are you going dear duck”. She answered, “I don’t know”. The rabbit thought for a moment and said, “If you don’t know where you are going, it doesn’t matter which road you take.”
So my gracious reader, if you don’t know your Goals and Ends, it is very hard to decide which path to take, and no one can help you to make that choice either. Once you know your Goals and Ends, your confidence and your hunger for your finish line will take you there – one step at a time. Muster up all your confidence. Start each day with a specific purpose. Manage your own expectations and wear blinders for distractions. Only you yourself are your leader and only you can take yourself to your finish line.
That is the next victory and you must prepare to run the victory lap. Running in the victory lap means that you have done all the practice and endurance training. You have not only trained for the race but have learned other important skills as well. You have learned to time and pace yourself, you know how to position your arms, torso and head in the way that is conducive to running well and you have learned to expend your energy so that you can sprint when needed. These key skills take you above your competition.
Employers look beyond your education history and academic qualifications. They sift through thousands of applications looking for well-honed life skills crucial for the job and the company. Learning and practicing key life skills that employers look for will lead you to a job in your related field of study. Forgetting school-day habits and cultivating new workday habits befitting the fast evolving modern workplace will take you above your competition.
Yes, concentrate on your Ends even if you fail at first. I played netball in school and I remember concentration was the only way for me to defend the other team from scoring a goal and getting the possession of the ball for my team. It was all about concentration, focus, quick action and pivoting my tactics. That’s what it took to win. My coach would always say, “Never ever lose sight of the ball, whether it’s at the other end of the court or close to where you are”. I learned to keep my eyes on the ball way out in the court and learned to predict when it would arrive near my goal circle. If I lost sight of it or waited for it to be close to the goal circle, it was too late. I would fail at getting the ball in my hands. The same principle applies to life after school.
The question “Where Do I Go From Here” is the ball that has to be kept in sight when you are still in school, way before it’s in the goal circle of employment. Now if for some reason you did lose sight of your ball, be ready to pivot. Concentrate on your Ends and Goals and quickly adopt a replacement strategy.
The trio of concentration, new life skills and self-leadership will take you where you want to land for work.