Here’s what class of 2020 graduates can do to maximise their chances of landing a job during this pandemic

COVID-19 has impacted economies across the globe, with some businesses seeing their revenue turn to zero overnight. With such severe contractions in cash flow, 2020 business plans are being revised, capital and operating expenses are being slashed, and with it, recruitment needs are being reviewed. The uncertainty caused by COVID-19 has affected one group in particular, 2020 graduates. 

In an article published in The Guardian, it says, “Students are starting to realise they will be graduating into a global recession. According to the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), many firms have scaled down their recruitment of entry-level staff and more than a quarter of businesses are reducing the number of graduates they hire this year.” Prospects, the experts in graduate careers, have a more positive outlook on their website, “Businesses value skilled young people more than ever. This year some of the largest employers are offering even more graduate jobs, apprenticeships and school leaver programmes than last year. Recruitment will not stop.” Whichever opinion you choose to believe, it’s clear that prospective graduates are facing more uncertainty than we did.

To say I understand what this group is going through would be a lie. I don’t. However, I did graduate in 2014 at the beginning of the oil and gas downturn and believe I have insights that may help those that need it at this uncertain time.

After completing an internship with Chevron in 2013, I was offered a fulltime role within the company on the condition that I graduated the following year. I was delighted with this offer, as it provided me with certainty of employment, enabling me to focus all my efforts on attaining the best grades possible. As I completed my final year, I was oblivious changes being made by Chevron that would have a significant impact on my ‘guaranteed’ job. Business leaders at Chevron were putting in place plans to reorganise the business unit, cutting over 200 positions. Upon graduating in May 2014, I was informed by Chevron that my start date would be pushed back one year whilst the reorganisation was implemented. I was devasted. What would I do for the next year? Would I fall behind my peers in terms of career progression? Would there even be a job for me in a year? How would I find employment in June when most applications are closed out by the end of Q1?

Focus on the opportunities.

After a brief period of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to look past the negatives, and instead focus on the opportunities the situation presented. During conversations with professionals throughout my internships, many recommended getting experience with a service company before starting a career with an operator. The justification being that understanding how a service company operates, the constraints they’re subject to, and their priorities allows you to make better decisions when working on the other side of the working relationship. I subsequently looked at the situation as an opportunity to gain these insights by working for a service company during this ‘lost year’. After applying for work at a number of service companies, I was offered, and accepted a position in Dril-Quip. The experience I gained has  been invaluable, and I’m confident I wouldn’t have achieved what I have without that experience. Operators typically have wider operating margins than service companies, and that’s usually reflected in decision making, where cost can be an afterthought. After working at Dril-Quip, I came into Chevron with an ‘every penny matters’ mindset. When you have this mindset, you challenge existing practices and you seek process improvements that increase productivity. My daily exposure to design and manufacture gave me an understanding of all the facets that make up lead times. Without first-hand experience, I simply couldn’t have acquired this knowledge.

Are there other companies in the supply chain that you could apply to? Are there advantages to be gained from working in one area of the supply chain and then moving to another later in your career? 

It’s not how you start your career; it’s how you finish it.

Tony Robbins, a famous life and business strategist, has said that “we overestimate what we can achieve in a year, and underestimate what we can achieve in a decade”. I likely speak for other young professionals when I say that we have a tendency to be impatient and expect rapid career progression. Ambition and a willingness to take on more is important and is the engine that will drive your career on an upwards trajectory, but patience is equally important. I’ve worked in a couple of roles in my career that I’ve disliked. They weren’t on my career plan, and instead I was assigned to them to meet business needs. Even if I’ve disliked these roles, I’ve tried to take the longer-term perspective, understanding that it’s not how you start your career, it’s how you finish it. Rather than spending time feeling sorry for yourself, I find that if you look for the positives, you’ll find them. I spent two years working as a Verification Coordinator, a role that added very little to my technical knowledge but increased my ability to communicate and coordinate work. These are skills that I applied last year in my role as a Project Engineer. If you perform in a role that you don’t enjoy, you’ll be recognised and moved onto a new role with increased responsibility. 

It could be that the industry or companies that you wanted to work for are not hiring, why not consider another industry? Take on a role that you weren’t considering until such times that recruitment ticks up at the companies or industries that you were targeting. Most skills can be easily transferred across industries, and when you do get the role you want, you’ll be much better prepared to succeed than had you went straight into it from university. I’d argue that communication and organisational skills underpin any successful career, and these can be attained in any industry. 

Leverage your network.

An article by Business Insider states, “Some experts say that 70% of people ended up in their current position thanks to networking. Others say it’s more like 80% or even 85%.” There’s no question that you’re more likely to get a job in a company if you already know somebody within the company. I’m not ashamed to say that it was through my network that I landed an interview at Dril-Quip, and subsequently got the job. It was also through my network that I got an internship with Proserv in Stavanger. People hire people. Those doing the hiring want certainty that they’re hiring good people. Why take a risk when you’ve got a safe bet? Who could you reach out to that may know of an opportunity? Explain your situation and kindly ask if there are any available positions. What’s the worst that happens? They say there is none. People are often worried about what the other person thinks about them for asking. Don’t be. Most professionals are happy to help others succeed. We’ve been graduates and we understand your position. 

I hope this advice has helped in some way. If you’ve got more specific questions, feel free to comment below, and I’ll get back to you. 

To more experienced professionals, please share some advice for prospective graduates in the comments section. 

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