Master’s student Jack Wynn is feeling uncertain about what the future will hold for employment prospects
I’ve now been away from the classroom for a few weeks. In isolation, I have very little motivation to work on my end of semester assignments with remote direction, refreshing my university inbox for updates on upcoming exams, and searching job boards for a miraculous influx of new opportunities.
I’m close to finishing my MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University. Throughout the year, I’ve been looking forward to this time where the job search commences; I was prepared to apply for exciting journalism and content creation roles and to showcase the vast skill set acquired during my master’s training.
The most extreme circumstances, however, have made this practically impossible for most students expected to finish their degrees this summer.
It’s difficult to think that not long ago we were all tuned into the news about a slow-spreading virus called Covid-19. Then its sudden and aggressive acceleration within a few weeks changed society as we know it.
Because of this, all employment possibilities are non-existent. Freelance projects I was hired to undertake have fallen through. Other people I know have lost part-time jobs they relied on to help pay their bills.
Student finance is generous, and I’m grateful that such a system exists, but it’s not practical to expect students to rely solely on these payments. This has added an immense amount of strain to what I should prioritise and, ultimately, where I will end up.
I make an effort to analyse the online job boards every day, hoping for new opportunities, as well as mail-shotting my CV to anyone that will take notice. Strict social distancing restrictions and closures of pubs, bars and restaurants around the UK mean even jobs in retail and hospitality are a thing of the past.
I can’t help but compare this to when I was job searching after my undergraduate degree five years ago. It was still difficult to get your foot in the door; the competition to secure junior journalism positions has always been challenging because of their rarity. But I did manage to work for a while.
There’s a stark contrast in the number of opportunities there were five years ago compared with now. After my BA degree, I found invaluable advice within industry publications and online about how to secure your first job after your studies. Now, soon-to-be graduates are left on the shelf as the economy undergoes a lengthy process of recovery.
I’d never really thought too much about it before, but the saying is true: hindsight is a wonderful thing. I look back to the time when I was filling in the application for my course, excited for change and ready to progress with my dream career path. But as I approach the end, it feels as though I’m further away than ever to getting my foot in the door.
These past few weeks at home have led me to believe that I was far better off working in a full-time customer service job I didn’t particularly enjoy with little opportunity to branch out.
I’ve been in touch with Student Finance Wales and they confirmed payments will go ahead as planned for all students. I am, however, still waiting for a response about the possibility for students to receive extra funding once teaching finishes.
Even a drop in tuition fees would be a step in the right direction. But now I live in hope, for myself and others in a similar situation, that we can push through these extreme barriers with the right support and continue to persevere in an adverse employment climate.
Originally published for Times Higher Education (THE) here.