Faced with a lack of job opportunities these students and grads are creating their own
Professional blogging, sustainable fashion and fitness initiatives
It is no secret that recent graduates and current last-year students face a grim job market. It is not news either that with remote teaching, inexistent campus life and extracurriculars not running, the things that made going to university a formative experience are reduced to sleepwalking between Zoom and Teams calls. Opportunities have dried up, but some students and recent grads are creating their own.
The point of societies and sports clubs at university is to meet people and have a good time while developing skills and expanding CVs. Beyond friendships and Freshers’ Fair freebies, extracurriculars are where students amass experience and figure out what they like and what they don’t. Many find their future careers in debate society or student media rather than lecture halls. These unpaid experiences within a structured environment usually lead to exposure, a network and potentially paid work upon graduating.
The virtual equivalent of societies nowadays is not as enticing. Remotely, things don’t happen organically anymore. The current context isn’t optimal, but it is providing a chance for people to make the most of it, build their platforms and develop projects to showcase to employers or even become full-time gigs down the line.
Jamie revived his music blog Oh! Blogger! last September, “keen to write a lot more eclectically and with a more diverse range of music.” Beginning his final year at the University of Cardiff, he revamped the blog’s content, redesigned the layout and started actively reaching out to music publications and fans. And it paid off – he hit 1200+ views in December. He is using the blog as a vector to build relationships with PR companies, artists and managers and secure interviews with some of his favourite bands.
“Balancing this alongside a dissertation and other university responsibilities is difficult, but once you get into the groove of forcing yourself to be more productive, it is manageable and extremely rewarding,” he says.
The blog’s revival came from “an awareness of me not wanting to go into working in a job related to my degree (Politics and Sociology), but also because of the general lack of job opportunities anyway.” He plans to freelance, which “comes from a desire to maintain an individualism and creative freedom in what I do.”
Social media has been instrumental for students and grads to set up their own platforms and businesses.
Anoushka launched her upcycled vintage denim brand Thread Wear during the first lockdown. As a University of Nottingham student, customising vintage jeans was always her “little passion project.” But it turned into something more upon graduating when the internship she was about to start was delayed.
“I thought, I’m not just going to sit here and do nothing and be sad” and so created an Instagram page. “It’s crazy to think that it’s all been started on social media, I’ve had such a good reception.”
In between lockdowns, she has been able to organise in-person try-on sessions. Otherwise, she has made it work, virtually communicating with customers on their dream style. “I literally did photoshoots with my mom in the garden. I couldn’t see any friends,” she says.
As business students at Loughborough University, Eme and Heather also love the affordable and sustainable alternative that second-hand clothes offer. In late 2019, they set up a Depop shop for tailored vintage clothes called Hemmed Clothing and promoted it on social media.
When Covid hit, they adapted their approach: “We launched our upcycling and reworking service during lockdown, which is where people can send us their old clothes, they might want to change or crop a little bit. As like a solution to reducing people spending more money on clothes that they don’t need or just trying to spruce up their wardrobe and reduce the waste of throwing clothes away that they don’t want anymore.”
Having a side gig business “accidentally became a really great solution to not being able to get work experience,” especially through applying skills from their degree and learning things that aren’t taught at uni. Plus, with part-time work dried up over the summer, “we were able to give ourselves jobs, which was really amazing.” Eme says they have “that reassurance that we’re gonna be able to have something to do after graduating.”
Caitlin is setting up a fitness coaching business while undertaking her personal trainer qualification. After graduating from the University of Exeter in September, she decided it wasn’t the right time to do her masters in nutrition straight away.
“I didn’t want to study online, and I was also working in a coffee shop which was shut, so I didn’t have a big income to support me. So I deferred that and started the PT course a bit earlier than planned instead.”
“Obviously, the fact that gyms are closed is a huge challenge because it makes it harder for me to gain first-hand experience with clients which is really important to me before going entirely online. But the fitness industry has definitely made huge changes in the last year, and there are certainly more people working online, so I know it’s obtainable at some point. But with that means it’s become a hugely saturated industry too.”
The younger generation has paid the price of Covid in lack of opportunities. One of the most worthwhile things to do at the moment is to start thinking of the future and prove our resilience.
The “What did you do during the pandemic?” question is bound to come up at job interviews in the post-coronavirus world, so might as well have something interesting to reply.
“If anyone is thinking of starting a small business,” said Anoushka, “chances are people in the same generation as you are going to like it. So just go for it!”