With the class of 2020 striding into one of the worst recessions of all time, the agitation about unemployment only seems to be increasing. As a final year student of North South University (NSU), I relate to their anxieties regarding internship and job opportunities, the changes a post COVID-19 world will bring to the recruitment process and the resumption of interviews and standardised tests for graduates, among other things. After the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the country back in March, educational institutions were shut, and soon, the offline classes were shifted online. I decided to speak to a few of my classmates and teachers from NSU, alongside HR professionals, about their predictions regarding the future, and the changes we should prepare for.
Graduation is a bittersweet experience for every student, but 2020 was unexpected, as many had to bid goodbyes to their classmates and mentors, sitting behind a virtual screen, or with no event at all. Anisha Hassan, a recent BBA graduate, who majored in Finance and Economics, encapsulated what most graduates are feeling at the moment. "The job market is not favourable at all," she began, "many of my friends got into different companies, but after the pandemic hit, they were denied their jobs. On the other hand, several companies stopped recruiting altogether and since many lost their jobs, they are competing for the same positions as fresh graduates, which makes things even harder."
As global surveys show depletion in the rate of graduate recruits, people must really stand out to land the job several candidates are hoping for. Akib Azmine Amer, the Recruitment Lead of a renowned multinational company, offered some insights in this regard. "It's all about being patient and working on self-development," he said. "There are new skill requirements in many employment sectors worldwide. Situations are uncertain, and each organisation has different plans. However, employers would still want the same caliber of candidates. There aren't five or six skills that will guarantee you a job – what matters is whether you have the specific skills that are required for the job that you applied for."
Educators are also concerned about the future of their students, especially the to-be graduates, who are not being able to find internship opportunities and sticking to their project-based equivalents as alternatives. Hasan A Mamun, Senior Lecturer of the Department of Accounting & Finance at NSU, shared his insights on the subject. "Internship opportunities allow students to polish their skills and prepare for their careers," he said. "If more and more organisations discontinue their internship programmes, students would have to go directly from academia to industry. Consequently, they will be deprived of the opportunity to enhance their soft and technical skills." However, there is a bright side to these troubling times. "Students should look for ways to upskill themselves and develop their passion for particular fields," he added. "Moreover, I think we will have more and more students delay their entries into professional careers, by pursuing further education. I foresee a lot more students pursuing graduate education, at home or abroad, than we would see under normal circumstances."
With this time off, many students are picking up new skills via online courses and enrollments in virtual part-time and internship programmes. "Currently, many virtual internships are available in the fields of IT, sales, journalism, marketing and software development among others. Even though these internships do not permit cross-functional relationship building, they are enabling us to work for our dream companies without relocating and allowing us to save time and money, while enhancing our expertise and resumes," shared K M Rakibul Hassan, a to-be graduate, studying Marketing and Finance. "Given my field of major studies, I decided to learn about data analytics, market research, marketing analytics and branding, among other subjects, in the past five months."
Senior Lecturer of Department of Marketing and International Business at NSU, Ishrat Jahan Synthia, also shared her take. "Nothing has stopped completely, only the mediums have changed," she said. "Students are not only doing online classes, they are also engaging in voluntary and social activities and different online-based business or debate competitions. They are taking courses on platforms such as Udemy and Coursera, and discovering new horizons of learning. The pandemic is allowing them to discover their passions and what they really want to do."
Students are also wondering what is trending in the employment market. To that end, Tasmia Tasbih Nova, HR Business Partner- Supply Chain & Agile Transformation Lead at Unilever Bangladesh, offered some recommendations. "Young graduates should focus on future-proofing themselves, with different online courses and certifications, as 'gig economy' will continue to gain more popularity in the new normal. Students can also explore freelancing and other flexible opportunities to gain professional experiences," she said.
As we wait for things to get back on track, we need to utilise the resources at hand to learn new things and invest time in looking after our mental well-being.