Covid-19 Will Have a Scarring Effect on Graduates
Every generation will suffer at least one crisis. As individuals we will likely suffer setbacks, personal traumas, deaths in the family, and periods of unemployment that will leave us falling back on support networks or relying on government assistance.
This is unfortunately a normal part of life, but the timing of these events can matter a great deal when it comes to the impact on our career and the speed at which we can recover. A sequence of setbacks that are clumped together can severely test our resilience and make it harder to get back on top of our lives.
The past tells us that facing unemployment at the start of your career is worse than being laid off mid-career or towards the end of your working life. Those who are unlucky enough to be made jobless or who struggle to find work after university will generally end up earning less. Part of this comes down to a resulting lack of confidence, a change in habits, and the formation of beliefs about ones economic worth.
Economists refer to this as the ‘scarring effect’, and recent history bears it out. Based on the experience of those entering the workforce during the financial crisis of 2008–09, the current generation will face similar difficulties that could impact their long-term prospects.
The scarring of a generation
In recent years, graduates have enjoyed a benign job market where opportunities abound. The most common complaint from companies was the lack of talent, and often they were willing to pay a premium for candidates with the right training and education. This meant students could often pick not only where they wanted to work, but how, with companies prepared to be flexible when it came to working arrangements and perks.
Now, with the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the global economy, getting a job out of university seems like it can take a miracle. The appetite for companies to take on additional staff and invest in the training and development of graduates is far lower. In this environment, simply having a job makes you lucky, let alone one that offers more holidays, free gym membership, and opportunities for further study.
In time of relative abundance, we hear the word ‘resilience’ a lot. Every generation is always prepared to offer the next some free advice when it comes to coping with life’s challenges. The difference this time around is that, unlike many millennials and gen-Xers who grew up with the Internet and found their way in the workforce with relative ease, the current generation of students will be the ones putting resilience into practice.
Building resilience means understanding what really matters in life
Society teaches us to value a steady progression in life that involves education, work, more education, work, and even more work. Rarely do we ever stop to sit back and wonder if this is sustainable or beneficial for health. The reality is that life is absolutely not a story of steady progression and advancement. Life involves any number of setbacks, the vast majority of which are outside of our control.
Sometimes we make plans and they fall apart. Maybe we were looking forward to travelling when we finished our studies. Maybe we had an internship or a graduate role lined up and the company scrapped its intake for 2020 (very likely). This is an incredibly tough thing to face when we are constantly fed this narrative of perpetual forward motion. Overcoming these disappointments means understanding that life usually doesn’t work that way. Disabusing ourselves of this idea is the first step to leading a fulfilling life and career.
We may end up earning less because of Covid-19. Or maybe some lucky break will come our way and we’ll be able to coast through the rest of our life. Either way, we should be looking for the things that really make us happy, not chasing a high-end career because we think that’s what life is supposed to be about. We can always learn and enrich ourselves, even with an average salary. We can always try to make the world a better place. We can lead a deeply fulfilling life with our family and friends.
This is what the system was supposed to be for: allowing us to enjoy the present. Instead, it has led us to focus more on what our future is supposed to look like, which is causing untold misery and anxiety for millions if not billions of people. You don’t have to buy into it. Focus on what really matters to you and you will gain the resilience you need to face this challenge and any others that come your way.