Finding Work During a Pandemic: A Guide for Graduates: Part 1

23 Nov 2020
Finding work

Despite the effects of COVID-19 on the global economy and job market, there are still steps that graduates can follow to find employment

23 Nov 2020

Story: Ingrid van der Merwe

Everyone knows that the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted the global economy and the job market. In any economic downturn, many organisations slow their recruiting, and graduate and entry level opportunities are often affected. So what can you do as a new graduate?

Widen your lens

You have more options than you think. Most graduates only think of the obvious outcomes of their degree, but all degrees equip graduates with generic and transferable skills. Have a look at this site and look up the skills embedded in your degree: (It’s a UK site, but the information is still useful).

You also gain transferable skills through other activities like voluntary or community work, leadership positions, sport and society involvement. You can use these skills in most jobs. Read about employability skills.  

Do your research

Research sectors that have thrived during the pandemic and are expanding further or expecting growth in the coming months e.g. E-Commerce (Amazon,, Uber, dark kitchen concepts etc.), Tech-Space (Microsoft, Skype, Cisco), Telecoms, Pharmaceuticals, Logistics and Online Education (Get Smarter). There will be opportunities here, so follow these companies on social media.

Set alerts

Jobs are still being advertised in many sectors, so make sure that you have set alerts on key job sites. (There are many! Do a google search for job sites in SA) See how to set alerts.

If you are a UCT graduate, check MyCareer. You can still access this portal three years after graduation.

Keep track of your applications on a spreadsheet. Note closing dates and what you have submitted. It gets confusing if you are invited to an interview and you can’t recall your application!

Shift your focus

Don’t give up on your career dreams but be realistic. Make your short-term goal getting any sort of work to gain work experience. Most work develops skills you can use in your next job. Don’t stop applying for a challenging graduate job but you may have to realign your plans.

Its fine to apply for and accept work that is not the type of work you would have aspired to as a graduate. We’re in a pandemic. No one will be judging the type of work you are doing if you are doing it to pay the bills.

Display initiative and reliability

Any job, however menial, has the potential for you to show reliability and initiative. Any job can be a steppingstone to something else. See it as an opportunity to get a good recommendation from whoever manages you. Take pride in whatever you are doing. People with positive attitudes get good recommendations.

Think skills and freelancing

What skills could you offer? Here are just some sought after skills which could be used on a freelance basis:

  • administrative skills
  • social media management
  • data capturing, coding
  • website design
  • tutoring a school or university subject or a language
  • proofreading or editing

This year has created a more tolerant scenario for flexible working hours and working from home, which suits freelance work. Jobs like online tutoring have mushroomed in the past year.

What about something new?

Think of where you could you provide a service. What have you observed in your community that is a gap or a need? Have a look at what some of our student entrepreneurs have achieved. Take note of the ideas you have! They may be the making of a new venture. Part 2 of this series will cover ideas for making sure you are ready for future opportunities and ways to stay stimulated if you are unemployed.

*Ingrid van der Merwe is the Head of Careers Advisory at the UCT Careers Service