Head of Investments, Retirement and New Propositions TAL
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Crisis as a career maker not a career taker

7th Jul 2020
Head of Investments, Retirement and New Propositions TAL
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We are living through the defining crisis of our generation. The outbreak of COVID-19 and watching a global pandemic evolve has shifted the idea of a crisis for our generation. Before this, the Great Financial Crisis in 2007 was the reigning moment that defined a crisis for us.

The Great Financial Crisis was a tumultuous experience, and in particular for those who were fresh faced and starting their professional careers that year. As the crisis unfolded those fresh faces with idealistic dreams were staring down the barrel of a two year pay freeze, resulting in those dreams being brought back down to reality.

There are eerie similarities with our current crisis and the Global Financial Crisis, as companies throughout Australia reshape their expense base and carefully review their planned graduate intake. The uncertainty of the pandemic creates fear that the economy will continue to get worse before it gets better and this has the potential to negatively impact business confidence until a workable solution is discovered.

Sensing the creeping unease in young graduates throughout the country, Universities nationwide are swinging into action and doing their best to support our best and brightest minds that may be struggling to break into the workforce.

This challenge is reinforced by the hard truth that youth unemployment and underemployment is now at an all-time high as sectors such as tourism and hospitality employ disproportionally high percentages of young people but have also been hardest hit by the lockdown-induced economic downturn.

With that said, hope remains for young graduates across the country. It is important that graduates take time to reflect and take in to account the lessons we can take from these challenging times.

The economy, your career and life is cyclical

Markets and economies go through booms and busts, and the cycle connecting these events fluctuate between periods of expansion and contractions. Financial commentators often repeat the clichéd mantra of staying calm and remaining invested for the long-term during a market crash.  

Your life and career are often interchangeable – it’s a long game and a lot can change in a short period of time. To get the most out of the week, year, or decade it is important to put yourself out there with enthusiasm and courage every day. You’ll be surprised by the great career opportunities that might come your way when the market turns, and things get rosier.

From a crisis also comes opportunity

Some of the greatest companies in the world today were founded during the GFC and in the years of recovery after – Uber, Airbnb, WhatsApp, Dropbox, Kickstarter and the list goes on. Crisis can often lead to reactionary and short-term thinking particularly by large incumbents that are ruled by a fear of shrinking or becoming irrelevant.

By looking too inwardly, companies will often miss seeing the emerging opportunities that will come from the post COVID-19 social and economic landscape. Some examples of these changes that we already see happening include more flexible and remote working, online delivery of everything, interconnected 5G devices, personal hygiene/sanitation, staycationing and even board games and puzzles.

There has never been a better time to create your own career

Careers’ fairs in recent years show us that the majority of “whizz-kids” now aspire to only one thing: “Tech Entrepreneur”. It doesn’t matter if they’ve done a business degree, engineering degree or dropped out after 1 year.

There should be no fear that the graduate jobs have dried up, and I would encourage you to go out there and create your own graduate job. Having the ability to create a tailored graduate job to your needs and wants means you will start the foundation of a career you aspire to.

What matters most from your university experience

No matter how hard it gets - and it will feel hard if offers get pulled and interviews go nowhere - just remember that your university experience can still provide you something invaluable no matter where your career takes you.

At the end of the day, the content of what you learnt in any sector is secondary to how you learnt and who you met along the way. Above all else, university teaches you how to solve problems and how to connect with people from many different walks of life. These are the skills you need most to succeed in business or any career path.

So – study hard, don’t give up and treat every interaction with people as an opportunity to learn from them, help them and share with them your experiences. Good things will come your way eventually through hard work, enthusiasm and taking every opportunity as a learning opportunity.

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