An episode of crisis, contingency, change, innovation, and adaption

by Ross Jordan MBA, PGCertHE, FHEA

The second of my blogs focuses upon the cohort of students who are just graduating and about to enter a unique and challenging environment as a consequence of Covid-19.

I spoke with a student last week who said; “will we forever be tarnished as ‘Covid’ graduates?” This startling query caused me to think a lot about the circumstances which so many find themselves in. I mentioned in my first missive, my entrepreneurial inclinations mean I tend to view a glass as half full and try to see what opportunities can be discovered or created. However, I acknowledge that I do this from a position of relatively security with 14 weeks’ worth of grey beard attached to one of my chins. Nobody could deny that the graduate environment is a tough one, so hopefully the following may help.

The Covid crisis is one of those great marker points in history which will be referred to for many decades. As a recent student you probably got fed up with tutors mentioning the great recession of 2008 (as if it was yesterday), where they were on 9-11, the previous recession, winter of discontent, 3 day week, or even (for those tutors who should probably be retired), where they were when Kennedy was shot. The difference is that you have lived through this one first-hand. You have experienced and demonstrated competence in an episode of crisis, contingency, change, innovation, and adaption. I think that looks pretty good on any CV if you can tailor your experience and skill set to the requirements of the specific role. Be targeted in your approach.

But let’s not kid ourselves, the job market is tough. Many industries are using this opportunity to restructure (most without choice, some long overdue, some accelerating a pace of change occurring anyway, and a few for strategic resourcing reasons). They will probably overdo it and be rehiring as the economy opens up once more. Graduates who bring a generation Y/Z perspective, who have the skill sets developed through online/changed learning, and who are less resource intensive and more flexible than long serving industry incumbents will be very appealing. The hiring process itself is likely to be online, and the graduates of 2020 are already in this space.

In addition, there are sectors which will (and in some cases already are) recruiting more; fintech, biotech, cyber security, and online learning itself.

Plus, there is the option for some of delaying entry to this market for a year and engaging in postgraduate study. My advice if this is your inclination is to take a course in a different discipline to your undergraduate degree. More of the same (at the same institution) may seem familiar and easier, but will it stretch you? Politics, economics, or philosophy combined with business, entrepreneurship or marketing sounds like a more varied, rounded, and richer approach to a prospective employer in 2021.

There will be some down time, so don’t be ‘people who just do nothing’ in this space. Learn Python, start a blog, engage in online discussions and LinkedIn Groups, find out where the discussion is at for your target industries. Binge listen to webinars rather than binge watch box sets. I can hear a new ‘classic interview question’ being added to the list; “What did you do during the Covid crisis?”

As ever, here a few links to get you started:

  1. Sifted is a great resource for news on start-up activity in the sectors I mentioned above, as well as a great resource for jobs. I get their newsletters to my inbox daily and always find something worth clicking on.

  1. Tortoise is built on the notion of ‘slow news’ but in fact gives you a different take on the stories of the day, really fast. This is curated journalism of an independent kind with a global and business perspective.

  1. Here’s a LinkedIn perspective on the jobs market right now through a UK lens, looking at the places where there is still opportunity.

  1. This is a link to a recent online conference by Oxford Based Business Support and Networking group B4Business. They have made short talks available from their excellent BIO (Business in Oxfordshire) conference available to non-members. This is a great way to get some local business insight, much of which applies nationally and globally too.


Ross Jordan  is Programme Lead, Business and Management in the Department of Business and Management at Oxford Brookes Business School
Back to Blog