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Graduated during Covid? Here’s four ways you can show off your resilience when applying for grad jobs

Marina Cilona

Careers Commentator
Congratulations! You’ve just lived through a once-in-a-century pandemic. You now get to wear your resilience as a badge of honour to every interview.

Resilience is an important personal and professional strength. It helps us manage stress, tackle workplace conflict and address daily challenges in a fast-paced environment. If you can bounce back when you stumble, or thrive because you adapted when asked to change the way you operate, that’s resilience. 

Resilience often develops through dealing with trauma or tragedy, but it can also come about when we’re put under pressure in everyday life. Covid-19 and all of its related restrictions is a great example of this. Our day-to-day lives changed almost overnight, and many of us had to think fast. We dealt with the disappointment of studying virtually or not having a graduation ceremony. The usual markers of positive mental health — connecting with friends, exercising, being out in the world — all had to be modified. 

You probably had to set yourself up differently to succeed in your work or studies, and that’s exactly what employers want to hear about. How did you maintain a connection with your teachers and friends? How did you overcome the daily challenge of focusing at home? Did you discover virtual experiences which enhanced your learning?  

Here are five ways to talk about your pandemic learning which will show how adaptable you really are.  

  1. Discuss how you set yourself up and focused while learning remotely

Employers often ask the same question to every candidate in an interview: “Give me an example of a time you were faced with a problem or challenge.” Let’s face it, most of us have had pretty sweet lives with people who have supported us through challenges so we give a somewhat inane answer about a lost passport on a gap year, or that time our dog got really sick. 

But now you get to be really specific about creating your own workspace at home, mastering focus and self-guided learning. You can talk about how you used the time as an opportunity to build your tech skills and become productive in a different way. Maybe you learned how to find the answers for yourself when there was no one around to ask and no lecturers’ office to camp in front of. 

These are incredible skills. They will go a long way in showing prospective employers that you were forced to grow up that little bit faster and that you rose to the challenge.     

  1. Give an example of how the learning format changed, and how you adapted to this (extra points for showing how the experience enriched your learning).

Let’s face it, universities and colleges aren’t traditionally cutting edge when it comes to online learning. In fact, most institutions post the odd lecture booklet but rely heavily on in-person participation. 

It’s important to note that this is not your chance to complain about bungled online platforms or luddite lecturers. You need to stay positive. This is an opportunity to mention new programs, tools or software which was implemented and how you adapted to this. Describe how you used the tools to connect with teachers, access videos, log in to live classes or post assignments. You might want to mention how you built up the confidence to collaborate with others online, and how you were able to support each other effectively to deliver assignments or course work. 

  1. Mention any work experience or mentorship opportunities you were able to gain remotely

During the pandemic, work experience opportunities went virtual. Employers began offering real work simulations designed to test and develop your professional skills. 

Perhaps you were able to connect with your mentors online, or you discovered videos or podcasts which gave you an insight into relevant work situations. 

Showing that you spent time learning about the real world from real people is a fantastic testament to your seriousness as a candidate. It also demonstrates your willingness to continue learning into the future. 

  1. Ask employers how things in the office have changed

This is a chance to ask if and how your employers’ day-to-day operations have changed, and what you might expect. It also shows that you’re realistic about how your first 12 months might go, relieving your employer of the need to manage your expectations

The Covid-19 pandemic may have been the ultimate destroyer of travel plans and milestone birthday parties, but it did put you in a unique position to use your newfound resilience as the ultimate silver lining. By giving examples of the ways in which you adapted and learned, you get to show how you carried a strong sense of purpose when faced with some pretty unique challenges. It also shows that you were able to maintain an awareness of changing circumstances, that you were able to exercise a sense of control over your own life, and ultimately that you are a mature and prepared candidate.