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9 in 10 uni graduates are employed full time.1

Uni grads earn 15-20% more than those without a degree.2

Deakin postgraduates earn 36% more than undergraduates.3

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Lockdown lessons: A guide for graduates entering the workforce

It’s late March 2020 and there’s a virus slowly taking over the world. Year 12s have suddenly had their lives turned upside down, forced to undertake the most important year of their schooling careers from the confines of their homes.

New graduates, eager to enter the world of work have suddenly found themselves without job prospects – or, forced to interview, accept, and begin brand new jobs and careers entirely remotely.

If you’re entering the world of work post-pandemic, what can you learn from those who’ve been through these tough times? We spoke to two Deakin graduates about how they navigated starting their careers while working from home, and an employer on the other side of the interview screen during lockdown.

The importance of a strong mentor

You probably know how helpful it can be to have a great mentor when you’re starting something new. But when you’re working from home, it’s even more critical.

If you’re the most junior person in the team, you want to know you’re going to be introduced properly in meetings to avoid feeling awkward, and you need to have someone you feel comfortable approaching for any questions you may have.

Unfortunately in 2020, Deakin Bachelor of Exercise/Sports Science and Sports Management graduate Dom Edis learnt this the hard way.

After self-sourcing a prestigious internship with Netball Australia, he was excited to be gearing up for two immersive months working in their head office.

‘Sadly, a few days before that meeting, everything was shut down due to lockdown. I was gutted,’ Dom recalls.

He was still able to complete the internship, but it was exclusively online.

‘I found myself in large zoom meetings with none of my colleagues knowing my name or my reason for being there. It was the worst time to be a student intern.’

From minimal collaboration with colleagues to being given no direction, it began to take a mental toll on Dom.

‘At the start of the internship I rarely communicated with anyone,’ he says. ‘I felt like they were all so busy and at the time I felt I had nothing to offer, as I hadn’t been given any explicit direction. Weeks went by and I had achieved nothing, I was feeling really down on myself and was lacking purpose and drive.’

While Dom wasn’t able to predict the difficult turn his internship took in the height of the pandemic, his story highlights how important it is to choose wisely when you’re accepting early career experiences. Is your future boss going to take the time to help you through it? If not, it might be worth considering a different opportunity.

Make the most of every opportunity

If you’re offered a chance to go into the office, take it. It’s important when you’re first starting out to build relationships that will help you succeed in your career.

Reyhan Patel, who graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Commerce/Public Health and Health Promotion, believes it’s extremely important for junior employees to be around colleagues in an office environment.

Unfortunately for him, it took a long time to get to the ideal balance of three days per week in the office at his job with SAP.

‘After finishing my degree, I set out into the world of finding work like so many. But instead of going for an interview and checking the train times, I was making sure my camera was working on my laptop,’ he recalls. ‘Being constantly at home looking for work was a struggle.’

After two virtual interviews and an isolated start to his new job, Reyhan soon realised how important it was to establish those key relationships with colleagues.

‘I am very lucky that SAP has 100% flexible working arrangements. I could be five days from home, from the local café or in the office. I go into the office because I feel it is so important to meet new people and make relationships with everyone.’

We may never go back to five days per week in the office, but Reyhan is glad to work somewhere that offers social events to encourage people to meet up in person.

‘I’m not sure SAP will ever force employees to come into the office, but I am excited to see how I can meet more people in this ever-changing world.’

Expect job interviews both on Zoom and in-person

Zoom interviews have become commonplace since early 2020, however it’s important to also be prepared for some in-person interviews when you’re job-hunting post-pandemic.

Deakin University’s Director of Brand and Marketing Communications Jessica McCartney, prefers in-person interviews to demonstrate her team’s culture.

‘For me it’s really important for the candidates to get an understanding of the culture they’re coming into, and it’s been hard to do that over Zoom,’ she says. ‘I like to interview casually because I find the more casual you are and the more friendly it is in the interview, the easier it is for the candidate to show who they are and what they’re about.’

However, as an employer, she also sees some positives to Zoom interviews.

‘The speed in which you can organise an interview is a positive of running interviews over Zoom,’ Jess explains. ‘You get a feeling pretty quickly whether someone is a good fit for the role or not, and you can get this feeling over Zoom, which can save people’s time.’

As the world gets used to life post-pandemic Jess believes Zoom interviews will still be useful, but for the final stage of the interview process she will recommend conducting them in-person.

‘Going forward I assume we will have our new candidates come in for an in-person interview if they reach the final stage of the interview process, but I think we’ll still utilise Zoom when we need to in the future.’

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