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How to Move Forward with Your Career Planning in Challenging Times

By skye.aitken, on 29 April 2020

Written by Nicole Estwick, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers

In these uncertain times, your career planning may have taken an unexpected turn. Despite the challenges you may be facingUCL Careers is here to support you with a range of advice and guidance on all aspects of your career planningwith onetoone video appointments, e-learning resources and virtual events. 

So what can you do to progress your career journey from home? Individuals will be at different stages with their plans, but below we offer some valuable tips and practical advice for managing your career in a time of uncertainty. 

1. Come to terms with change 

In recent weeks, we have faced a number of changes that have been challenging for a variety of reasons unique to each of us. In the context of careers, many organisations are exploring how and where they’re able to adapt to remote working and this focus has in turn led to recruitment freezes, rethinking and/or restructures. 

For those who have opportunities secured or who are currently searching for opportunities, it is an concerning time, however it is important to note that resilience, flexibility and perseveranc— all of which will be key skills for success in your career  are now more essential than ever before. 

  • Resilience: Many people encounter setbacks at various stages of their life, whether they are personal, professional or due to other reasons that are entirely out of our hands, such as the situation we currently find ourselves in. Setbacks, by nature, are usually unpredictable and are often an unavoidable part of life. The important thing is how you respond to setback and challengesTo find out more about the importance of this skill and ways you can develop it, visit our Skill Hub page on Resilience and read this article from Target Jobs on Resilience: the ability to copy with setbacks. 
  • Flexibility: As businesses adapt to changes in their day-to-day operations, it’s important to have an awareness of this and adapt where necessaryAs Senior Careers Consultant, Raj Sidhu, mentions in a recent Coronavirus Q&A episode of CareersLab “It may be that you potentially have to alter some expectations of your first graduate role and if you can’t get into your desired job straight away, focus on securing roles that allow you to develop skills that correlate to your desired profession, because you can always pivot across into that once the labour market recalibrates. It won’t necessarily be easy to get a job graduating into a global crisis, but it should be possible – especially if you remain agile and sensitive to changes in workplace demands… conscious that with skills in adaptability, independent working and empathy will likely be prized more than ever before”. 
  • Perseverance: For many in their job search, it takes a certain level of patience and perseverance to secure their preferred role at any time, and now is no differentAgain, now more than ever, both of these qualities will be required as companies reassess every aspect of their business and some will have to make difficult decisions which could impact on your plans. It is important to understand these decisions in the context of the current climate and move forward to seek out alternative opportunities that you can take up during this time.

2. Enhance your skillset  

Whether you are set to carry out some form of work experience or not in the coming months, there are a range of tasks you can complete to up-skill yourself from home which will be valuable to your future career planning. These include: 

  • Developing a portfolio: If your interest lies in industries which are more creative, take the time to look into developing a portfolio of work that can be used in future applications. Visit ProspectsAdobe and Creative Bloq for additional information on this. 
  • Watching a recording / reviewing slides  from talks on a range of topics such as CVs and Cover Letters from our Career Essentials programme- a selection of these are also available with exercises in our short e-learning course . 
  • Reading our handouts  which provide an overview of different aspects of career planning such as speculative applicationsassessment centres and psychometric tests. 
  • And if you’re still working on career ideas, you can use your time to research and make use of online tools to generate ideas or explore your existing ideas in more depth. Watch our CareersLab episode on How to Develop your Careers Ideas to help you explore, test and prototype your career ideas. Further resources on this can be found on the UCL Careers website. 
  • Explore information about, or the language of, a country you are keen to work in in the future. 
  • In-depth study of a sector or employer that you are keen to work for in the future. 


3. Stay prepared and develop your CV 

No matter what stage of your career planning you’re at, it’s important to stay engaged. You might find value in using this time to develop and explore ideas that would enhance your CV, including: 

  • Brush uyour CVWatch CareersLab for 8 steps to a spectacular CV. 
  • Update yourLinkedIn profile. 
  • Take summer classes. Learn a new skill  there are a lot of free courses available online at the moment due to the lock down. Try FutureLearnThe Open Universityand LinkedIn Learning for some options. 
  • Start your own project/ business do an independent research project on the career area you’re interested in or start your own (online) business. 
  • Help out friends and family do they need their accounts doing? Do their kids need online tutoring? Do they need a website? Do they need help with social media? Can you teach them to play an instrument or other skill (remotely)? 
  • Start your own blog/vlog the world has changed dramatically in the past few months  perhaps you can document that. Books and films will be made about this period of time. You can use your research skills, observational skills and writing skills and even link your writing to your CV or LinkedIn profile. 

4. Seek out alternative opportunities 

Finally, in the current climate, normal recruitment processes will have changed for many organisations and so it’s a good idea to try to be proactive in seeking out alternativeopportunities such as remote internships and volunteering. You can do this in a number of ways including:  

  • Building your network through platforms such as LinkedIn to make connections with employers, follow companies and keep up to date with recruitment news. You may find it useful to watch our Mastering online career networking episode of CareersLab. 
  • Making use of UCL’s Alumni Online Community to make contact with former students working in sectors you may be interested in. If no opportunities are available take the time to conduct job research by finding out more about their role, what advice they can give and resources that can help you with your planning.   
  • Completing speculative applicationsAt the moment employer responses will vary to speculative applications on opportunities that may not be advertised so these will need to be approached with a degree of sensitivity. If approaching organisations directly, ensure you tailor your email to them and above all be flexible- you may have a clear sense of a role you’d like to do but consider alternative positions, which could support thein these challenging times.  
  • Researching virtual opportunitiesConversely, some organisations are actively advertising for roles that can be completed remotely and there are online programmes such as InsideSherpa which simulate a working environment. Research these in more detail and find opportunities online. We’d also encourage you to continue to monitor vacancy sites including the myUCLCareers jobs board. 
  • Finally, whilst volunteering may not be directly related to the career you are interested in, supporting local shops, community projects and the NHS at this time can help you to develop or build on a range of skills which can be applied to future professional roles. Consider this as an option if you’re able to. 

2 Responses to “How to Move Forward with Your Career Planning in Challenging Times”

  • 1
    Student wrote on 2 June 2020:

    Dear UCL Careers Team,

    This is a great article. It has been very informative and I would not have found the site InsideSerata without it. However, I would like to express to you how my experience reading it has been. The article’s length had long repelled me from reading it all together – rather I kept it in my side-tabs and waited for ‘some other time’ when I would read it. This is unfortunate since it remained unread for several weeks. Also, while it has clearly been tried to highlight the relevant parts in the article, it is still quite difficult to navigate.
    Hence, I would like to suggest splitting the article in half or even more ‘bites’. Personally, I have found them much more digestible and pleasant to read and there is a wealth of research on our attention span backing this experience. I would be very happy about such modifications in the future, which would help great articles such as this one to reach a wider audience.

    With kind regards,
    A friendly Student

  • 2
    Joe O’Brien wrote on 5 June 2020:

    Hey there,

    Thanks for your feedback! We are also open to suggestions and will share this with our blogging team.

    We’re very pleased you found it informative.

    All the best,

    UCL Careers

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