Coping with careers in light of COVID-19

Catherine Alexander, careers adviser here at the CS, shares how you can make positive steps for your future career even during the outbreak – including how to use this unexpected time to develop your skills

Everyone is feeling unsettled and anxious at the moment – these are natural responses to the situation that we find ourselves in. Everything is changing and it will be a while before you can expect to have a sense of certainty about your career plans for the summer or post-graduation.

Firstly, I’d advise that you accept that there are some things you can’t control and that you’ll probably have questions that can’t yet be answered. Try not to make assumptions or guess the answers to these questions, as you are likely to feel even more anxious.

Here are our tips for taking a proactive approach to, and a bit of control over, your career plans: 

Did you have work experience, an internship or graduate job already confirmed later in the year?

Contact the organisation to find out their current thinking. Different career areas will have been affected in different ways. Understand that they are also dealing with working remotely, perhaps for the first time, and are probably coping with high number of similar enquiries. If the offer has to be withdrawn, ask to defer your place until next summer. Be as positive as you can, as you’ll probably want to work with them in the future. If appropriate, ask if there’s anything you can do for them remotely now.

We already have feedback from many of the corporate firms that they are planning to continue as they were with internships and graduate schemes, even if these will involve virtual training or remote working to start with.

Some other areas, like the arts and heritage sector, are more reliant on audience income and have had to close at present. Don’t assume your experience or role isn’t happening until they let you know – again, it may have moved online or they may still need you but for a different kind of support as they move into recovery.

In the process of making applications?

Don’t stop making applications. If an organisation is still advertising roles, they very much want to receive applications. All assessment centres and interviews are now happening remotely. See our resources on Interviews, Video Interviewing and Assessment Centres, for advice on preparing for these. You may find group exercises have moved onto platforms like Zoom.

Use this unexpected time to…

Develop your skills

Take control of what you can and use this time to develop employability skills. Many of the roles that are desperately needed at the moment may not be obviously graduate level but will develop transferable skills that all employers want to see.

Opportunities to work and volunteer in roles that support the NHS, caring for vulnerable groups, food and pharmaceutical infrastructure etc, will all demonstrate communication, empathy, relationship building and teamwork under pressure, not to mention resilience.  Charities that support people generally may be short staffed at present and looking for shorter-term volunteers to keep going.

Some ideas you may want to explore:

NHS Volunteer Army – database of voluntary opportunities.  Many coronavirus-related opportunities to help at a local community level

Complete online courses

Use any unexpected time you have to learn new skills:

University of Cambridge skills portal 

Future Learn – free, distance learning and online tuition

See also our skills development blog for ideas to develop your language and IT skills.

University of Cambridge Language Centre  is up and running working remotely. There are also free language courses online, e.g. Open Culture

IT skills

And more – if you find a great course online, do let us know about it!


This may seem an odd one seeing as we’re all social distancing, but you can network online to research careers, find out what a role is like (under usual circumstances), gain those insights that will help you make career decisions and plan for your future career.

GradLink – our database of alumni across many different sectors. Search and find people from your course, working in areas or organisations you’re interested in. All have signed up to give you insights, information and advice about their career path.

LinkedIn – use the filters to find Cambridge alumni working in fields or organisations of interest. You don’t have to contact them, but look at their CV, what roles did they have at entry-level that have led to the jobs you aspire to.

Obviously, bear in mind everyone is working under unusual circumstances at present. Please don’t contact anyone working for the NHS, they are unlikely to have time to respond and need any down time to rest and recuperate.

Keep an eye on the Careers Service social media

There will be more blogs on subjects like Career Planning, Resilience and Developing Skills, plus further careers information, via our social media as the coming weeks unfold. You can also subscribe to this blog via the right-hand panel to stay in the loop!


Change is always difficult, particularly when everything has changed at once – if you’re struggling emotionally please do use the University’s wellbeing resources and services:

Student Wellbeing


CU Counselling Service

Disability Resource Centre


We very much hope this is useful. Do look out for our social media and emails for further information, and email us on if you have a specific question you’d like answering, or would like to speak with a careers adviser 1:1

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