Positive career steps this winter

Positive career steps this winter

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

As the pandemic has unfolded, everyone has adjusted and changed their ways of working, and recruiters are no different.  Some of these changes are positive for recruitment and working practices. Flexible working and working from home is now a reality for many, not simply an adjustment to be asked for in certain circumstances It is likely that flexible working will continue long after a vaccine enables us to mingle more closely again. Online recruitment saves applicants and organisations time and travel costs for interviews. 

The entry-level labour markets for different career sectors have been affected differently by the pandemic. Some, e.g. banking, consultancy and fast moving consumer goods, have continued to recruit, though may have reduced the number of graduate scheme places. Other areas e.g. arts and heritage and some areas of the media have stalled completely during the pandemic and it will take longer before entry-level roles are advertised again. 

Is the career sector I’m considering still recruiting? 

Find out by accessing the Careers Service resources and following news in the mediaWe are continually gathering labour market information and encouraging recruiting employers to post their jobs on Handshake.   

Some career sectors don’t tend to target any particular university and so will be advertising roles more generally rather than on Handshake. Look for these on LinkedIn and sector-relevant jobs lists (see our sector page resources).   

If you don’t see any entry-level jobs in the area you’re most keen on, think pragmatically and strategically. For example, the arts isn’t recruiting much at the moment – what skills and experiences do you need to develop so that you’re a competitive candidate when recruitment does pick up? Our new skills audit toolkit will help you recognise skills you have and those that need a bit of work.  We have another toolkit to help with self-reflection when thinking about how to pick a career as well. 

Keep applying 

Don’t stop making applications. If an organisation is still advertising roles, they very much want to receive applications. The majority of 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. 

If the career area you want doesn’t seem to be recruiting, it may be because the recruitment cycle happens later in the year. Some graduate schemes have deadlines throughout Lent and beyond. Or it could be that the labour market has slowed considerably, in which case keep applying but for something differentAdapt to thrive – enter the job market in a different fielddevelop strong skills that will transfer well to the sector you really want later. See our interview with Geoff Chang who trained as a lawyer specifically so that he could use those skills and knowledge in negotiating contracts and developing policy when working as a General Manager of an arts organisation.    

Building on your skills

All labour markets are competitive and demonstrating strong skills is as important as ever… 

Develop your skills through volunteering: Do-it.org – a database of voluntary opportunities.  Many coronavirus-related opportunities to help at a local community level 

Complete online courses to build your skills, but also test out if you enjoy the work! 

Cambridge University LinkedIn Learning 


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, remotely. There are also free language courses online, e.g. Open Culture 

IT skills 

Employers will be interested to see how creative you have been during this time, rather than just looking for relevant work experience. 


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. 

If you can’t line up work experience, source insights in different ways – might they agree to let you sit in on some Zoom meetings? You would get fantastic insights into how decisions are made, strategies formed, problems solved, without moving from your laptop. 

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. The GradLink Platform will come offline soon after Christmas for essential technical changes.  It will be relaunched better than ever towards the end of January. 

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 most people are working under unusual circumstances at present and probably working from home If you contact anyone working for the NHS, be patient and understanding, as they are unlikely to have time to respond and need any down time to rest and recuperate.   

Wellbeing and the world of work 

In Lent Term, the charity Mind will be running a series of workshops on Looking After Your Mental Health at work which will be advertised early next term. 

University wellbeing support 

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 


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