What should graduates do in tough economic situation? These sectors may have an answer

July 10, 2020 5:52 PM

The current COVID-19 pandemic is significantly impacting fresh graduates who are entering the job market. Most recruitment in corporate India has come to a screeching halt.

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The current COVID-19 pandemic is significantly impacting fresh graduates who are entering the job market. Most recruitment in corporate India has come to a screeching halt, and many campuses across the country are witnessing job offers being rescinded.

What are young talent to do then in a tough economy that is likely to be here to stay for the foreseeable future? An obvious choice is to target sectors that are expected to still be hiring, for example, technology, healthcare, etc. However, should young folks only be thinking about landing a job? Any job? A more difficult and less obvious choice is to think about one’s career as not just the first job, and consider
making some “non-traditional” choices. When Plan A does not work out, one needs to be creative about
Plan B. Young people may want to use this time productively to explore multiple avenues, and continue to build skills and networks.

Two options that fresh talent can explore as they wait out a tough period are, (1) prepare themselves to be successful in the gig economy (when it bounces back), and (2) consider volunteering, entrepreneurship, and job opportunities in the non-profit sector.

Side hustling

Recent years have seen the uberization of jobs. This may be a good time to explore if hobbies can be converted to marketable skills, and a portfolio of work created, perhaps on a pro bono basis or through offering low cost services. This could help to use the present time constructively, and also to prepare for a future where being a freelancer can pay the bills.

A recent survey by PayPal, titled ‘Insights into the Freelancers Ecosystem’, indicated that on an average, gig workers earn about Rs. 19 lakhs per year in India, with the top quartile earning upwards of Rs. 40 lakhs annually. While how the white collar gig economy shapes up post COVID-19 remains to be seen, it is worth to start exploring gig worker options, particularly in areas such as digitalization, data, research, and online tutoring, to help accumulate new skills.

At a minimum, this will provide important talking points, either at a future job interview, or during an application for a post graduate degree. At the more optimistic side of the spectrum, this could lay the
foundation for monetization of existing skills and help build an entrepreneurial spirit to run a series of side hustles in the future.

Social impact opportunities

Millennials and Gen Z, globally, have been vocal about their passion for environment and social issues, and their frustration with governments and the private sector for not doing more. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the inequalities in our society and the gaps between the haves and have nots.

In the last economic downturn in USA, employment by non-profits increased by 8.5% in the period 2007 to 2012, whereas for profit businesses reduced employment by 4.1% in the same time period. By 2019, the non-profit world was USA’s third largest employer (by sector) with non-profit jobs growing almost four times faster than for-profit ones over the past decade (“The 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report”). While similar employment growth figures for the non-profit space in India are not available, the sector has indeed seen increased activity with philanthropic funding growing more than 4 times in the last decade. This trend is likely to continue, with funding progressively focused on the socio-economic after-effects of the pandemic.

The increased funding of non-profit organizations in India is also leading to an increase in the need for good talent. There is growing recognition that throwing money at societal problems does not necessarily help, and that investments in talent are needed to ably manage and scale non-profit organizations. This is leading to many non-profit organizations paying good salaries, with some notable ones able to match those paid by the corporate sector. This is a serious opportunity for those who want to emphasize purpose in their jobs through working on challenges that are underserved by the corporate sector and cannot be solved by governments alone.

As young people wait out these tough few months, there is a case to explore opportunities to give back to society and provide a consolidated response to unmet local issues through jobs like volunteering or entrepreneurship in the social impact space.

Being a fresh graduate in 2020 is tough. Productively using this time for self-introspection, skill building, networking, and exploration of multiple avenues is likely to help build resilience and the ability to role model and enact positive change in the long term.

  • Anand Shankar is Partner and Sanaa Arora is Manager, Deloitte India. Views expressed are the authors’ own.

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