Darcey Sergison’s open letter to the 2020 graduating class.

Dear fellow 2020 graduates,

This was supposed to be our year! The year we graduate and celebrate all the hard work and sacrifices we have made over the past years. We remember the highs and lows we have endured, all for the perfect summer day with our family and friends. However, for a lot of us, this dream of our summer graduation seems like it will stay a dream for a while longer.

But remember, even in these uncertain times, it may not feel like our year, but we can still make it that way! We may have gone home without having our last experience of a night out or our final sports fixture, but what a time we have had! Now is the time to reflect on what an amazing experience we have been fortunate enough to have. Sort out all those photos from parties and balls alike. Remember the small joys of thoughtful gifts from friends when you were feeling down. Let’s not forget these moments of light in such difficult times. 

It is so easy to wallow in all the sadness of the cancelled events and plans we had, but better times will come. It may seem hard to imagine at the moment, but we have so much to live for in the future. This period of isolation and social distancing does not have to be as lonely as it sounds. In these times, where life feels like it is on pause, use this for self-improvement and reaching out to others.

Now is the time to rekindle old hobbies and interests. Whether this is fitness at home, using water bottles as makeshift weights, or whether it be knitting, like your grandmother may have taught you, we should try and use this time wisely. This pause in life will not last forever, so make the most of it. After this, life returns to the race it was before. We will graduate, and our life as working adults will begin. Despite the sadness that follows leaving university earlier than expected, now is the time to slow life down. Continue studies but with reduced pressure. Enjoy smaller

aspects of life rather than looking ahead to the bigger picture.

But this is not just the time to be kind to yourself but also to your community.

Times are hard, and this may not have been how you expected your year to turn out. But moving forward, let’s take what we have learnt from our time at university and share this knowledge with those around us. Not just the academic interests that we have pursued, but the life lessons we have accidentally stumbled across along the way.

University has never been just about the degree, but instead the experience of life and, although cliched, discovering yourself and your interests. So now is the time to share the laughs and thoughtfulness you and your housemates had. Share the chats with your family and friends, but also with your neighbours. Reach out to those around you. Be there for those who are most vulnerable and apply these life skills to one of the hardest challenges we have faced yet.

Although our graduation is taking place within a pandemic, we are not the only class in history to face challenges when graduating. Many graduates facing economic crises, such as in 2008, were also worried about the job market, but faced the challenges head-on and came through the other side. The biggest fear for myself and other graduates is when and where I will get a job. However, despite the rush to get employment now in these uncertain times we can use the time we have to further develop skills for future employment. Here are some tips I would suggest to boost your confidence in finding a job and use your free time productively:

Revisit your CV

Even though it is a tough and often avoided job, editing your CV is vital to keep it up to date with your achievements and interests. It is also important to get outside opinions on your CV whether it be family or friends. Additionally, I suggest using your university’s careers centre and booking a reflection session, it is crucial to look over your CV and make it as approachable to employers as possible in your chosen field.

Try new things

Diversify your abilities by trying new things. I have found short online courses have been incredibly useful and also time-filling when there is not much else to do. Coursera has been a useful platform for me to try new courses on multiple areas of interest. These curated courses from top universities around the world will look amazing to add to your CV, as it shows productive development of skills and knowledge.

Online work experience

Even if you were supposed to have internships this summer, ask employers if they have online opportunities for you to still get involved in. Also look at websites such as Inside Sherpa that provide online opportunities. Alternatively look at smaller companies who may need administration help and offer experience. I have found that with my writing it has been an amazing experience as well as useful to write for a range of magazines and platforms, even if it is volunteered as this has helped me to gain experience in writing.

Look beyond graduate jobs

Although many 2020 graduates will be looking at graduate schemes from top companies, it is also good to look at a range of jobs. By increasing your search, it will also increase your chances of being employed faster. Even if you choose not to join a graduate scheme this does not limit your ability to increase your levels of experience and job level.

Don’t overlook your skills

It is important that when you are considering what your employer wants, you think outside the box. Digital knowledge has always been crucial to companies and emerging graduates obtain this. Despite the economic difficulties in 2008, graduates had knowledge of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which were new for many companies unable to recognise the importance of obtaining these platforms for business. The same digital knowledge has developed further and with new platforms, such as TikTok, employers will want to find new and exciting platforms to use today. 

Better times will come, but for now, fellow 2020 graduates, we can do our bit. Let’s show the lessons we have learnt whilst being at university. Now is the time to focus on kindness to ourselves and our community. Our society deserves better, so let’s give it to them. We are all in this together and the future is bright.

Stay safe, Darcey Sergison

Images via Darcey and her friends, celebrating their graduation at home

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