Students - Make The Best Out Of A Bad Situation
The Government has released further details on the arrangements after exams were cancelled to combat the spread of COVID-19 and lots of news has been focusing on the distress this has caused young people who have been studying for the exams and know how much relies on them getting good grades. I’ve been following the news and am married to a teacher so I’ve heard lots of questions about how students will get jobs, get into universities or even demonstrate their knowledge and skills without the grading system as evidence. I can’t help with the universities, but I can speak from an employer’s point of view and offer some reassurance – not taking your exams might just be an opportunity in disguise and it won’t stop you achieving your career ambitions.
For starters everyone knows that the UK classes of 2020 are going to have missed out the opportunity to take exams so employers shouldn’t be surprised to start getting applications that reflect that and you as students, shouldn’t feel inadequate or ashamed to include them.
What employers will be interested in is what you have done about being in this situation and how you have handled it. For anyone not fresh out of education, employers (unless it is for very specific jobs) tend to focus more on candidate’s transferable skills and soft skills, such as communication, teamwork and time management. Your GCSE and A level results will matter during university but once you have got your degree, you won’t need to include those results on your CV anymore. Then, once you’ve been in a job for a while, more of your CV will be taken up with your responsibilities, skills and knowledge for that job, than what you did at university.
Just saying you have those skills isn’t enough though, you need to back them up with examples. Soft skills demonstrate important traits like good interpersonal skills, getting your work done on time and communicating effectively with customers. You could have nothing but 9’s, A*’s or distinctions, but if you can’t demonstrate that you can get along with others or have excellent organisation skills then many employers will not think you as valuable as someone who can.
Let me just add that I’m definitely not trying to undermine your years of hard work and study to get those high grades, and certainly they can be evidence of brilliant verbal and written communications, numeracy, research and analytical skills – all of which are also transferable skills. What I am saying is that how you deal with this situation will help too and add value to your applications.
For example, if your grades haven’t ended up where you want them to be then don’t use this time away from school hanging out with your mates at the park; apart from the fact you should be at home social distancing yourself from your friends. Instead, use this time to build self-imposed structure to your day and busy yourself with learning something new:
- Keep in touch with your teachers and ask them for more work
- Help your siblings with their studies
- Get creative with your friends to make study groups over Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
- Learn a new craft or something arty like sewing basics or making your own greetings cards
- Learn a new language – especially if you have multi-lingual friends you can practice with
- Take online touch-typing lessons – it’s such a useful skill
- Do a free online course to learn something new or reinforce something you already know
- Teach yourself some first-aid basics and some pet-first aid too if you have one
- Do you know much about the species of pet you have? Put a portfolio together or create a mini homemade documentary on your pet and their species traits, domesticated history and lifecycle
- Find out if there are ways you can help charities or organisations online through administrative work or data entry, or in person as long as it’s safe work
- Ask your parents/guardians/siblings who are still working, if there are any projects you can help them with
- Ask your teachers if there is anything you can help them with
- Document your experience during the pandemic – who knows, future students might study your work!
- Learn how to grow some vegetables or fruit
- Set up a LinkedIn account and follow academic or business people on there
- Ask the university you want to go to, or a local business if there is anything they can give you to work on
The world of business is going to (hopefully) learn some valuable lessons from the pandemic and the importance of the industries that are currently flourishing. If you haven’t considered logistics, engineering, IT, nursing, waste management, mental health, education and government jobs as part of your future, maybe it’s worth spending some time learning about those industries, the kinds of career paths they have, and the ways you can get into them with or without a degree.
The response from the education sector has largely been positive however, universities understand that predicted grades don’t always reflect what the final results could have been and schools will be working hard to ensure their students are happy with the grades they do get including offering re-sits. Ofqual, the independent qualifications regulator have said predicted grades won’t be used anyway, as they recognise it isn’t fair. You can find out more on that and stay updated by visiting the official government webpage and if you’re really worried or struggling with your mental health you can get help here.
Basically, if you use this time wisely to turn a negative into a positive, by learning something new or helping others, then when you’re applying for a job or university and you’re worried your mock grades will let you down, back them up with how you’ve made the best out of a bad situation and demonstrate your motivation, organisation, research, leadership and teamwork skills in a different way.
Good luck – you’ll be great!
For further reading, you can find some resources on cv writing and interview skills here.