Rinke Meij, a business administration student and marketing manager at Erasmus Recruitment, has found that students are very concerned about finding a good job, particularly in these extraordinary times. “The main questions we’re hearing are: will I get a job at all? Am I certain my job prospects are that good? And what are the best choices I can make right now to increase my chances of a job?”
There are students who believe that the best thing for them to do is to stay at uni for as long as possible, says Meij. “They decide to fill time by, say, serving on the board of a student society for a year, because there are not that many jobs to go around at the moment.” It is a tricky time. “If you have an academic degree, people will tell you that you’ll have no difficulty finding a job. At the moment, that is definitely not true, and it’s hard to gauge the severity of the problem.”
According to sociologist of work Fabian Dekker, the problem is not too bad. “Many people have all these dramatic ideas about the labour market changing drastically due to the pandemic, but at the moment, the main thing we’re seeing is stagnation. Right now, young people are the first to lose their jobs, but as soon as there is an upturn in the economy, they’ll be the first to get their jobs back.”
As far as students are concerned, Dekker compares the current situation with the global financial crisis of 2007-2009. “It might have taken a while, but in the end, they were fine.” He advises students to remain active. “You’re going to have to try to get through the next two years. Now is the time to learn a new language or take a coding course.” Dekker does believe that the pandemic will result in permanent changes to the way we work. “We will continue to work from home. This will also have a few downsides. We will have to continue to be productive, which means we’ll work longer hours. The gap between work and personal lives has narrowed.”
Many students looking for jobs
Emily van der Werff is a student recruiter with Aegon, a financial service provider, and will have a stand at the Erasmus Recruitment Days in January. She often talks to students. “When you’re used to attending a different event every week, all this working from home is quite the change. You’re far less able to present yourself.”
One thing Van der Werff has noticed is that there are many more students looking for jobs this year than usual. “Students who have just graduated generally want to go on a nice holiday or make that big trip they’ve saved up for while at uni before entering the job market. At the moment they can’t do so, meaning that more students than usual are currently looking for their first jobs.” At the same time, she has noticed in her own company that fewer people are vacating jobs for others. “People are less inclined to take risks in times such as these, and will stay in their current positions longer. This means that senior staff are vacating fewer jobs for junior staff.”
So what are currently the questions most frequently asked by students regarding their entry into the job market? “The job application process,” says Van der Werff. “Students are curious – more so than in previous years – about the company they will be working for. It’s a bit scary these days that you can’t enter the company’s building to check out the vibe, even though you will end up working there.”
In addition, the way in which people apply for jobs has changed tremendously. “The only parts of you that are visible are pieces of your head and chest, and you have to be mindful of whether to look into the camera or not, and make sure there are no loud flatmates in the background.” However, the pandemic has changed a few things for the better as well. “Job application procedures are a lot faster now. People no longer have to commute, which means they have more time to do job interviews. We’re seeing now that the people we hire have all their interviews within one month, whereas in the past, this might well take a month and a half.” She says students also ask a lot of questions about their familiarisation training. “Will I be doing my work alone, at home, or can I go to an office?”
So what is the best way to apply for a job these days, anyway? “First of all, a proper Wi-Fi connection is essential,” says Van der Werff. “Few things are as annoying as being unable to hear the recruiter, or vice versa. In addition, it’s vital that you present yourself well online. Make sure you look enthusiastic. It’s easy to be shy and unassuming when talking to someone online. Don’t be afraid to look into the camera and take an interest in the other person.”
Another thing Van der Werff herself finds quite important is that people treat each other like equals. “I’d hate it if a recruiter were to act superior to the job candidate during an interview.” In other words, relax and don’t be afraid to enter into a conversation. After all, it is as important for you to make sure that you are a good fit for the job and organisation as it is for the company. “So recruiters who only fire questions at you aren’t doing their jobs properly. Use the moments of silence to ask questions of your own, so that you can steer the conversation in a direction of your own choosing.”
Both Dekker and Van der Werff are optimistic about the job prospects of students who will be graduating soon. “Visit the websites of companies that you find interesting. Because many in-person events have been cancelled, companies will create content themselves, to show who they are. And when you are finally offered a job, just take it. You’re unlikely to hold your first job for a very long time, because generally speaking, you’ll know within a year whether or not it suits you,” says Van der Werff.
Dekker has some advice of his own: “Also, don’t be afraid to tell others how hard it is to enter the labour market right now. These experiences will be incredibly useful down the track, when you will encounter other setbacks. Keep in mind that the current situation will pass.”
Erasmus Recruitment Days
With more than 100 companies attending, the Erasmus Recruitment Days are the largest on-campus student recruitment event in Europe. During the event, students will be given the opportunity to build a network, pitch their ideas and take part in workshops and interviews.
The Erasmus Recruitment Days will take place from 26 January to 12 February. For more information, or to sign up, check out https://erasmusrecruitment.nl/days.