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Is the class of 2023 entering a better job market?

It is the year 2021. The pandemic is rampant as final-year university students are thrown into the deep end, with the economy and global climate hitting an all-time low. The Guardian followed Mairi McWilliams’ story, a class of 2021 graduate from West Scotland University with a BA in law. Mairi hoped to gain either work experience as a paralegal or an administrative assistant at a law firm or do a placement. However, with law firms being unresponsive and her placement canceling, her only resort was to do a “panic master”. Mairi expressed to the Guardian, that a master's “is a massive commitment financially and academically, because I feel I’ve done all the work over the last years, and now I am just going to do an MA because I can’t get a job.” After speaking with Mairi, her life appears to have turned for the better. 


Since then, Mairi has begun a new role as a Practice & Policy advisor at Children’s Hearings Scotland. Through thorough deliberation, she chose not to pursue her panic master as it was never something she intended to pursue. Mairi felt that over time, with the world slowly reverting to a new normal, she and her classmates’ career paths have fallen into place. However, is the class of 2023 truly in a better spot? The class of 2023 is the only group of university students that have experienced the pre-pandemic, pandemic, and post-pandemic periods. The pandemic has stolen two years of everyday university life, leaving many unprepared. The drastic shift into the post-pandemic era, as now fourth-year students, forced many to face the reality of entering a recovering job market and economy. 


Lara Bautista, a fourth-year student at the University of St. Andrews pursuing a joint honors degree in French and International Relations, accounts that seeing the struggle of her seniors in previous years made her anxious for her future. When speaking with Lara, her plans appeared to be very much up in the air due to the “screwed up” job market. As she explains, “when they try to get a job after graduating, the response recruiters often give is that they are not qualified enough.” Last year, Lara did an internship for the U.S. Department of State, where she was able to gain some insight into the reasons why pursuing a master's would be more beneficial in one’s job market search. Her supervisor informed her that undergraduate students starting an entry-level position earn less than those entering the job market after finishing a master's degree. Furthermore, her supervisor explained that undergraduate students doing an entry-level position would need five to six years of work experience to build up to the income of an employed master's degree graduate. 


Lara plans to hopefully pursue a master's degree upon her graduation from the University of St. Andrews as she finds that pursuing a master's degree is a practical step in her career. The income difference and unsteady job market is not the only factor at play in this decision. Due to the pandemic halting the world, Lara felt as though she had “been cheated out of some of her years of university,” which was a sentiment felt amongst others. Haerim Lee, a fourth-year psychology student at the University of St. Andrews, recounts that “we lost out on two years almost of our normal university experience.” In those two years, she felt not only a loss in the university life experience but also in the research and internship opportunities she could have otherwise gotten. Now entering a post-pandemic era, Haerim felt a surge of uncertainty come upon her. As she constantly ponders what the right thing to do is and how she should go about doing it. 


As many look to the worries of the past, some look towards the future in the possibilities that the ever-changing job market could bring. Amy Yeu, a fourth-year psychology undergraduate student at the University of St. Andrews, found that the class of 2023’s pandemic experiences has allowed many to learn the skill of adjusting quickly to unexpected environmental changes. Moreover, she discovered that if the job market is not accessible, there is always the opportunity for freelance work. Freelance work has been an opportunity that many in the UK explored due to the job market crash and the pandemic’s general effect on the world.


TechRound has found that since the pandemic, there has been a 60% surge in freelance workers in the market. This surge was primarily caused by the skyrocketing unemployment rate, as it was reported that 1 in 4 freelancers turned to this field due to becoming jobless from the pandemic. TechRound has researched that freelancing was not purely a cope-out method of employment, as many have found it to either provide more flexibility, higher pay, or even an opportunity to branch out from their original career path. Freelancing can become an answer to many in these uncertain times and even as we enter a post-pandemic era.


It often appears that the graduating class feels an excessive amount of pressure to know what to do next. As expressed by Haerim and Amy, their friends always inquire about what their future will be right after graduation. However, Amy has shown that the answer does not necessarily have to be a current one. Through her experience, Amy has found that taking gap years between her studies has been beneficial for her mental health and her future. Giving yourself time allows one to come face to face with their true desires and needs for their future. As even Mairi found light at the end of the tunnel through patience during uncertain times. Furthermore, when questioned about the differences between the job market within the pandemic and post-pandemic era. Mairi confidently stated that there is a surge of opportunities available now for the graduating class. It appears that as our world reverts to a new and stable normal, so too has the job market. 


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Tags: #opportunities #classof2023 #jobmarket #postpandemic #panicmaster


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