I really feel for grads and students at the moment. It must feel disconcerting to say the least, trying to figure out your way forward during COVID-19. During any change, we have to look for the opportunities and embrace the challenges, but this is easier said than done.
You will have to dig deep to stay motivated at times and develop your resilience to bounce back when things don't go your way. This will be tough, but you will find a way through and in the process you will develop valuable attributes to take forward in your life.
I like to remember three words when faced with challenges and opportunities - Curious, Creative, Courageous. This is why it's my Stemazing motto as I truly believe it applies to any situation at any stage in our lives.
Approach life with curiosity
Now is the perfect time to practice stepping outside your comfort zone. Moving out of a safe space where you are in control is a scary prospect, but approaching it with curiosity helps. If you are curious about what you might learn about yourself and the world around you, then you are not putting pressure on yourself to perform or be perfect outside your comfort zone. When you are being curious, you are giving yourself permission to explore, ask questions, test, make mistakes and learn.
Take the time to think about what ways you can stretch yourself out of your own comfort zone. Set yourself a new goal that requires you to try something new. Consider how you will approach this with a curious mindset. Don't put pressure on yourself to nail it first time, but plan how you will allow yourself to experiment, adapt and try again. Set aside time to reflect on it and think about what you learnt in the process of working towards the goal.
Approach challenges with creativity
Creativity is one of the most important skills of future leaders according to an IBM study of 1500 CEOs globally. You are future leaders, so start flexing your creativity muscles now and embed this way of thinking into everything you do. I think being creative means using your unique strengths and perspective to do something nobody else has tried. This could be anything from how you present your CV, to how you approach securing some work experience, to how you build your project portfolio.
When your plans are changed by things out of your control, like a global pandemic, create your own opportunities by approaching this challenge with creativity. Look outside your usual bubble for sources of inspiration. Give yourself down-time to just ponder and let your mind wander and see what crazy ideas you come up with.
Approach opportunities with courage
So, you have some new crazy and wonderful ideas of how you'll create opportunities for yourself. But ideas are only dreams until you wake up and make them real. Take a leap of faith in yourself, combine your curiosity and creativity with courage to take action. Remain curious and creative throughout this action so if barriers and challenges are thrown your way you can continue to adapt and flex your approach.
Why not develop your presentation and communication skills by setting up your own webinar with a group of friends to present and discuss topics of interest? Why not build your network by reaching out to people on LinkedIn and asking them if they can spare some time to speak to you about their industry and their career path? Most people I know are more than happy to help in any way they can, especially if it’s quick and easy for them. However, you have to be brave enough to ask!
Being a Pandemic Grad is a tough challenge, but not insurmountable if you strive to be curious, creative and courageous. You will see new options you hadn’t previously considered, you will learn to be a better problem-solver and you will find ways to keep yourself motivated with a positive mindset.
When you do land an interview for your dream job and the interviewer asks you what you did during the pandemic, you'll be able to blow them away with how you approached the challenge with curiosity, creativity and courage to find alternative solutions and embrace the opportunities to develop yourself.
I'd want that person in my team.