Class of 2020: From lockdown blues to launching a not-for-profit


University of Leeds, BA Management and Marketing student Rebecca Moy had plans after graduation but COVID-19 meant she had to rethink everything.  Learn how her proactive approach opened up new opportunities & secured her a graduate job.

When the rumours of lockdown became a reality and COVID-19 halted my post-university plans, I was unsettled by fears of unemployment.

My plans to go travelling then start a graduate scheme were cancelled, with headlines reading “9 million sign up for UK furlough scheme”. Could I secure a job in the current climate? Could my classmates?

After a few weeks of endlessly scrolling job sites, my fears were seemingly confirmed. Like everyone, I’d worked so hard over the past 4 years including a 12 month undergraduate placement, but my dream graduate job was nowhere to be found. On top of this was a feeling of helplessness. I felt so grateful for the country’s key workers and wondered if I could positively impact society differently.

I thought, perhaps, I could use my business skills to help others. So, I investigated and started networking with people. First, my university Careers Consultant introduced me to the owner of a graduate recruitment agency, GRAFT. They’d both highlighted the current lack of work experience opportunities for students and directed me to the co-founder of an initiative called Furlonteer.

4 weeks prior, Furlonteer had built a successful platform connecting people on furlough to charity projects, helping the charity sector to get through COVID-19 despite losing an estimated £4 billion of income. We thought we should replicate the Furlonteer model, instead connecting students to charities. So, I was challenged to make this a reality.

Fulfilling our mission of helping students from the onset, we recruited a team of hard-working and proactive students from Sheffield Hallam, Dundee, Cardiff, Bournemouth and beyond. With the support of the experienced team at Furlonteer, we developed the website, liaised with charities and built traction through the press and social media. A few weeks later, Studenteer was born: a platform run by students, for students.

What is Studenteer?

In short, Studenteer connects students (and recent graduates) to “placements with purpose” which teach or develop specific business skills such as writing, designing and coding. Plus, we’ve recruited 1000 mentors to partner with individual students, share their skills and offer career guidance.

Since we launched studenteer in June, our students have helped charities including Leeds-based mental health charity ‘NAFS’ to build and optimise their website, and global champions for gender equality, UN Women, to plan, promote and deliver a series of live-stream events.

In the coming weeks and months as students continue to sign up, we’ll be developing the platform to offer more support. For instance, we’ve already partnered with UniHeads to offer Studenteers accredited, online mental health training for free.

What have I learned?

Of all the things I’ve learned throughout lockdown, resilience is by far the most prominent. The ability to bounce back from hard times and try again is difficult for everyone, but you can’t give up. I’ve applied and been rejected from countless graduate job roles. If I’d let that dishearten me, I would’ve never helped launch Studenteer!

What’s more, I’ve often (silently) questioned whether I’m capable of leading Studenteer. What makes me qualified? Truthfully, I’m not. But that’s why I’m not doing it alone. There’s a network of 60 people who’ve helped grow Studenteer in some way and I’m learning so much from each of them. I’ve sought out mentors and absorbed their knowledge, constantly asking for feedback and advice.

I’ve also realised the importance of networking. In the first instance, I wouldn’t have met the Furlonteer team without connecting via LinkedIn and speaking with people I’d never met. Also, through networking, I was eventually put forward for (and accepted) a graduate job.

How you can be proactive 

Everyone has their own, unique skills and is at a different stage in figuring out what they are, developing them or putting them to use. Regardless of where you’re at, you can always create opportunities for yourself.

Don’t be scared to leave your comfort zone! Whether that’s signing up for Studenteer or an online course (Google Digital Garage have lots for free), starting a blog or vlog, or simply asking the Careers Centre for advice like I did. For all you know, that conversation might open up an opportunity you’d never thought was possible.

If you need any careers related help, we’re here to help you, our services are currently online.

University of Leeds students there are other online courses available to you (many free) via LinkedIn Learning, Future Learn and Coursera

Remember, you can still access careers support after graduation, or on your industrial placement year- and we’re here for you over summer.

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Filed under Advice, Class of 2020, Covid-19

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