Cambridge Diary

The job hunt


In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, some of my friends are anxious about their prospects in the job market. The depiction of Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2015) as stressed, depressed and exam-obsessed was examined in The Economist last year. But in my industry – education – I haven’t felt the same concerns. If anything, my job prospects have improved as a result of Covid-19. This is down to a number of reasons such as students suffering from gaps in knowledge due to missed schooling as well as the surge in demand for online education.

As a Cambridge graduate, I am also aware that a place at the university brings benefits when looking for work. My Chinese friends feel the same. All have been searching for or have already secured full-time employment back in mainland China – some purely off the back of their Cambridge status, or through the Chinese-Cambridge network.

Of course, my analysis is skewed to the education sector, where recruitment seems more resilient. The closest friend from my cohort has secured a job in an edtech company in Beijing. Her plan is to work there for a couple of years, live in an apartment paid for by her parents and save as much as possible. Then she wants to take the entrance examinations for employment in the Chinese government. Her dream is to work in the Ministry of Education.

Another close friend, with a keen entrepreneurial instinct, plans to spend some time in Africa. He built up an impressive network at Cambridge and would often host Chinese hotpot parties in the rooftop suite of his room at Queen’s College.

Of course, there are a few who won’t be returning to China or taking up salaried employment. Some are opting to stay in academia till the pandemic is over, hoping that the job market will bounce back further.

I do know one friend who got in a particular panic – she applied and was accepted for a PhD at another UK university, all within a fortnight. Having missed the deadline for funding, she will rely on her parents to pay her fees and living expenses until she works out another option. “I don’t have the energy to apply for a job in this climate and think that a PhD is just something to do in the meantime,” she explained.

McKinsey released a report detailing that some 7.6 million UK jobs were at risk because of the pandemic. But it also noted that “even though schools, colleges, and universities have been closed, the people employed in the education sector have mostly continued to be employed and paid”.

The group of friends I’ve spent so much time with in lockdown these past few months have discussed the opportunities ahead of us relentlessly. Representing eight different nations and 10 different disciplines, we’ve learnt a lot from one another in unique circumstances. But how about my own job search? I have decided to take a break from China and accepted an offer to work as a full-time humanities tutor in Dubai for the upcoming academic year. I am very excited to get to know the Middle East better.


UK-born Olivia has lived and worked in China and has just completed her MPhil in Second Language Research at Cambridge.

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