The Covid-Graduate Frontier


When life becomes too much what do you do? I know that I can’t do anything, I feel as if I am cursed. Food doesn’t taste the same. Netflix all of a sudden has nothing of interest on it and simply replying to a person over Whatsapp is an immense task. I’m lucky that the pandemic hasn’t really affected me…actually I’ll change the tense. The pandemic hadn’t really affected
me until about 5 weeks ago, this is when I finally moved back home for good from being at University. 4 years of my life, and a massive piece of my life, is now gone and it was hard enough getting over that. Now it’s 5 weeks on and I have successfully made the transition from being a postgraduate student, living the no-expenses-paid and health-destructive,
borderline-alcoholic lifestyle, to being violently unemployed.


37 applications I have sent out being a competent student with no less than 2 degrees. Now, in a pre-covid era that may have meant that I would have had jobs queuing out the door to employ me. All it means now is that 4 years of my life is becoming more rapidly a waste of time. Of course, one could make the argument of Oh Hayden you couldn’t have known
this would have come along, this isn’t your fault and they are right of course. I couldn’t have known, it isn’t my fault, however to put it as blunt as a spoon made of rubber – It doesn’t matter.

The reality is, the longer this goes on, the more money companies are going to be burning. So, how long do we think it will be until that money pot has seen it’s last penny? This probably will cause companies to slowly collapse like wet origami. Then more people (that are hilariously more capable than myself, might I add) will be going for the same few-and-far-between jobs that may open up for the field of toxicology and from there I will again find myself at the back of the queue. I am both using this medium as a way of therapy and a way of enlightening people of the stress that young graduates, such as myself, are going through. The media will portray us as lazy and call us things like ‘typical millennials’, like that actually means anything. And the media get it completely wrong (I imagine because the group they are slating don’t fit the description of employed-middle-aged-straight-white-male, but that’s another argument for a different time).

No student who goes through 3+ years of Higher Education wants to be unemployed. We aren’t given a fighting chance anymore. Most companies want experience, you can’t get experience if you’re going for qualifications, so if you do get the experience it’s most likely at the sacrifice of something else. Anyway back to the 37, so how many of these applications would you think I would have heard back from? No, no, not positive responses…just A response. You’ve probably gone for around half so around 17 or maybe?


Out of these 37 I have heard back from 4 people. Now you tell me if these sound like odds you would want to bet on, I’m guessing probably not. If you bet money you’d lose your house, if you were in the Hunger Games, you’d be stone dead in the cornucopia within the first 30 seconds of the to-the-death tournament. Most people don’t bother replying to you and
this has become so normalised that this epitome of rudeness is actually now a disclaimer on the application, so be prepared to be strung along like the 3rd person on romantic evening for 2.

Naturally I can’t and wouldn’t want to speak for all students applying for jobs in the pandemic, even people I know have been employed since Covid and are doing well for themselves. This really begs the question of ‘Am I doing something wrong or is it now just potluck’ and I’m sure most people (who are employed and a lot older than me) will tell me that it’s my fault
and maybe they’re right…I personally am at a loss. So what’s the bright-side in all of this?

Personally, for me, the bright-side is that I’m 22, I live life not having to work with no massive amounts of stress from debt (student loan aside) or anything like that…aaaaannnd that’s about it. Most people will say ‘at least you have your health’. These people are idiots and should be avoided as if they have the plague, I would trade my “health” for a salary in the
blink of an eye. Health you can recover from with a Berocca and a lie down, crushing debt stays with you until the day you die, which for me could be in 2082 or could be 2021, doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me.
But for a minute I will talk about the mental health implications of all this.

Yes I’m a man and yes I struggle with mental health and if you’re one of these people that buys into toxic masculinity then I duly invite you to put down your Fosters and get over it. “1-5 students has a current mental health illness” according to the University Mental Health Survey 2020, which personally I can only see this figure being exacerbated by Covid and the
pressure of job hunting. Job hunting is a difficult process for anyone, it always has been and it always will be. But under the new circumstances of this pandemic, I feel that it is now borderline impossible. I know that I personally spend nearly all day every day scouring for positions both relevant to my education and not, for positions that interest me and don’t, for a
job I haven’t already applied for. After a solid morning of exhausting my detective skills and agreeing to more cookies than a well-known, blue puppet, I find myself at the same destination. Staring soullessly at an inbox with nothing but automated responses thanking me for my application.

It is physically and emotionally exhausting to put so much time and effort into a task, that reaps absolutely no reward. Now this is a difficult task for anyone, but put yourself in a position of a student who has been rigorously conditioned into putting their all into an assignment in the promise of good feedback and a reward of a high grade in the effort of a good degree. The job-hunting process in its nature contradicts the expectations and the conditioning of those within the process. So can it be that much of a shock that depression, anxiety and existential crises are almost commonplace among young people in modern

Many will tell the young person, ‘don’t worry, keep going, something will come along’ and I’m sure this is solid advice, without the makeup this advice is simply ‘keep blindly plugging away in the hopes that something goes your way’. Like I say this is solid advice, not because it is in any way philosophically groundbreaking, it’s good advice because there is no
alternative to it. The alternative is, ‘Do nothing’. Now, you may be reading this and thinking to yourself, ‘This is what I tell my kid to do, if they know what to do then why are they struggling?’ Well quite simply, this advice of ‘keep going’ is fuelled by positivity and hope and depression and anxiety will strip a person of positivity and hope like a pack of piranhas strip
meat from a bone. It is within the nature of someone with these illnesses to overthink, and it is not a long distance between an empty inbox over the course of a week to arriving at hopeless, worthlessness and suicide. Anxiety is a wildfire and depression is the wind.

People need to stop thinking that the ability to remain positive is a god-given ability, it is a skill and like any skill it must be taught and nurtured in order for it to be successful. I think we can all agree that the world seems like it is ending at the moment, it may bring about the question of ‘is there much point in doing this degree if there aren’t any positions
going?’. Truthfully I don’t know, I don’t think any of us do, all we can do now is rage against the dying of the light. So let’s try to keep healthy in this boat we find ourselves in and keep plugging away in a stubborn attempt to give life the bird. We are the Covid-gradutes, we are socially starved and socially distanced, we have to work 5 times as hard as everyone before
us for the same amount, but by god, I feel sorry for any obstacle that gets in our way.

Hayden Hosey
Author: Hayden Hosey

Hi! My name is Hayden, I am a recent MSc graduate in Toxicology from the University of Birmingham. I'm a little too emotionally involved in Brooklyn 99 and am still trying to learn how to 'adult' correctly!