Stay positive: Things will get better

IT’S almost eight months into the year and while the Covid-19 situation is improving, the job market – especially for fresh graduates – is still reeling from the impact of the pandemic.

Last month, the World Bank in its Malaysia Economic Monitor report said Malaysia’s unemployment rate stood at 5% as of April.

It noted that while the movement control order was necessary to curb the virus outbreak, its implementation has weighed heavily on domestic demand, jeopardising the sustainability of many businesses and leading to higher unemployment.

“Graduate unemployment rate will likely increase in the coming months, with new graduates entering the labour market in the second half of the year and many employers reducing or postponing new hiring in the current downturn,” the report said.

The Malaysian Employers Federation had earlier estimated that unemployment could reach up to two million this year, or a staggering rate of 13%.

This may have far reaching effects on youngsters eager to join the workforce and start contributing to the household expenses.

Eventhough organisations are downsizing their operations to survive in a post Covid-19 climate, HELP University Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, Education and English dean Dr Gerard Louis reminded students that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Not all companies are adopting a hiring freeze. Certain sectors have even increased their hiring capacity.

“In every crisis, there are still opportunities.

“The question for graduating students, however, is how adaptable they are to the new workplace realities.

“If they have a few months left before graduating, they must reevaluate their skills, see where they fall short and reequip themselves with the necessary competencies required by IR 4.0,” he said.

A counselling psychologist by training, Dr Gerard said it’s easy for students to feel despondent, depressed and anxious in situations like these.

“Those who are resilient, cognitively flexible and have the ability to bounce back are those who know how to make necessary adjustments.

“Look for opportunities, be adaptable and change the way you look at the situation because it will allow you to look at the future with hope and anticipation.

“Talk to people who can point you in the right direction, such as career coaches and counsellors, and spend your time wisely by reading the news or going on social media to find available opportunities.

“Touching base with companies and start-ups by sharing ideas and proposals can also be an advantage and open up opportunities.”

Malaysian Mental Health Association president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj said graduates must be realistic and accept that securing their dream job may take a little more time and effort.

“They will undeniably face stress when competing for job opportunities. It is likely that some will succumb to depression.

“The psychological state of fresh graduates and those who lose their jobs could escalate into a crisis if nothing is done to help them deal with the impact of Covid-19,” he said.

While it is expected that young graduates will likely be angry and upset, Dr Andrew said they must be optimistic that things will eventually return to normal.

In the meantime, they can consider opportunities in sectors that would not have been their first choice.

“Others might want to enhance their knowledge by upskilling themselves so they have an edge when things get better.

“They should focus on what they can control rather than being preoccupied with what is out of their hands.

“Identify areas to reduce expenses and continue to look for opportunities despite the gloomy situation,” he advised.

Those who are feeling their mental health deteriorate, should seek professional help, he said, adding that there are non-governmental organisations that offer affordable and free services.
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