Recerntly I wrote an article for BECTU on my experience of starting a career in the times of Covid-19. You can see it on their website here: https://bectu.org.uk/news/starting-out-during-covid-19-a-bittersweet-experience/ or read it below.
Starting out during COVID-19 – a bittersweet experience
Aaliyah Yaqub, film student and production coordinator · 18 November 2020
The end of university is an uncertain and scary time for all graduates. But a pandemic brings a whole new set of challenges and anxieties, writes Aaliyah Yaqub. Many people spend most of their last year of university networking, tailoring CVs, attending careers fairs and focusing on being employable after you graduate. This was exactly how my final year went, keeping my ears and eyes open for any opportunities and doing everything I could to put myself in a better position. I wanted a job offer even before I finished university. When the lockdown came in March I was in the middle of producing my final major project at university and in between my final assignments.
Rollercoaster times I was already in conversations about potential work experience during the Easter break with companies such as Studio Lambert and Endemol Shine. I also had a job interview lined up as a researcher for a new Channel 4 series. As you can imagine I received multiple emails telling me these opportunities were now “faced with uncertainty”. I spent the next few months focusing on completing my assignments and enjoying time with my housemates as much as I could in these strange times. I applied to study production management at the National Film and Television School as I felt education was the only thing that would bring me certainty. I had accepted that getting a job before graduating was unlikely. I didn’t think I had a chance of getting into film school, but I wanted to feel like I was working towards something. Three weeks later, I got an acceptance email to the course and 30 minutes after that I was offered a job in television as a production coordinator. It was one of the craziest moments of my life and I felt incredibly lucky. I had been on such an emotional rollercoaster with opportunities leaving as quickly as they came – then suddenly I would be working in television over the summer and starting film school in September. Going back to work in production in COVID-19 times was a strange experience. There were many anxieties, such as being out of work for a long time and worrying about my skills and abilities. My confidence had dropped. However, I was starting in an environment I was already familiar with, surrounded by the best people, who had previously mentored me in starting out in television. I was relearning old skills and learning new ones. I felt lucky to be in work, with many of my friends and peers still looking for opportunities.
Adjusting to COVID-19 Working with COVID-19 restrictions was quite an adjustment – with more considerations around health and wellbeing. It was a great experience to see television being made in a different way and the new challenges that came with it. I started my course at the National Film and Television School two months later – a COVID-proofed environment with many guidelines in place. Socially it was also different. Wearing masks sometimes made it difficult to communicate and the limited social interactions with peers and other students was very strange. But it made me more aware of the things we took for granted before COVID-19, like being able to socialise freely and openly. It took longer for relationships to build but this new way of life made me far more grateful for the moments spent with others. I’m currently finding education to be a more flexible and manageable part of my life. Studying at home sometimes means I don’t have to make a 50-mile commute every day. Although it can feel repetitive – and my eyes sometimes don’t thank me for the amount of screen time – I like having the freedom and facilities to work from home and wherever else I want. I also realise it is a privilege that not everyone has. I’m still concerned about my future and what this new world will offer me once I graduate. However, I can’t help but feel I am in the right place at the right time. COVID-19 has affected my life in many ways, but I wouldn’t be where I am now – at one of the UK’s top film schools – without it. Once the world gets better I will be in a better position to chase my goals. I look forward to this being over but meanwhile I’m taking in this new world experience.