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Graduating into a pandemic? Here are five reasons for optimism.

University students across the country have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. For graduating students, it’s a triple whammy – the pandemic interrupted their classes, their final exams and their graduation ceremonies and celebrations. The turmoil is hardly the grand finale to their university years that they envisioned, and there’s little doubt some are also finding it hard to think positively about the future when the job market and the world in general seem so bleak.

Five Reasons for Optimism

But there is a silver lining to the once-in-a-century pandemic. Here are five reasons to be optimistic, adapted from a “Last Lecture” I delivered last week to UBC’s Sauder School of Business 2020 graduates:

You’ve received the last traditional, on-campus, four-year university experience for some time to come (or possibly forever). What the undergraduate experience looks like from here is very uncertain, but it is sure to be less interactive, less personal and less social, so building confidence and connections will be more difficult for future grads than for you. Your class will go forward into the working world with the advantage of an education built on collaboration and personal relationships.

All our beliefs are being challenged, and no one knows anything for certain anymore. For the first time, 30-year business veterans and new grads share an equal footing. The future of higher education, of manufacturing, of e-commerce, of mass transportation, of power generation, of communication — everything is transforming. Now is a time for dreaming – the world needs solutions and vision.

The technology that you’ve grown up with and are so comfortable with has now gone mainstream thanks to remote work, digitization and automation — all of it accelerated by COVID-19. You are a generation of digital natives, and you can lead the way as new way of work and working come naturally and effortlessly to you.

Even amid the pandemic – or because of it – all levels of government have programs, funding and grants in place to help young entrepreneurs. If you can conceive it, you can probably find funding, and find a workforce at a reasonable cost. This is the time to dream big!

Advice and mentorship are more available now than ever. Experts and other experienced professionals have time to talk, and they want to hear ideas too. Reach out for that informational interview you’ve always wanted. Prepare, ask lots of questions, be curious and offer your own thoughts and ideas on the opportunities emerging from the pandemic — your mentors will be all ears as we all try to contemplate the new normal.

And don’t forget – no matter your next steps, take a moment to be proud of yourself! Graduation is a tremendous achievement that is worthy of celebration!

In 1931, Winston Churchill said,”Sometimes when Fortune scowls most spitefully, she is preparing her most dazzling gifts.”

I believe Fortune is presenting the Class of 2020 with some dazzling gifts of her own.

Author: Tracey McVicar, Partner

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