The Covid-19 pandemic has caused sudden and powerful disruption across the business world, in addition to devastating families and communities. In the UK alone, over 60,000 contractors are unemployed or have seen their work contracts terminated, and over 8million employees are on the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to furlough staff.
With unemployment expected to rise to never-before-seen levels, temporary and permanent staff who lose jobs may struggle to find further employment. However, with skills shortages already reaching chronic levels, and international markets aiming to rapidly increase production again following the easing of lockdowns across geographies, there will be plenty of job opportunities for those who invest time and effort into their career potential.
Here are six things you can do to increase your job and career prospects during the pandemic.
Whilst it’s tempting to rush into another job straight away, and it might be vital for your income, take at least a few days to recover from the emotions brought on by your unfortunate situation, and spend time thinking about what you really want.
Whilst these questions will not yield immediate answers, they are worth investing time to think about without distractions or persuasion form other sources. The most effective employees are those who truly enjoy their jobs and find purpose in what they do, and in turn happy employees are more likely to continually improve their own professional development, build strong relationships with colleagues and networks and therefore advance more quickly in their careers.
The workplace has changed beyond recognition in the past two decades, and is set for further rapid change following the coronavirus. Money is no longer the most important aspect for most workers, and the days of a 9-5 are a thing of the past. Rather than concentrating on what you have already achieved and experienced, focus on what really matters to you on an individual level. Do you want to travel the world? Flexible schedules, remote working and project-based contracts will enable you to fulfil your dream. Do you want to be constantly challenged and learning something new every day? A fast-paced job in the pit crew or design teams for Formula One, or roles in Tech or teaching, could match your ambitions. Only once you know what you really want from a job can you go after it.
During the pandemic, there will be two reasons for losing your job. The first is that your company has made redundancies and cuts, and has not included you as an’ essential worker’ that is vital to the business in the short- and long-term as it aims to maintain business continuity. This does not have any bearing on your skills or abilities, but means your organisation was forced to choose between their employees and contract workers. If this is the case with your redundancy or loss of contract, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback: you are parting on good terms and your employer will usually be very happy to help you. Speak to your HR departments and line managers and ask for honest feedback: what made the people who still have jobs essential: skills, knowledge, experiences, aspects of their role.
The other reason for losing your job during the Covid-19 pandemic – and any other period of recession or extreme economic downturn – is that there is no viability for your job role due to market factors, rather than organisational factors. You may be an essential employee, but if your company will not be able to operate at sufficient levels in the coming months, due to social distancing measures or industry-wide supply chain urgencies, your sector may not hold a viable career path for you in the current time. Again, speak to your company and your connections about what market factors led them to end your employment, as well as conducting your own extensive research about your industry. You can then use market information to develop your knowledge or skills to help a potential employer diversify or ramp up services throughout the crisis, or seek out another sub-sector or larger businesses that are less affected by these particular market factors.
Just as brands such as Microsoft, Apple and Nike have their own unique appeal, this way of thinking also applies to jobseekers. What is your Unique Selling Point (USP)? In other words: what skills make you a competent candidate, and what knowledge and experience proves you are the best applicant for a potential new role?
The average hiring manager only takes 9 seconds to scan your resume before deciding whether to pursue your application. Create an elevator pitch of a few lines that grab the attention of your reader and cement you as a contender for their hiring programme. To tailor your CV and applications to capitalise on Covid-19, use your previous success in difficult circumstances to show not just your long-term value but your value to a specific potential employer right now.
When you have created your personal profile, build a strong brand presence across digital channels. Ensure your LinkedIn, Xing and social profiles match your updated CV, and fully utilise professional LinkedIn and Facebook groups to build your brand awareness. Cultivate a reputation as an expert in your field who supports contemporaries and contributes meaningful ideas by slowly entrenching yourself into these group areas, first responding positively to the conversations of existing experts, asking questions and providing information where you are knowledgeable, and remaining polite and friendly in every conversation.
If you feel shame or guilt around losing your job, and are reluctant to reveal your employment status to others, you are not alone – but you don’t need to keep it a secret. Reaching out to your existing networks to tell them that you are now free for new opportunities could reveal potential job opportunities you were unaware of, and will ensure your connections keep you in mind for positions that they come across.
Use the extra time in your day to build up your existing networks and nurture new connections not potentially useful contacts. Going forward, ensure you sustain these even when you’re not looking for a job: making genuine friends and mutually respectful working relationships will serve you well throughout your career, including any additional job losses or new career directions in the future.
Ensure that you include a trusted handful of recruitment consultants within this network. Recruiters who specialise in your industry or role remit will have experience helping thousands of candidates find their next job, and will also be motivated to help you in your career. Recruitment agencies will have the latest insider knowledge on your industry and type of role, and will be able to help you craft the perfect CV, prepare for interviews and improve your personal brand.
Being unemployed can prove particularly challenging if your industry is experiencing a collapse or extreme difficulties across the sector as a whole. However, your career prospects do not need to be limited to one type of work: many skill sets, such as Engineering and Technology, are transferable and in high demand.
One fifth of Engineering business leaders and almost half of Aviation executives state that a lack of skilled workers is the biggest problem they have been facing for the past decade, and skills shortages are set to worsen further by 2025. Engineers, technicians and contractors working in different roles in Aerospace, Automotive, Energy and Marine routinely work across industries on a variety of projects and tasks. Those working in design, maintenance and manufacturing often have a much broader skill set than their level of experience so far, ideally positioning them to hit the ground running in brand new industries or subsectors.
Think outside the box and look up different job descriptions online to find out which other avenues could be worth pursuing.
Unemployment is one of the biggest factors in mental health and wellbeing. Regular communication with others, small frequent achievements and a daily routine are essential for feeling good about yourself and staying connected to the world around you. In lockdown during Covid-19 – where individuals have been separated from loved ones, trapped in their homes and unable to access activities they usually enjoy – the possibility of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are much more prevalent.
Even if you don’t need to get up at a certain hour to head into the office or worksite, regular sleep patterns ensure you get the rest you need and provide structure to your day. Get dressed and ready as you would if you were going out, plan out your days to differentiate weekdays from weekends, and schedule in activities for your personal and professional development. Free online courses such as coding, cooking a nutritious recipe, cleaning out your apartment or decorating a room can provide you with a sense of achievement and the completion of goals you can celebrate.
Everyone has off days and the occasional period of negativity is completely normal, but try these activities when you next feel down:
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