The UK is opening up after the coronavirus lockdown but the financial impact of the virus, including the country facing its worst outlook for jobs for 30 years, and the economy contracting faster than after the 2008 financial crash, means the downturn is far from over.
Unemployment figures released on 16 July indicated 650,000 fewer people are on the UK payroll in June than in March.
More than a quarter of workers are now on the government’s furlough scheme, with those in the leisure, retail, and hospitality sectors some of the worst affected. It has so far cost the Treasury around £20bn. Some will have already lost jobs but many others will have their position at risk as the scheme begins to be phased out.
Although the furlough scheme runs till October, many businesses might start to look at forecasting and realise positions which they hoped to bring back, they simply cannot afford to have.
In a statement to the House of Commons on 8 July, Rishi Sunak said: “The more time on furlough, skills will fade and [people will] find it harder to get new employment. [People will be] trapped in a job that can only exist because of a government subsidy.”
While the government is promising employers a £1000 bonus, per employee, for all furloughed people given their job back (until at least January), many still will not be able to justify the cost. So there is no better time to start looking for your next position, whether out of necessity or to safeguard against future changes to your job.
Seek out new opportunities
The employment market looks vastly different now to pre-pandemic (or perhaps when you were last looking for work), but there are jobs out there.
Even if your line of work is one of those hardest hit, the best way forward is to make changes to how you work and utilise your existing skills
Joe Wiggins, spokesperson for recruitment website Glassdoor.co.uk, tells The Independent that people should be looking for companies with growing revenues and for positions that are in demand, such as online tutors, therapists, project managers, and translators.
“While it is a hard time to be looking for a new job, there are opportunities, with healthcare, public services, and tech weathering the storm slightly better than other industries,” he says.
If you have an existing skill set, you can almost certainly find a way to transfer it online…
Many businesses have evolved with the crisis, and now is a good time to look at your existing skills and experience and see where they might translate to other industries.
Annie Ridout, who runs The Robora, an online platform with courses (including how to become your own boss), has seen lots of people changing their careers because of the pandemic.
“The beauty of online business is that it can largely operate around other responsibilities, which has been the challenge many of us have been facing,” she explains. “If you have an existing skill set, you can almost certainly find a way to transfer it online.
“If you can’t get out to do your job; if it involves being in people’s homes for instance, could you teach them how to do it themselves via an online workshop or manual? It may require some creative thinking, but then that’s part of running any business,” she says.
Refresh your CV and cover letter
It might sound obvious, but it is more important than ever to make sure your CV and covering letter are the best they can be.
Always make sure both are tailored to the position, mention your career achievements early on, and check for errors whether that’s typos or incorrect dates.
Steve Walker, founder of the business training provider, IMPROVE Online, says: “We’ve been amazed at how many CVs have got gaps in their timelines, most notably in 2020, when it looks like they have just stopped.
“Some come with a note saying, ‘due to COVID-19, I lost my job,’ but they do not say what they have been doing since.”
For those who have been made unemployed, he advises adding in a line to your CV to say what you’ve been doing – such as volunteering or any side-projects – and include this when you explain in the covering letter the reason for applying for the role.
Don’t undersell yourself – know what you are worth
If you’ve lost your job and are in need of a quick solution to pay the bills, it can be very tempting to take something at a lower salary than you’re used to.
While this will depend on your own circumstances, and for some there may be no other option, if you can it’s always worth negotiating your salary if you can.
Jobs websites such as Glassdoor, Reed, or LinkedIn will give you an idea of the typical salary rate for your position and career.
If a new employer isn’t willing to up their rates, or can’t afford to, you could ask them to commit to reviewing it when things are back on track, or ask for another benefit, such as more holiday days or healthcare benefits.
You can still network while social distancing
Technology has moved on in leaps and bounds since the start of lockdown.
Whatever your career, or level of skill, you should be able to find a way to network virtually with other people. This could be through a professional body or a social network such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
This is a great way to meet and hear about new opportunities and set up a virtual coffee to meet potential new clients or employers.
The bonus is – unlike with traditional coffee meet ups that cost money to travel to and pay for a drink (not ideal when you’re out of work) – a casual Zoom call won’t hit your wallet.
Learn a new skill or retrain for a different career
If you have the time, use it to retrain and build on your skill set.
Don’t forget activities such as volunteering and learning new skills show potential employers what sort of a person you are..
There are a huge range of courses online, The Open University and the website Future Learn, for example, list hundreds of courses including some which are free.
Steve Walker says workers in the most hard-hit sectors, such as retail and hospitality, are likely to be skilled in face-to-face positions but may lack experience in roles which are most in demand right now – such as web-based professions.
He says most new jobs require a good level of digital skills, from baseline skills in Microsoft Excel and Word, through to more specific skills, such digital media.
“If you have not kept yourself up-to-date, or have some gaps, then now is a good time to improve those skills. Highlight what you’ve learnt and update your CV.
“Don’t forget activities such as volunteering and learning new skills show potential employers what sort of a person you are,” he says.
This won’t work for everyone, especially those trying to homeschool rather than able to spend time on side projects, but for those able to, adding a new skill to your CV can improve your chances of securing your next job and may open a different career opportunity for you.