Despite the Chancellor’s prescriptions for economic recovery, unemployment is estimated to hit 12 per cent or four million by the end of 2020 and more than a million job losses are predicted by the middle of next year. Like long covid, the symptoms of the ailing financial crisis are going to be prolonged and nasty.
As many previously healthy businesses are struggling to survive, it is inevitable that even the most secure of jobs could be under threat. The impact of this varies depending on circumstances. Hardest hit are the youngest and oldest workers in low paid hospitality, leisure and retail jobs. More than half of under-25s and over-65s have either been furloughed or lost their jobs compared to a third of those in between. Research from independent think tank the Resolution Foundation warns that mental health issues linked to coronavirus and economic insecurity have surged.
The media is awash with dire economic predictions which affect us all in different ways. What I’m seeing in my clinic is the personal toll on quality of life. Here’s a question: which would be worse, catching covid or losing your job? Of course, there’s no right answer but the question highlights whether sacrificing the economy for the health of the nation is a deal with the devil or a necessary evil.
Either way, the outcome for millions is unemployment and few jobs to be had in the short to medium term.
After many years of supporting people through career changes and workplace stress, I’ve accumulated a toolkit of strategies to help them thrive and fulfil their potential. Some of this advice is particularly relevant in today’s circumstances.
Zooming Back to Work
The ubiquitous Zoom has become familiar to most of us. It’s one thing chatting to friends or relatives on Zoom, another matter altogether going through important job interviews with potential bosses online. I have seen a number of people who have been interviewed remotely and started a new job who have yet to meet their new colleagues in person. Here’s how to help yourself stand out in a Zoom interview:
- Make sure you’re completely familiar with the technology. Do test runs for broadband signal, video and audio settings beforehand.
- Make the space you’re in as neutral as possible. Remove Mein Kampf and Fifty Shades from the bookshelf and check what’s behind you within range of the camera.
- Shut pets and young children out of the room and make sure any noise they make doesn’t disturb you.
- Wear workwear above the waist and rememb
er not to stand up if you’re wearing just pants or pyjama bottoms.
- Invest in a flattering selfie light and decent earphones (most laptops have good microphones but you could buy a better quality one).
- Keep some notes in front of you about the job and any questions you have for your interviewer.
- Practice chatting via Zoom so you can get used to waiting for people to talk when there are signal delays or the screen freezes. Look at the interviewer, not yourself.
Entering the workplace after school or university has never been tougher. The majority of entry level jobs are too poorly paid for all but a few to be able to afford to live independently. The same applies to apprenticeships. Even if there were plenty of opportunities on offer, many young adults complete their education without a clue about what they want to do. As it is, the recruitment process often requires them to jump through multiple hoops and face strong competition for any job. Taking the first step onto a career ladder takes tenacity and a thick skin. Here are a few tips for getting started:
- Take the https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/252137/home.aspx psychometric test to find the best career path to suit your talents and abilities
- Go to university to study something you’re passionate about that will lead to jobs you’d be excited to do. Don’t go just to kick the unemployment can a few years up the road. You’ll end up with enormous debts and nothing to show for it.
- Write a general CV using templates and advice that’s easy to find online. Check, check and check again grammar and spelling. Then get someone else to check, check and check again. Tailor the CV to every job you apply for, putting at the top of the page the things you think they’ll be most interested in about you.
- Don’t just apply for jobs advertised on recruitment sites. Do a bit of desk research on companies you’d like to work for. Check the jobs pages on their website and write to the manager responsible for recruitment, even if there aren’t any suitable jobs listed. They might remember you when there are.
- Check out key worker training and vacancies. The NHS, police and fire services, for example, will be recruiting as usual. Take a look at other public sector jobs too. They’ll be more secure and provide a structured career path.
- Talk to your parents, friends of your parents, your parents friends and anyone else who might know of a job for you. Get in touch with anyone who knows you who would give you a chance.
Bills to pay
Mortgages, school fees, car loans, holidays, bills, bills and more bills. The middle England, middle income, middle class, middle aged majority have an expensive lifestyle to maintain. When your outgoings run to thousands every month, the Job Seekers Allowance or Universal Credits won’t come close to covering them.
Just because someone has a six figure salary, it doesn’t mean they’ve got piles of cash in the bank for a rainy day. Statistically, this demographic is less likely to lose jobs because of coronavirus. But some of them will. And there will be more highly skilled people competing for fewer well paid jobs as employers trim their payroll and shed some of their more expensive employees.
My advice is this:
- Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of yourself. This simple business development tool works well for humans too. It will help you review your career choices and adapt to a new path if the old one doesn’t work for you or is no longer available.
- Negotiate outplacement services with your previous employer as part of your exit package. These can include retraining, career advice, coaching and counselling.
- Treat job hunting like a work project, using whatever professional skills you have to set goals and plan a strategy. Keep a spreadsheet of progress and structure days with a diary to keep you focused on tasks and motivated to get things done.
- Network, network, network. Former colleagues who’ve moved to other companies, clients who respect your work, old mates in similar jobs might know about vacancies before they’re advertised and put a word in for you. And, of course, update your CV on LinkedIn and start promoting yourself to potential employers.
- Pick good recruitment consultants in your specific sector. Write a job specification for your perfect role and ask them to find it for you.
- Make speculative inquiries to companies you’d like to work for, do some desk research on their business and pitch yourself to a named decision-maker who might just find or create a position for you.
- Take on short term contracts or consulting roles if available. They will pay the bills, look good on your CV and might lead to a permanent job.
- If you’ve ever dreamt of running your own business, now is the time to make it a reality.
- Once you’ve got a job lined up, take the best holiday you can afford before you start.
Older and wiser
Age discrimination is rife in many professions. Often the older, more experienced and skilled workers are culled in redundancy rounds. Even though we’re expected to work for longer, it can be incredibly difficult for the over 50s to find employment commensurate with their expertise. Being forced to downscale career expectations can be humbling and financially challenging.
Many dedicated and hard working professionals are defined by their jobs. The status and rewards are part of their identity and how they value themselves. Suddenly losing an occupation which has provided purpose and fulfilment, structure and routine for decades can be psychologically devastating. At this stage, quality of life is as important as climbing the career ladder for many who find themselves between jobs. It’s now commonplace to have several career changes in a lifetime and a job for life is a rare thing. It’s the old dogs willing to learn new tricks who create the best opportunities for themselves.
Here are some ideas for planning for a happier future with a healthy work-life balance:
- Conduct a comprehensive audit of your current situation covering finances, lifestyle goals, and health and wellbeing criteria. The Wheel of Life is a coaching tool which will help you assess every aspect of your life. There are several versions online, including this one: https://wheeloflife.noomii.com/
- Brace yourself for change by optimising physical and emotional health. Make sure you’re fighting fit, energised, optimistic and motivated. Couch potatoes won’t find work by sitting on the sofa getting fat and depressed. Get into an exercise habit and therapy if needed.
- Follow your dreams. If you have unfulfilled ambitions or aspirations, it’s now or never. Draw up a bucket list or create a vision board: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mlab.visiongoal&hl=en_US&gl=US
- If you find yourself with a bit more time on your hands, have a massive therapeutic, life enhancing de-clutter of attics and all the nooks and crannies of your life where rubbish and old stuff you don’t need any more accumulates. Tidy up finances and admin, decorate the house, weed the garden.
- Wake up your brain by signing up for training or education which will improve your job prospects and give you a sense of achievement.
- Tap into your inner entrepreneur. You might make more money than you’d ever make in salary. For example, fabric face masks are selling online at £5+ a pop – kerching! Whoever started churning them out with an old sewing machine and fabric scraps back in March has probably made a fortune.
- Don’t just apply for advertised jobs, go and knock on doors. Sell yourself in person rather than with a CV showing an employment history which instantly brands you as an old codger. ‘Gissa job’ was the unforgettable refrain of Yosser Hughes in Thatcherite era TV drama ‘Boys from the Black Stuff’. If you remember that, you’ll remember Norman Tebbit telling the unemployed to get on their bikes to find a job. Perhaps it’s time to get the bicycle clips out and start pedalling (but don’t go headbutting anyone if you get turned down).
Back to business
We know from previous recessions and catastrophic events that the economy is a phoenix which eventually rises from the ashes of disaster and disease. Social, cultural, economic and technological progress is accelerated during times of crisis. Business leaders, from those running SMEs to global Plcs, are being challenged to creatively manage change and adapt to the new world order. Capitalist principles are being called into question as politicians are required to put lives before profit. Corporations are being run from kitchen tables while the glittering monolithic cityscapes of prestigious offices stand empty.
Be hopeful for a future where a shift in values and priorities will help us recalibrate what’s important to us personally and in the wider world. At 100 years old, James Lovelock still expounds on the Gaia theory of how nature rebalances the earth’s resources. His view, expressed in ‘Novacene, the Coming Age of Hyperintelligence’, is that artificial intelligence will save the planet from the ravages of human destruction. Economist Yanis Varoufakis also speculates on how technology can forge a post capitalist era in ‘Another Now’. Great minds are turning our attention towards a better future.