Climbing the work ladder ahead of the crowd

Getting Ahead of the Crowd

Now is the time to get ahead of the crowd before, post-lockdown, employers count the cost of coronavirus in jobs lost

“While these difficult times can be very tough for some, for others it opens up options to do something new. Being positive during a time of crisis is not easy but it can bring surprising results.”

Wellbeing, argues Ian Cory, welfare manager at housing providers Aster Group, is not just about coping or getting by. It’s about taking opportunities when they arise.

“Several employers are recruiting temporary staff for short term contracts. This is a great time to get into work and give a job a go, maybe even something you have not done before. Changes to the recruitment process is sometimes good for those that may not be as confident with the interview process. But once in employment, they can really show themselves to be a valued member of the team. It also looks great on your CV for your next job application.”

During lockdown many families living on top of one another have struggled. Homelessness has increased, as has domestic abuse, debt, depression and people turning to drink or drugs. Not only have some felt imprisoned, when relationships are under strain there’s been no time out. Paid work could release the pressure. So where are the openings? And is it safe?

When lockdown ends, the government is braced for the highest spike in unemployment since the financial crash in 2008. It could even be worse. The irony is that bosses are so desperate for staff right now that, for some, it’s never been easier to find work. Some recruiters have stopped forcing people to apply online and even done away with interviews. We can just arrange to drop in with our ID and pretty much start working. Proving ourselves will help us dodge the dole queue in a few months’ time. Acting now could be a short and long-term win.

Staffing gaps have opened up in every organisation that kept open. Workers taken sick, ‘shielding’ because they’re at risk, or unable to work because the kids are home all need covering. Retailers selling food and essential items have all been short of shop workers, warehouse personnel and delivery drivers. Now we’re approaching crop-picking season, farmers will add to the list of vacancies. (Read more here. [LINK to SUB-PAGE]) But they’re going to have to keep us safe.

“We are going to insist that businesses across this country look after their workers and are Covid-secure and Covid-compliant,” Boris Johnson promised. In reality, it will be down to us but the rules of thumb remain the same at work as they did in lockdown: Stay two metres apart or protected by screens or masks. Keep surfaces clean and wash our hands regularly. And if we – or someone is at home – is shielding, it’s probably best to think very carefully before heading out to work.

Most pundits expect the bottom to fall out of the world’s finances after lockdown. Companies will have gone under and governments must find billions to pay back what they spent. Just a few months ago, jobs were in abundance. Now there won’t be enough to go round.

“The job market will be competitive post-lockdown,” explains Nick West, Employment and Skills Worker at support charity DHI. “Getting a foot in the door now will help people achieve their employment goals. There are many ways to do this during lockdown.

“Write a current job history, then list your skills and abilities. Doing this will help identify your areas of strength and areas needing improvement. You can then do free online courses. This keeps your mind active and gives you examples to talk about at interview. There are also various organisations offering advice on CV-writing and interview skills. Taking steps now will mean you are confident in giving the best account of yourself to employers.”

Ian Cory agrees and has a three-point guide. “One, take a course. There are a wide variety of free distance-learning courses which can be completed at home.

“Two, volunteering. Helping in your community is a great way to grow new work-related skills such as teamwork, communication and being adaptable. Even if you are self-isolating, you can do telephone befriending.

“Three, staying focused whilst you are at home is essential. Keep to a daily routine. Creating a diary of activities you will do throughout the day will keep you motivated and your energy levels up whilst also helping with your mental health.”

Ian believes there are many activities we can do right now to improve our job prospects. Like Aster, many housing associations and charities have a range of services to help their tenants prepare and move into work. “We are on hand to help our customers write their own CVs. This might include translating new skills they may have learnt during their time during lockdown into a list of things employers need. We also offer advice on interview skills, job applications, and IT skills to improve their chances of getting work.”

For those of us who are feeling strapped for cash right now, it’s time to think about getting to the front of the queue. It’s likely to be a rocky couple of years jobs-wise. And as benefit claimants learned over the past ten years, we cannot assume the safety net will fully protect us. The smart money is on the people who put themselves forward now.

Read more about work in the food industry, from crop-picking to retail and deliveries here.

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