Life in lockdown: How to develop new job skills from home

The number of UK workers on payrolls plummeted by 819,000 between February and November due to the impact of the pandemic, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in December.

With 9.9 million people on the furlough scheme and 1.7 million claiming funds through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme as of December 13, new opportunities could seem scarce – but recruiters say there are still plenty of ways to improve skills and get back on the employment wagon.

Consider which jobs are still available

Deputy chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), Kate Shoesmith, advised jobseekers to look at job availability data and talk to their local recruiter about who is hiring in their area as their first step back into employment.

The REC’s chief executive Neil Carberry added that there are even some sectors which are struggling to fill job roles at the moment – including IT, logistics, and food based industries.

Carry out a ‘skills audit’ on yourself and look for transferrable skills

When considering which jobs you are most suited for already, Ms Shoesmith advised doing a “skills audit” to think about “what you’ve learned from recent jobs”.

She added that hospitality employees who have been been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, as restaurants and pubs have been forced to close for months on end, could transfer easily to the retail sector.

“Places like hospitality, where through no fault of their own, there’s been job losses in that sector, it’s going to be hard going,” she said.

“But if you’ve been working in hospitality, the likelihood is that you have really good customer service skills. Many many businesses are looking for people who have that sort of transferability.

“Retail has been going through the roof in some parts and they’ll be looking to hire right now.”

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Hospitality employees have transferable skills says Kate Shoesmith (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Find temporary work as a stepping stone to a new career

Totaljobs research found that two thirds of people in the UK are re-evaluating their careers as a result of the pandemic.

Ms Shoesmith added that these people could think about temporary or short-term contracts which would give them an opening into a new job sector.

Optimise your time on furlough by learning a language or taking on a training course

Stephen Warnham, a job expert at Totaljobs, said “people’s resilience” has “shone throughout the pandemic”, with their research finding that a fifth of those not currently working due to the virus are using the time to plan, search for and find a new career, and one-third spent time acquiring a new skill or qualification last year.

He said: “For future applications, this proactiveness and adaptability will be seen as a real asset by employers.”

“Courses like those offered by the National Careers Service or on Totaljobs are a good place to start if you want to learn something new.”

Ms Shoesmith added: “If you use your time effectively, if you’ve faced unemployment and thought about gaining new skills, whether it is looking at different languages which opens up doorways in a range of economies, it tells the employer something about you, that you have resilience, that you’ve sought to improve and learned new things in this time.”

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Learning new skills will open up new job opportunities says Kate Shoesmith (PA)

Tailor your CV

Ms Shoesmith said to search for online resources and use job centres for advice on CV formatting, and to “make sure every CV and job application is tailored for the job because you will see it straightaway if it’s not.”

Mr Warnham added: “You can even choose a CV format that puts your skills front and centre, as opposed to your chronological experience.”

Practise and prepare for Zoom interviews

Ms Shoesmith advised putting “the same amount of effort in” to researching the employer and their business ahead of a Zoom interview as an in-person application.

She said to make sure there are no “disturbing noises around you, making sure you can fully focus on the interview, and your face is fully visible so you can give eye contact during the interview”.

She added: “Test the technology in advance – phone somebody in advance – and you’ll feel ready for the interview, and know your technology works, and then you’ve got as much as possible in your control.”

Practise for a Zoom interview like you would an in-person one says Kate Shoesmith (Joe Giddens/PA)

Use time on furlough to develop a business idea or passion

Ms Shoesmith said “great successes” emerged in the recruitment industry amid the recession caused by the financial crash in 2008.

She said: “Ten years on, they’re weathering this storm, and I think there’s something quite heartening to learn from that last recession that there were a number of businesses set up at that time and they’re still doing well now.”

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