Thousands are losing their jobs to Covid-19—now what?
No-one’s had the 2020 they wanted, myself included. In England, the double-whammy of a looming Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic has put millions of people either in unemployment or perilously close to it. Unsurprisingly, this has led to the first recession in over a decade, which will no doubt impact the job market for years. With a vaccine still months away, it’s easy for people to feel disheartened.
But it’s worth remembering that while 2020 has been unexpectedly severe, this isn’t the first economic downturn in recent memory. It took a while, but the economy bounced back fully from the 2008 crash, which was much more severe than Covid looks to be. The natural movement of markets is that after they go down, they come back up — usually in a big way.
There are other positive points. Companies that have laid off staff are certain to build their workforces back up once lockdown restrictions weaken, and they’ll naturally prefer to rehire past staff than headhunt new talent. The recently unemployed might well get a telephone call from their old workplace in a few months asking how soon they can get back to the office.
Also, unlike past economic downturns, the coronavirus pandemic has opened up entirely new sectors of the economy. Naturally, sales of hand sanitiser went through the roof. But, more importantly, Covid-19 has accelerated the work-from-home (WFH) movement massively. I recently spoke with a company in the furniture, fixtures & equipment industry who’ve taken on huge contracts supplying office equipment to employees now working from their apartments. Similarly, the online freelancer market has seen new life as more and more industries ditch in-person workplaces for good.
Despite all this, social distancing and self-isolation make it easy to feel like there’s no help out there—one of the many reasons depression has skyrocketed this year. But where there’s hardship, there’s also solidarity. Mutual aid groups have stepped up to help their communities, and there have never been more resources for mental health than today. Finally, we serve an important role ourselves in helping whoever we can get back into the workforce: there will always be jobs out there somewhere that we can help candidates find.
A vital piece of advice for the coming months is that due to the massive restructuring of the economy, many companies will invest in training new and inexperienced staff. This is a crucial opportunity for those who use our services. I never pass up on a post just because I don’t have every last one of the required skills: I apply anyway, ask for training, and work on my personal development in the meantime. As such, we should emphasise that it’s OK to spend time and even a little money on training up a skillset—think of it as an investment in the future.
The future is uncertain. But when hasn’t it? While the rest of England is waiting patiently for things to improve, we can seize the opportunity, put our clients out there, connect them with companies and make them the most attractive candidate possible for a brave new post-Covid world.
2020 hasn’t been anyone’s year, but 2021 will be what we make of it.