At the start of the Covid pandemic, many businesses and sectors stopped recruiting. Companies cut hundreds of jobs with the heaviest job losses in the travel, leisure, non-food retail and automotive industries. Some sectors weathered the storm better than others; winners have been healthcare, IT and cyber, utilities, transport and logistics, infrastructure projects and engineering.
But the situation changes daily. Pessimists forecast restrictions will continue well into summer 2021 and beyond. By then, many small businesses risk closing for good, and unemployment will rise. The Government can’t risk hiking personal and corporate taxes, which will kill off any nascent rebirth of business. Expect the Government to offload social welfare to local councils who in turn are already struggling with declines in corporate rates and car parking income. Where else can Government recover the billions spent on supporting regions, industries and low-income families? Expect new legislation and a tax raid on corporations with clever tax avoidance schemes.
Expect nationalisation of the railways and demands for pay increases, especially from the NHS. The Government cannot afford to hold back on financial support to the NHS but may demand large-scale efficiencies through the supply chain as a quid pro quo. Expect Heathrow expansion (Heathrow is no longer the busiest airport in Europe) and the North-South Crossrail to be kicked into the long grass. However, the politics of HS2 will likely see it go ahead, along with other infrastructure projects for transport and border controls to manage Brexit.
But the genie is out of the bottle. Employees and employers have found working from home to be just as productive and it is unlikely there will ever be a full return to office working. Whilst this has some negatives, particularly a decline in supporting services, transport, retail, hospitality and office leasing, there are compensating positives.
Whilst the future looks uncertain, all is not doom and gloom. Governments, pharmaceutical companies and laboratories around the world are working hard to develop a Covid vaccine. There are 200 vaccines under research right now. Expect a vaccine of some sort early next year, possibly manufactured under licence around the world. As vaccines become available and are rolled out across the country, in itself a major logistical challenge, businesses will start to pick up, travel will return, and badly hit industries will stretch, yawn and seek new opportunities.
As a Service leaver starting on a new career or a veteran looking for a career change, how does this impact you, and what can you do?
Three key points:
As Jo Haigh, Chief Executive Officer at FDS Director Services and OnBoarding Officers, says, “Identify your transferrable skills to help navigate this continued uncertainty”, skills such as handling pressure, resilience, effective communication, bringing simplicity to complexity, planning, managing change, creative thinking and agility.
Be prepared to compromise with location, job type and starting salary. Look for opportunities further afield, not just in your immediate geographical area. Be prepared to accept a lower starting salary to get yourself into employment. Give yourself time to demonstrate your capabilities and work your way up from there. Be open to new job opportunities in sectors you may not have previously considered.
As Baroness Martha Lane-Fox said in a recent radio interview, people are applying for the wrong jobs. There are fewer jobs, for example in aerospace engineering, but plenty in transport and logistics, the care sector, IT and cyber. Think about up-skilling to make yourself more employable. And recognise that to compete in today’s employment market, good digital skills are essential.
Businesses will look for new markets and new opportunities within the UK and will diversify as bureaucracy and delays at ports impact overseas trade. Expect Government to place contracts with UK businesses and not with EU companies. Those businesses and industries that adapt and change will survive a post Covid and post Brexit world. Infrastructure, transport, construction and logistics, cyber and IT will continue to be growth areas.
Businesses will need to find suitable candidates to fill these new roles, roles that may not have existed even a few months ago. This will become ever more relevant as companies diversify their operations in response to the changing economic climate. Good management skills, particularly in the area of change, will be critical in supporting new growth and development plans.
At a recent OA Seminar on 50+ job seekers, key-note speaker, Professor Matt Flynn from the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce (CROW) highlighted the importance of pitching to what the employer needs. What employers say they most need are technical skills, industry-based experience and social skills. But what Service leavers often consider to be their most valuable skill is leadership. As Zena Everett says in ‘Mind Flip’ flip the focus away from yourself and look outwards to the value you add and the problems you can solve. Identify the employers’ needs and think about how you can solve them.
To succeed, plan early, seize every opportunity, and recognise that it is you who will need to adjust to a different work environment, not just the employer. Understand the culture of the business you will be working in and become comfortable with uncertainty. Identify what you need and then ask yourself ‘What do I really want?’
With a changing economic climate and a return to some sort of ‘new normal’ on the horizon, fortune will favour those who are agile and adaptable.