Jobseekers… let’s talk about lockdown.

I started back to work recently after a brief period of furlough – it’s great to be back. While trying to get back into the swing of things, I’ve been speaking to candidates who are looking for IT jobs and inevitably I end up comparing furlough stories with them. Some people have found it boring, many have found it challenging to home school their children, and all of us have missed our loved ones. Some people I’ve spoken to have been very honest and admitted that they have enjoyed having a break in spite of all the bad things that are happening around us. And I certainly don’t begrudge them that, because I’ll admit it was nice to have some unforeseen time off, even without the option of going anywhere or doing anything.

I always thought that if I had a lengthy period of time off work, I would probably tackle lots of projects around the house and garden, and the place would look amazing. But it turns out I am no Alan Titchmarsh, and my efforts at home improvement have made me question whether I ought to embark on any task unsupervised that involves either a drill or a ladder.

I have had some personal triumphs though. I finally taught myself to crochet. I did some freelance writing. I worked on a community project for a memorial wall for local victims of COVID-19. I started running again. My cooking skills have improved.

Some of the people I’ve spoken to have used the down time to apply themselves to training or even accreditations, to further their careers. I’ve been impressed by their motivation and positivity. And it got me thinking – we’re going to be talking about lockdown for a while. Lockdown is going to be talked about in job interviews as well as in day to day life. So perhaps that’s something we ought to be prepared for, as well as the normal interview preparations that we would do as a matter of course.

If you have found yourself in the position of having to look for a job recently then I recommend giving some thought to what you would say if an interviewer were to ask how you occupied yourself during lockdown. All businesses have busier times and quieter times – so employers will be interested to find out how you can innovate, self-learn or help others during the quieter times, and asking about your lockdown experience is a great way to do that. So if you are looking for a new job at the moment, I suggest having a think about the following:

  • How did you overcome challenges that were presented to you during the lockdown? (eg: adjusting to working remotely, having to juggle home schooling with a busy work diary, or being unexpectedly out of work)
  • What did you achieve during the lockdown? (eg: learning a new skill, studying, home or garden projects)
  • How did you help others during the lockdown? (eg: assisting vulnerable people, getting involved in community projects)
  • What steps did you take to stay positive during the lockdown? (eg: socialising with friends online, working on a personal project)

I realise as I write this that I am so fortunate to be back at work, but there is still much uncertainty ahead and employers will be looking for people who can show they can adapt to a new way of working, who can have a positive influence on others, and who are pro-active and self-motivated, particularly during difficult times. There has never been a better time to prove that you can handle anything! And even if you haven’t taken all of this in your stride (I will admit to finding the first few weeks really difficult), I bet when you reflect on it you will probably surprise yourself with how well you managed to adapt and cope.

Jobseekers – it’s going to be tough out there for a while.  But while we adapt to the ‘new normal’, whatever that may be, get ready to start sharing your lockdown stories, because they might just come in useful.