Life in the UK and around the world looks very different now to how it looked just a few months ago before the Covid-19 pandemic began. Wearing masks and keeping a physical distance from people creates a visible difference in the way we experience daily life now, but less visible are the changes that are causing unpredictable and far-reaching personal and professional changes.
One major factor that is likely to affect businesses of all sizes and across all industries is the impact on the national and global economy. The UK has entered a period of recession for the first time since the Global Financial Crisis of 2007–2009, and while the economic recovery is slowly gathering pace post-lockdown, it is hard to picture what the longer-term future might look like.
We have all had to grapple with the unusual situation of being locked down at home, but many people were able to focus their energies on developing new skills, such as language skills, while they patiently waited out the lockdown period. In this article, the first in our ‘Life after Lockdown’ series, we consider how your journey through lockdown may have provided you with the transferable skills to develop new career opportunities.
Furloughing the workforce
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to dramatic changes in how we live and work – assuming that continuing to work has been an option. Many companies have received the support of the government’s furlough scheme, which has seen their employees’ roles put on temporary hold. This strategy allowed businesses to retain staff and keep paying them, preventing significant unemployment and financial hardship across the nation.
Amid the uncertainty of a local and international recession, businesses have had to consider making difficult decisions about the jobs they have been trying to retain. Added to this, the furlough scheme is due to come to an end: even if it were to be extended further, it is by no means a concrete long-term solution as it cannot run indefinitely. Nothing is certain yet, and it is hard to know if things will get worse before they get better. On a more positive note, however, recessions can present people with an opportunity to rethink, reset and get creative.
Developing new skills during lockdown
Lockdown offered many of us the time to invest in learning new skills, especially those utilising the furlough scheme. Perhaps lockdown provided you with a reminder of the joy of doing something completely different, like DIY or baking. Or maybe you discovered a valuable insight into what a career as a teacher might be like after teaching your kids at home (though whether that insight was positive or negative may depend on your experience!). Perhaps you even decided to learn a language and tap into the world of countries overseas that you one day hope to visit (or revisit).
For many people, their jobs will be waiting for them when the furlough period ends; in fact, many staff have already started to phase back into work over the summer months. But for others, the uncertainty of lockdown may be extending into an uncertain professional future for their jobs or their industries, and millions of jobs may become vulnerable as a direct result of the pandemic. The skills practised and insights developed during lockdown may then take on added significance.
Creating new opportunities through your language skills
A recession has a way of taking some difficult decisions out of your hands and presenting you with a new way forward. The end of one role can be recast as an opportunity to try something new – perhaps even trying the very thing you have always wanted to do. The question is whether you are open to the opportunity and ready to embrace change.
The uncertainty of the pandemic has also caused people who might otherwise feel secure in their roles to question whether they have chosen the right career at all. A July 2020 survey by KPMG and the Financial Services Skills Commission revealed that 46% of UK workers from all industries were considering a career change, with 44% of financial services workers looking to change their profession.
Learning a language can offer some wonderful opportunities for personal growth and fulfilment, and it can also open up professional development prospects that might previously have seemed out of reach. While the notion of moving overseas or travelling for business may seem like a far-away fantasy right now, the changes of recent months have revealed that flexible and remote working can work just as effectively as being in the office full-time. If you can do your current job from your home, why not consider a role that relies on international communication using your evolving language skills?
If you spent lockdown practising your Italian for a daydream trip to Rome or your Spanish for an eventual jaunt to South America, maybe you can expand your horizons a little to think about how your language skills might better serve you. With global uncertainty, a border-free and remote-working sensibility (thanks to services such as Zoom), and Brexit deal negotiations still under scrutiny, your language skills could reveal an opportunity to widen your career options. Even if your current role is secure, it is worth evaluating what the world might look like in the near future and how you would like your career to fit into that world.
The pandemic may feel deeply unsettling, however it provides businesses with a novel chance to revolutionise the world of work. If you have started to develop your language skills (or any other transferable skill), they could present you with a career-evolving opportunity.
We recognise that these are difficult and worrying times, but we hope that they offer you and your business a way to rethink how you work and how you can thrive in a post-Covid-19 world. If you are interested in finding out more about how we can support you with your language training, please do get in touch.