How do you find a job in a pandemic?

It’s really challenging looking for work in the current jobs market so where do you begin or is it worth taking some time out to consider your options until the jobs market picks up again?

Cleaners cleaning whilst wearing PPE equipment


How do you get back to work in a pandemic, with growing numbers of people competing for jobs, entire sectors badly hit and people still worried about their health, particularly if they have underlying health issues?

Our latest survey shows a significant number of people are sitting things out until the labour market picks back up, with some feeling it is too much of an uphill battle at the moment. They may, for instance, have specific concerns about their health and want to work from home and, despite the fact that many of us are now working from home, there are still not enough jobs advertised as being possible for homeworking.

Knowing when to bring this up in an interview, particularly if there are hundreds of people going for a job, is hard and depends very much on the context and how you present it. For instance, if the employer promotes flexible working and says they are open to it, even if it is not in the job ad, it is easier to bring it up at interview. Also, even if it is a deal-breaker, it might not be a good idea to let flexible working dominate the conversation and to think how you present it as something that would be good for both you and the employer, rather than just being something you require.

There may be many reasons for sitting things out for now until the labour market and the Covid situation improves, but research suggests the longer people are out of work the harder it can be to get back in, despite the growth in recent years in returner programmes. It’s important therefore to use the time as well as you can, depending on your circumstances, to retrain or do free online courses, network, research and to volunteer, where this is possible. Any relevant experience will stand you in good stead for future job searching.

The latest job statistics show, however, that many women aren’t sitting things out, despite the challenges, and that some have been able to find new jobs amid all the turbulence. They show part-time roles and self employment falling for women and full-time employment up, with some frontline sectors such as supermarket and healthcare work needing more staff. Financial concerns and worries about the risks associated with self employment – with self employment campaigners complaining about the lack of support for certain groups – will have driven these figures. With more full-time roles being possible on a homeworking basis, too, some of these roles may be more flexible than in the past if that flexibility remains post-Covid.

It’s hard to know what to do and to keep motivated to search if you are getting a lot of knock backs. Confidence falls. Many of the support schemes that exist seem to be aimed at younger people, who most definitely need them, having been hard hit by job loss. It may be that older people need advice on how to write their cv – perhaps they have been in a role for some time and haven’t updated it – but perhaps they need help more with how to pitch their skills to an employer in a different sector from the one they have spent most of your life in. Everyone talks about transferable skills, but how can you compete with someone else who has those same skills, but 10 years’ experience in the relevant sector?

There is a lot that could be done and many different groups who are affected in different ways. General advice and support is important, but different groups also need quite specific support – for instance, what happens if access to childcare is more challenging in the aftermath of Covid? – and have very specific questions. We see that all the time at with the questions to our panel of employment law and careers advice experts. People’s lives and circumstances are complicated; different labour market conditions exist in different areas. The best way forward is surely to provide a wide range of support and advice, taking into account the particular challenges of specific groups and to offer different concrete examples of avenues to explore without making people feel they are a failure if they can’t get a job in what are extremely challenging times.

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