Finding motivation during a global pandemic

This is the third in a series of articles which have been designed to explore the employability skills needs of those affected by Covid-19 and how myself, alongside key colleagues, stakeholders and employment specialists at Skills Forward, NCFE and beyond, are working together to try and support them with our ‘go the distance’ initiative

Follow Dan on LinkedIn to read the rest of the series first.

A key part of being able to find and stay in sustainable employment is to be able to stay motivated, take initiative and remain persistent. More than ever before, this is a big ask of jobseekers.

The jobseekers who might be struggling with motivation

Talented, capable, and willing professionals have been dealt a confidence knock as they find themselves unemployed, through redundancy or otherwise.

Young people who had hopes of summer jobs and work experience have missed out on that valuable experience, as well as not receiving the careers advice and guidance that is usually executed within schools.

There are also those who are struggling with the emotional limbo of furlough and hoping that things return to normal sooner rather than later. In a job market that is not on their side, saturated with lots of other talented and suitable candidates and less vacancies available, these feelings of disappointment and fear are compounded the longer the situation continues.

Finding motivation: the sectors are signalling growth

Although many jobs and sectors have been hit hard, there are businesses that have thrived, either by adapting their current provision or launching new products or services to meet demand.

Sustainable employment could lie in sustainable energy

Climate change is a significant political and economic issue and one which received much fanfare when it was reported that emissions fell during lockdown. To see this trend continue and to have a lasting effect on climate change, significant investment has been levelled towards a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’, a 10-point plan launched by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, including 250,000 new jobs in the UK.

A more even distribution of opportunities

The rise of working from home has had many benefits for those who may have struggled with a long commute into city centres and its associated costs, leading to pockets of wealth and outrageous house prices.

Now that many businesses are embracing flexible working, this has opened the doors to a more diverse range of applicants. Flexible working is an attractive benefit to many, in particular those who can now more easily manage their families, disabled workers or those with chronic illnesses, and remote workers who don’t want to or cannot afford to move to a major city. This has had an impact on housing prices beyond London and other major city centres as people are no longer constrained by the proximity to offices and can now instead embrace the space afforded by the suburbs and rural areas.

Logistics, warehousing, and distribution have been integral to our management of lockdown and how we now procure our goods. This demand has led to significant investment in more sites around the country, including often overlooked areas such as the North East, the West Midlands and Corby, creating much needed job opportunities.

Staycations signal a resurgence of the UK holiday market

Although international travel and tourism has been hugely impacted, the UK benefited from what was called a ‘staycation boom’. A short, sharp boost to the sector before we were again in lockdown. The announcement of the vaccine may provide the opportunity for international travel for some, however, many bookings made before this announcement indicate that the UK staycation trend is set to continue into 2021. There has also been indication of investors in the UK holiday market and the development of the high-speed rail service, the HS2, is set to make holidaying in the Lake District a possibility for more people across the UK.

Education, science, and outer space

During the pandemic, we’ve certainly come to understand the phrase “knowledge is power”. Our teachers have kept the nation educated and the profession has been met with a surge in applications; meeting the target for trainee teachers for the first time in eight years.

Alongside this, we have all been left in awe of the doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals who have worked tirelessly to keep us safe and well. This valiant effort has encouraged an increase in student nurse applications. Now, scientists have developed a vaccine in just 9 months. This amazing feat of human intelligence and our need to encourage a world-leading approach to virus control, has spurred investment by the UK Government in 2 new ‘megalabs’ creating 4,000 jobs.

Our collective renewed passion for all things STEM has the potential to go to infinity and beyond, with the government investing in three new space projects.

Instilling motivation in job seekers

Alongside illustrating the bigger picture and the possible opportunities that are out there, jobseekers need tangible support to ensure they stay motivated. Many of us are still in one form of lockdown, without our usual crutches that we rely on to keep us in a positive mindset, such as regularly seeing family and friends.

Staying motivated is a considered effort and exceptionally difficult in the current climate, and we all need to be reminded of this when we feel like we are getting it wrong – I know I certainly do! These are my personal tips for increasing motivation for your learners, and for yourself.       

  1. Stay SMART with manageable goals

For someone who may be dealing with feelings of failure, launching head-first into a jam-packed schedule of lists to complete, a routine to start, books to read, networking to do, jobs to apply for and so on is likely going to set that person up for the very feeling they are trying to escape: failure. Setting realistic targets with manageable expectations is crucial to ensure you don’t set yourself up for failure. Start small, build up and reward yourself with something positive like picking up the phone to a friend or going for a walk.

2. See no evil, speak to evil, hear no evil

Although we are all complex beings, how we think and behave is affected by what we consume or who or what we are exposed to. This includes people, media, TV shows, and any other ways in which we absorb information and energy. Consider who you are surrounding yourself with. Are they a drain with whom you swap negative vibes? How do you feel after your interactions with them? Everyone needs to vent from time to time but be sure not to get into a negativity relay race, passing on negativity from person to person and locked in a cycle of doom.

3. Speaking of doom – stop doom scrolling!

We’ve all done it, and the consumption of negative reports, press and social media can be addictive. It validates our own negative feelings, but it will not help us to feel any differently. Also, fiction is mixed with fact and we should be very careful about what media we consume and its legitimacy.

4. Seek enrichment

Once you’ve cut out the noise, seek out those who offer a positive outlook. Information available on the internet can be questionable and fascinating in equal parts. To find positive enrichment, seek out snackable blogs, podcasts or Ted Talks that aren’t overwhelming or too taxing. It doesn’t have to be related to your circumstance, sector, or field of interest – just listening to someone talk passionately about their vocation can stir motivation in yourself.

5. Don’t compare

Much the same as doom scrolling, there’s a fine line between consuming media that inspires and that which stirs up feelings of inadequacy. Social media is a snapshot and often only shows the highlights. If it isn’t feeding you in a positive way, mute, unfollow and come back to it when you’re feeling better.

Developing motivation is a key component of Skills Work, an employability skills test from Skills Forward and NCFE’s ‘go the distance’ initiative. You can test your learners’ individual starting points and skills set and support them with resources to help them give them confidence and get them ready for the workplace – whatever it looks like in the future!

For more information, email gothedistance@ncfe.org.uk or visit ncfe.org.uk/gothedistance.

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