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In early April 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in 700,000 people losing their jobs in one week during one of the most savage job market downturns in Australian history. The pandemic wreaked havoc on the Australian economy which shrank by 7% in the three months to June - the steepest plunge since World War 2. The economic contraction was so significant, that Treasurer Josh Frydenburg announced that Australia was in recession well before the official figures were released.

After spiralling downwards for five solid months, the unemployment rate finally started to recover in August 2020, dropping to 6.8% after a 22-year high of 7.5% in July.

Young people and older people typically bear the brunt of job losses during a recession, so this isn’t great news for those under 25 or over 55.

ING’s recent "Preparing for the digital workforce of tomorrow" report found that around one in three (35%) Aussies were considering changing jobs after COVID-19. This includes nearly half (45%) of all millennials. Furthermore, 23% of Australians are unsure if they have the right skills for the future workforce post COVID-19.

Be open to internal opportunities

Economists are predicting that the jobs market may not return to normal until 2023, and during times of weak economic growth people are less likely to leave their employers for fear of not finding another job opening.

The good news is that according to Deloitte Insights, many organisations are turning to internal recruitment to provide greater flexibility and to motivate and retain good employees. Rather than advertising for a position externally businesses may create ‘talent pools’ as a strategy to meet changing business needs and priorities for employee skillsets. One example cited is consumer goods company Unilever, who was able to redeploy over 8,000 employees during the pandemic to different positions within their organisation.

Managers are being encouraged to promote upskilling and professional development opportunities to fulfill this changing dynamic. So, what does all this mean for you? Well, it means that if you are happy with your employer but seeking more from your position, now is a great time to explore the idea of a secondment or promotion, or to negotiate a tailored role that better suits your skills and aspirations. Done well it’s a win-win scenario, saving the business on recruitment costs and providing employees with greater satisfaction from their work.

Develop your skills 

Whether you have recently lost your job due to the pandemic or are still employed, you should consider upskilling or undertaking further training. If there are any skills that you’ve thought about developing to boost your employability or to gain a promotion, now is a fantastic time to do so. There have never been more opportunities to upskill.

Here are a few ways to gain new skills to boost your future employability:

  1. Undertake postgraduate study 

    An obvious benefit to postgraduate study is the in-depth and industry-specific knowledge and skills that are taught. However, as the University of Newcastle Master of Business Administration graduate Jessica Redman puts it, “Study teaches you so much more than the subject matter at hand. It provides the platform to develop and refine critical thinking and research skills, project management, problem solving, and interpersonal skills.” Jessica, now the Organisational Development Manager at nib Health Funds, looks to instil these same qualities in the staff there.

    Master of Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development graduate Aileen agrees that postgraduate study is so much more than skills, the industry connections and social networks that you develop cannot be underestimated. She was able to develop invaluable connections at the University of Newcastle, acknowledging the “wonderful people who enriched (her) learning experience.”

    The multi-facetted nature of postgraduate study can also open up opportunities to create the future, not just prepare for it. As PhD graduate Noah Mwelu discovered, by choosing to study in Australia he was able to instigate a partnership between the University of Newcastle and his home university in Uganda.

  2. Do a short course

    Short courses are an excellent idea for those who want to upskill in a specific area, and who don’t want to commit to a full year or two of study. Short courses are relatively inexpensive and can fire up the mind and ignite new ideas, especially if you feel stuck in a rut in your work.

    The Australian government website CourseSeeker is a great place to start your search for short courses. The University of Newcastle also offers open online courses across a range of subject areas. Courses are free to study, however students have the option of purchasing a certificate to verify their participation.

Discounted short courses

Discounted short courses

The time is now, study in 2021 and you may be eligible to receive discounts of up to 80% on your course fees.

Learn more

3. Teach yourself skills
There are several websites offering literally thousands of free online courses. You could learn about anything from blockchain to sign language, or economics to Shakespeare. You won't get the same individualised support that you would get through formal study or industry courses however - so bear this in mind, as more patience and discipline may be needed. If, however you enjoy the challenge of teaching yourself new skills, this could be a good approach to take.
Here are a few websites to get started:

Consider if now is the time to switch jobs

Job switching is a great way of increasing your take-home pay during times of healthy economic growth and low unemployment – this unfortunately isn’t the season we're in. You should first try upskilling or undertaking postgraduate studies to propel you into the position you want within your organisation as taking on a promotion or moving laterally within your organisation can expose you to different projects, cultures and enhance your skills, which in turn increases your future employability.

This may not be an option for everyone though. So, if you are thinking of switching jobs, Careers website Indeed advises you to:

  1. Think through your long-term career goals 

    Ask yourself: “Does the move help me to get closer to my career goal?”

  2. Be patient

    Getting a new position can take some time and may not happen overnight.

  3. Invest in education and training to set yourself apart

    An advanced degree or additional certifications shows employers you’re dedicated to self-improvement.

  4. Identify and highlight transferable knowledge and skills

    Determine which skills and experience from your current job align best with the requirements of the new role. Highlight those items on your resume and in interviews.

  5. Weigh the risks and benefits
    Leaving one job for another can have advantages, but drawbacks too. For example, you may earn a high salary, but your new role might bring extra responsibilities, cultural shifts or stresses that you didn't anticipate.

The bottom line is, that although 2020 has been tough on everyone, there are a number of ways that you can look at self-improvement to get you into the place that you want to be. Looking for opportunities within your current workplace shouldn’t be neglected as a first port of call, as well as exploring different avenues for gaining new skills.

If entering the job market is the stage you are at, then remember to be patient and don’t neglect the importance of networking as a way of opening up job leads. This might be the season that you decide to hop into a whole new career.

Happy upskilling!

Find out more about postgraduate study

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.