How lockdown has changed the way I think about my career

I’d been in part-time jobs for years – now I’ve found a job I love in the NHS

Lucy is 24 and lives in South Wales. She studied for a Masters Degree in Sports Science at university. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Lucy was working part-time in a pub and running a small sports massage business. Both those jobs stopped with lockdown.

“I always knew I wanted to work in the NHS but I didn’t know what. During lockdown there were lots of jobs coming up for nursing assistants, and I thought there was no harm in applying.

“I did my training and started on the wards in May. I really enjoyed the work – it was very hands-on. I had to do things like obs (clinical observations), checking catheters and bed pans, helping patients wash, making sure everything is cleaned in the morning. I only once went to a Covid-19 ward. I worked with patients who had recovered from coronavirus but who still needed to be treated as though they were positive. I had to wear an apron, mask, gloves and a visor. It can be quite intense – especially for the patients.

“I have just started a full-time job in pathology, in the hospital biochemistry laboratory. I really enjoy working in a lab setting. The people I work with are fantastic. They specialise in tests: we receive blood and urine samples from the wards, we get a lot of samples from other hospitals, and send off tests to them as well. Working full-time is getting me back into a routine, which I really enjoy.”

“This has made me realise that whatever you want to do, keep your focus on it.”

“Lockdown has benefited me as the jobs wouldn’t have been there otherwise. If I now decide I want to become a biomedical scientist, they can help me go through my training.

“This has made me realise that whatever you want to do, keep your focus on it. I always thought there must be an NHS job that I’d want to do, but I wasn’t sure if it existed – until now.”

I’m going to pursue my dream job

Jodie is 21 and has just graduated from Nottingham University with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in History and Politics. She has been applying for graduate trainee schemes, but lockdown has made her rethink her options.

“I felt a lot of pressure to get on a standard graduate scheme, but lockdown made me stop and really think about what direction I wanted to take my life in. Now I know I can take the time to try things, rather than diving headfirst into another career. I have chosen to take a year out and then do a Masters Degree in Broadcast Journalism.

“It was a waste of time applying for stuff that wasn’t me.”

“Studying for a Masters wasn’t even on the cards before lockdown – I couldn’t wait to finish uni! I never wanted to study again. But then I realised it’s not that bad after all and might be necessary for what I want to do. When I got my uni marks back, I was also surprised by my capability.

“I’m now going to get experience in the field as an intern. I’ve also discovered I’m more of an office person. I don’t mind being at home but I like being able to get up and go somewhere. Having that set day and dedicated place to do stuff, and having that split – when you’re at home you can relax and do other things.

“It is important to spend time doing something you’re passionate about.”

“I have also realised that work shouldn’t be your whole life. The high-powered jobs that were viewed as the most ‘successful’ before lockdown actually aren’t essential jobs. We had our priorities wrong.

“You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Focus on yourself and doing what makes you happy, instead of living up to standards which have been quashed during quarantine.”

I thought I wanted to be a chef – but I’ve been knitting in lockdown

Eve is 22 and studying Textile Design at university. She has been working as a chef for several years, but lockdown forced her to take a step back from that work - and reassess what is important to her.

“I loved being a chef because I love cooking. Kitchens was the thing I was good at - but it wears you out a lot. When lockdown was announced and restaurants closed I decided to quit my job in London and move to Manchester. I have transferred my degree. Since being here I have slowed my life down a lot. In a way that has made me realise what I want.

“I have been working in a little shop selling bread and pastries, and I have been at uni online. Being out of the kitchen, I feel like I’ve got a lot more headspace now. A lot of people get stressed from working in kitchens - it is very intense. The way people speak to each other is different to everyday life. Politeness goes out of the window completely!

“My heart has always been in kitchens… now I want to focus on doing my own thing.”

“Before, I found it hard to put myself into my degree. During lockdown I have started my own small business doing knitted garments for people. It started with commissions, now I’m doing my own designs. I am planning on working on that a lot more and focusing on my textiles. I have been contacted by a shop to do children’s clothes and baby stuff. I’m hoping to launch a website.

“Lockdown has definitely made me value space and pleasant working environments. It has made me realise you don’t have to put up with high stress and high pressure environments just because it’s seen as ‘part of the job’. Lockdown has also made me not push myself too much – and just do what I enjoy rather than forcing myself into something that I think is going to be good for me.”

Lockdown has made me realise I love my job

Anthony is 28 and lives with his family near Preston in North West England. He is an investment solutions manager for people who have been severely injured and can no longer work. Many of them are on the coronavirus ‘clinically vulnerable’ list, which means they are advised to stay at home as much as possible. Anthony invests and manages their money - which can include trading it on the stock market – so that they have an alternative source of income.

“I studied Accountancy and Financial Management at Sheffield Hallam University. I originally intended to be an accountant, but realised during my degree that I wanted to work in investment management. People who have suffered from personal injury or clinical negligence are often paid a large sum of money in compensation. Me and my current team help them grow that money through financial investments. That money needs to last them the rest of their lives.

“Covid-19 had a big impact on investment returns. My clients have had many concerns, which is understandable. My priority has been to keep them informed and reassured. I have always understood my responsibility towards them but this has emphasised that. Normally we need client signatures for things too. We have had to change that to digital signatures and other software that allows them or their carers to sign things electronically.

“Lockdown has been socially challenging too. Working from home has taken a bit of getting used to – especially with a five-year-old and 18-month-old here! My partner has taken care of most of the homeschooling. I’m very grateful for that. I have complete admiration towards her.

“I miss the commute to an extent – I miss that time to focus and get ready for the day. But it has been nice to have lunch with my family during the week. I wouldn’t normally have that. There are other positives from the last few months too. I’m young for the industry and this experience will hold me in good stead moving forward. It has also shown me how agile we can be as a business and industry as a whole.

“Lockdown has made me realise I made the right choice. I enjoy the challenges and rewards of investment banking. I work for a very good business. Moving forward it would be nice to have the balance of less commuting and more family time. Two days at home and three days in the office - that would be a positive.”