Careers in 2021 - Is it possible to plan your path?

 

Career planning – post 2021


Ruth McGuire

If Covid has taught us anything, it has taught us that nothing in life is certain. At the back of our minds, we already knew this. However, Covid made the uncertainties of life much more apparent.  Everything we took for granted from hugging our loved ones to going shopping was affected by the pandemic. 

As far as the world of work is concerned, a significant number of jobs, careers and companies disappeared as a result of the pandemic. Most of us will have noticed the disappearance from our high streets of  major retailers like Debenhams or  in some cities John Lewis. Early years workers have also been hit hard by the pandemic. According to the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), ‘the number of nursery closures in England has increased by 35% during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic compared to the same period the previous year.’ 

The impact of the pandemic therefore raises the question as to what the future world of work will look like after 2021? And, is it even possible to plan for a career? Has Covid taught us any lessons as far as planning our careers is concerned?

Lessons learnt for career planning

One of the main lessons learnt from events of 2020 is that the ‘office’ no longer needs to be physical. It can be ‘virtual.’ As a result, the ‘office’ for many workers is now home based. The pandemic forced employers to think differently, and they did. They soon realised that after a few adjustments such as ensuring employees had laptops, tablets, mobile phones and/or decent internet connections – much office computer-based work and even meetings could be done virtually. According to global management consulting company McKinsey “Some companies are already planning to shift to flexible workspaces after positive experiences with remote work during the pandemic, a move that will reduce the overall space they need and bring fewer workers into offices each day.”https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-future-of-work-after-covid-19 (accessed 22.07.21)

Also, prior to the pandemic, most employees worked very fixed hours. Home based working offers much more flexibility. Some activities such as meetings or availability to take phone calls have fixed ‘working’ hours but many employers are flexible as far as other activities such as report writing or other desk based work that is not time-bound is concerned. This gives employees the ability to plan work around other commitments such as childcare or caring for relatives.

This new way of working has to be factored into any future career plans as it is unlikely that employers will revert to the ‘old’ ways of working. Some employers are offering a ‘hybrid’ model of working that incorporates some home-based working and some place-based working. This offers employees the best of both worlds – flexibility but also the ability to meet colleagues face to face.

When planning for the future, it’s worth considering whether you are the type of worker who needs to be with people, needs to interact with a team on a regular basis or are you fairly self-sufficient and can cope with many hours of working on your own?

Covid has also taught us all the importance of digital skills. Any future career planning therefore has to recognise that having the skills to attend ‘virtual’ meetings and/or to contact clients, patients, pupils, colleagues or service users ‘virtually’ will be an asset if not an essential part of any job. Most organisations and companies provide training in digital skills.

However, if you work in a company or organisation that does not offer this type of training, you need to take urgent action to upskill and ensure you are digitally competent. Local FE colleges usually offer short courses in ICT skills that cover the essentials needed for virtual or remote working.

Impact on health, social care and education sectors

One of the most notable differences in health and social care work also relates to technology. As with other sectors, the pandemic forced health providers to think of providing health and social care differently. The challenge has been to meet the needs of patients/service users whilst protecting staff. Here is where technology came to the rescue. GPs, consultants and care home workers have used mobile technologies such as tablets, mobile phones and PCs to provide services, share and receive information and to keep communication lines open.

Similarly, in education, there was a switch to providing online lectures and lessons in order to meet the needs of learners of all ages. Practitioners in education have been required not only to support subject learning but, in many cases, they have also had to provide technical support to pupils/students to ensure they were/are making the best use of online learning.

As for growth areas, as the population ages, health and social care needs will increase. According to Skills for Care, “Adult social care is one of the few sectors where jobs are increasing, offering significant numbers of long-term career opportunities in the current job market. There's an estimated 1.49 million people working in social care, and by 2035 we'll need to fill around 580,000 more jobs.”

For workers in social care, one article from SCIE (Social Care Institute for Excellence) highlights the importance of technology and suggests that the future of care homes looks something like this: “Voice-controlled virtual assistants, such as Alexa, enable residents’ independence; allowing them to listen to music, stream podcasts, play audiobooks, and provide real-time information, such as news. ….Going forwards, assistive technologies like those found in nano pulse pillows will support the monitoring of micro movements and vibrations in breathing and heart beats, keeping staff ahead of potential problems.” Why technology has been so important during the pandemic (scie.org.uk) accessed 23.07.21

Flexible career planning

The future remains as uncertain as ever. Nobody yet knows the full impact of Covid nor is there an end date in sight. But whatever the future holds and irrespective of the sector, the key to survival and resilience as an employee or even as a self-employed contractor is to remain flexible and to continuously develop your skills.

Being able to identify your transferable skills is also key to successful long term career planning. These could include communication skills, ICT skills, creativity and leadership skills. These skills may not always be related to paid work. They could have been acquired through voluntary work or even hobbies. By carrying out a skills health check you can assess the current state of your work related skills. To carry out a skills assessment  or for a skills health check, visit the National Careers Website at: https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/ 

Or, access Skillzminer, free with your CACHE Alumni membership, to complete a skills health check which can signpost to live job vacancies, apprenticeships and future careers.

Your skills check may reveal that your opportunities are not limited to being employed. You may discover hidden talents or skills that you could use to set up your own business or to work differently as a self-employed or freelance contractor for example. 
 
Conclusion

 
Evidence suggests that the mindset of employees has to change to one where no job or career is taken for granted. The new mindset also has to accommodate new ways of working whether or not that includes working in different places or with different equipment. Whatever the next decade brings, flexibility and technological proficiency are fundamental to career planning.


Further information/useful websites:

https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/

https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/

https://www.skillsforcare.org.uk/Home.aspx

https://www.cache.org.uk/for-learners/choosing-early-years-as-a-career