A few weeks ago my wonderful friend Becca lost her job due to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. It was unexpected, undeserved, but completely out of her control.
Becca and I met at University in York almost five years ago. Since leaving York in 2018, Becca has moved to Cardiff to live with her partner. She is an avid reader, keen explorer and is working on her first children’s book.
Here, Becca shares how her experience of losing a job in lockdown has led her to new beginnings and the career path she always wanted.
Tell us about your previous job.
After graduation, I moved to Cardiff with my partner and embarked on a career in sales within the tech industry. My day-to-day involved consulting PR Directors, Heads of Marketing and Social Media Managers on the PR and social media strategy of their brands. It was hard work and extremely intense, but I learned so much in such a short period of time.
A year in, I knew it wasn’t right for me, so I moved into a newly created role in Business Development. I enjoyed the variety of the tasks set, and being able to work with so many people across the company.
It wasn’t my forever job, but it allowed me enough time to focus on my own projects and refocus my career.
When the coronavirus pandemic first broke, we were reassured that everything would be fine. I even gave a presentation on adapting sales technique to the circumstances, but the effect of the crisis on the economy was far greater than anyone predicted. Just two weeks later, I was fired along with several others, due to the economic circumstances.
What were your initial thoughts when you became unemployed?
I’ve been working since I was 15, so I was panicked. I’d never been in this position – I’d always had a plan.
After lots of discussions with friends and family, I eventually began to believe that this wasn’t my fault, it was the circumstances. I also came to terms with the fragility of my position, renting a flat in Cardiff city centre. My partner is currently finishing his Master’s degree, so we had no fallback as I was the main source of income.
How was this experience impacted by the global pandemic?
My feelings of failure, fear for the future and panic over our economic situation resulted in a few days of wallowing – I’m a huge fan of getting it out of your system, so that you can build yourself back up to fix the situation.
However, when the time for building came, I was faced with an increasingly difficult job market. At one stage I was receiving three or four rejection emails a day, which is hard to bounce back from.
I got through to the interview stage a couple of times, but the intense competition and the increasing unemployment rate meant that entry-level jobs entirely dried up. Even fruit picking jobs back home, which are usually done by temporary workers from Europe, received 3000 applications for every 100 jobs.
Living in the centre of Cardiff also amplified everything I was feeling, as I began to worry for the people affected by the pandemic, especially my friends who work for the NHS. The Dragon’s Heart Hospital was set up in the Principality Stadium, which is just across the street from my kitchen window. It felt like my mind couldn’t escape from the pandemic and all of its effects and I’ve never missed the countryside more.
How did you decide what to do next?
Gilmore Girls became my comfort watch for when the anxiety hit. I happened to be watching the episodes where Rory chooses which college to go to, as she finishes her SATs. I’ve missed education for a long time, and since January I’ve taken lots of online courses on anything from wellbeing to the history of propaganda.
I really love learning; it fills me with purpose and activates my mind. It also tends to involve two of my favourite things – reading and writing.
I’d always focused my career on the publishing industry, hoping that one day I’d be an editor at Penguin or Harper Collins. But, as I sat and worked out what was most important to me in a job, I realised I’d been focusing on the wrong things.
My time on my university newspaper was some of the most creative and fulfilling work I have ever done, as it combines my love of writing, reading and visual design. I began researching and speaking to the journalists I knew, and decided to apply for a Master’s in Magazine Journalism at City, University of London.
Have you been able to receive any government support?
I’ve been lucky enough to qualify for universal credit – all of those tax deductions are coming in handy! We’re also very lucky in Cardiff to be supported by the council, in receiving a reduction on our council tax, so be sure to apply for that too.
Looking back on this experience, how do you feel about it now?
When I look back now, I feel calm. I can view things clearly now, rather than squint through the haze as I did at the time and I can view these events as an opportunity.
As with anything, after a period of mourning, or wallowing, you have an opportunity to create something new – a new life, career, situation for yourself and that is, and always will be, exciting.
For me, I can’t ever thank the wonderful people who are close to me enough, for supporting and caring for me while I was struggling, and helping me to explore the new avenues I was creating for myself.
Looking ahead, how do you feel about returning to education?
I’m excited. The course is very hands-on and the staff at City are all very experienced journalists, so you really are learning from the best. The alumni network is incredible too, including Dolly Alderton, Alex Petridis and Susan Riley, so I can’t wait to get creating. I’m also in shock really, as it’s a hugely respected course and I’m ecstatic to have been given a place.
Do you have any advice for students going into higher education? Or other people that have lost their jobs during the pandemic?
I guess the biggest thing is that while it won’t be a ‘normal’ university experience, I don’t think people should put off going. If you’re a prospective undergrad – many people will back me up in saying that Freshers is even better in your second year! The first term at home may even help with the transition, and I’m sure universities will make up for the lost socialising with big summer events.
If you’re a prospective postgrad, I’ve just watched my partner complete his Master’s in Maths, with great support and online learning. Considering the job market is unlikely to recover for the next year, how can you best spend this time? Gaining practical and industry-focused experience for a big change in my career is time well invested!
This also goes for people who have recently lost their jobs – what’s important to you? How can you best invest time in your development over the next few months?
And above all, remember that this isn’t you, it’s the circumstances.
Finally, could you name a charity close to your heart so we can raise awareness for the cause.
The Liam Fairhurst Foundation. My great friend Callum Fairhurst, set up this foundation in his brother’s name, after losing Liam to cancer in 2009. They support children in families affected by cancer, as a truly awesome fulfilment of Liam’s legacy.
Callum has also been hugely supportive, as one of the first people I called when I was considering this career change. He worked his magic and helped me to speak with other journalists and current students at City – one hell of a friend and I’ll always be thankful to have him.
You can read more about Becca on her travel blog, Snapjot
You can read more about careers here and life post-university here.