‘I was in limbo for months’: what it’s like to start a new job during Covid-19
Zoom interviews, virtual meetings and getting to know your new team at home — this is what finding a new job in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic is really like
Starting a new job at any time brings a lot of different feelings to the fore — fear, excitement, and anxiety are all common as you find your feet in a totally new environment. But starting a job where you can’t meet your co-workers, you interview through a laptop screen, and may not see the walls of your office until next year is an entirely different experience.
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted almost every area of our lives this year, not least how we work. When lockdown restrictions hit, those who could were limited to working entirely from home, while others were either temporarily furloughed or lost their jobs altogether. At its peak, there were over half a million people receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment in Ireland, and although that number has consistently fallen since then, the long-term effects on jobseekers are severe.
Everything that we know about the recruitment process has had to change as a result of Covid-19. Banking on a great handshake getting you the job is no longer realistic — now, we have to make our mark via Zoom interviews, or even through pre-recorded test sessions. With so many searching for new opportunities right now, competition is rampant, and we’ve all had to get used to the new rules quickly.
“It was difficult to be mannerly while 2 metres apart”
Catherine had recently graduated from University of Limerick with a degree in Business Studies, and was setting her sails for a J1 in the U.S when Covid hit. When she was forced to job hunt at home in Ireland instead, she had nothing in the pipeline.
Because she was open to relocating within Ireland, Catherine cites Covid as a positive factor in her job search: “I didn’t have to decide on a city and I could apply for any job without the worry of getting there, double-booking interviews etc. I was able to interview for jobs across the country in order to find the right one.”
But it wasn’t all roses in finding a new role, as Catherine mentions many of her friends being put in difficult positions. With so many searching for jobs at the same time, the competition was fierce. “The job search was definitely tougher with a larger portion of people in the candidates’ pool. I was being beaten by people that had years of experience under their belt and were let go because of Covid.”
Catherine’s interview process was done in person, with social distancing measures in place. “It was more nerve-wracking, because I was conscious that I was adhering to the guidelines the whole time. It was difficult to be mannerly while being 2 meters apart.”
The overwhelming feeling from those who have gotten new jobs during the pandemic is a mix of relief and gratitude. Catherine says: “I’m so grateful to have gotten a job considering the economic uncertainty a lot of my college friends graduating with me don’t have. One of my friends, for instance, worked really hard to secure a graduate role the past few years to have the program canceled and told to reapply next year when the pool of candidates will feature two years of graduates. It’s definitely worrying times.”
“There was no fluidity”
But even when you secure a new post, the onboarding process during Covid is another worry. Getting to grips with new processes, new co-workers and a new daily culture is difficult enough when you’ve got all the tools — during the pandemic, you’re left empty-handed.
Lauren was hired by a stationary company just before Covid struck, and was left in limbo when she couldn’t join her new colleagues. “I was hired on the same day as my interview but that evening was when lockdown began. I sat in limbo for four months, where they told me they didn’t need me before eventually taking me on again.”
Now working in the office full-time, training for a new role during Covid leaves a lot to be desired. “The training period was a bit all over the place,” Lauren says. “I was given tasks in dribs and drabs. There was no fluidity to it at all as my manager couldn’t even sit near me. Everything was done through videos rather than face-to-face processes.”
Stopping wasn’t an option
If starting a new job is stressful during a pandemic, starting your own business can be a nightmare. Couple Izabella and Andrew founded their fine jewellery business the Silver Loom during Covid-19, and had to face countless unforeseen challenges to make ends meet.
The pair were knee-deep in launch preparation when the pandemic struck, and were mid-production of their pieces. According to Izabella, “stopping wasn’t much of an option”.
They set to work, using the time “as an intensive preparation period”, where they could work without distraction on the business. Delayed materials and lost opportunities to network and show their brand made the process harder — as Izabella says, “the visibility is such a massive factor for a new studio to engage with potential clients and to be able to showcase our work in a physical space.”
The Silver Loom launched their collection and Izabella and Andrew’s gamble paid off — they created a business in the most difficult of circumstances. “We did everything from making the pieces, sourcing materials, developing the website, styling and organising the photoshoot and working on business plans and all the research that goes with all of those things.
“It has just proved to us how much we are capable of — although it was a huge challenge, we achieved it. A business is a work in progress constantly and we are still refining everything but we have learned to trust in our own abilities.”
Read more: This is a seminal time for working women. But we must move fast to keep choice in the workplace
Read more: This is how to nail a virtual job interview
Read more: Can I ask for a pay rise during the pandemic?
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