Coronavirus has affected everyone in different ways – whether you are finishing college or university, working from home or unemployed and looking for work, or you are on furlough or have been made redundant – everyone has had to adapt to the current situation.
We’re now approaching the anniversary of the first lockdown in the UK (where on earth has the time gone?) and are still experiencing heavy restrictions due to the new variant, and the circumstances we found ourselves in a year ago might have changed slightly. Perhaps you were on furlough initially and have now been made redundant, or you have now finished your studies and are struggling to find work as a direct result of the pandemic?
For many of you, the task of securing a job may be at the forefront of your mind. In light of this, we wanted to offer some advice on how you can tackle what we predict will become the most popular interview question of the decade… What did you do during lockdown?
So, what did you do during lockdown?
Before we delve into the ways in which you could answer this question, it’s important to note that it is completely understandable if you have struggled to find a job or have found it difficult to be productive 100% of the time during lockdown. We are living through completely unprecedented times and it can be very challenging to feel motivated whilst the world is scrambling to conquer an invisible virus.
That being said, employers will undoubtedly be interested to know how you spent your time during lockdown and what you were able to achieve from the confines of your home.
There are many ways you can answer this, depending on your circumstances and what your interests are.
- If you were studying or working from home, talk about this and how you managed this. How did you structure your time? How did you communicate with others? How did you manage distractions or other priorities? What was the outcome of this?
- If you have been searching for work, talk about this process and the ways in which you’ve tried to improve your prospects. Have you changed your methods of job hunting? Have you revamped your CV and cover letter layouts? How did you cope with setbacks?
- Whilst unable to secure full-time employment, have you taken any online courses or taken part in online internships? Where there are gaps in your CV, there are numerous online courses you can take to develop your skills. For example, the Digital Innovators Skills Programme provides 3 weeks of skills development which allows you to harness employability and digital skills, which you are then able to apply in an 8-week work project with a local employer. Alternatively, you can find specific online courses on LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, Udemy, and more.
- Rather than thinking directly about seeking work experience or external skills development opportunities, maybe you directed your energy towards your hobbies. Do you have a blog where you write about your interests? Do you have any hobbies? – are you a painter, a coder or do you play sports? How have you improved these during lockdown?
- Maybe you took a completely different approach and dedicated yourself to helping the community during such a difficult time. Maybe you helped deliver shopping to the vulnerable or maybe you took part in some fundraising to help the NHS, charities or food banks? Or perhaps you helped out at home?
In light of this discussion, try to think of three ways you have dedicated time to improving and developing yourself – this might be professionally, academically, physically or mentally.
Once you have identified these, think about the skills you were able to practice with these actions, such as self motivation or problem solving, and how you would demonstrate these to an employer.
If you are struggling with this task, don’t worry. There is no deadline on self-improvement – you have plenty of time to reflect on these methods and see which works best for you.
Why is all of this important?
It is the aspect of trying to improve your prospects which is something that employers will hold in high regard. Employers are aware of the difficulties of job hunting, especially since the advent of coronavirus, so they will understand if there are significant gaps in your CV. However, they will be interested to see how you have tried to compensate for these gaps and how you have made use of your time in a way that shows or enhances some of your innate skills and strengths.
Whatever you have done during lockdown, there are undoubtedly some skills that you have developed, and these should be highlighted in your interview. Regardless of your methods of development – throughout the pandemic you will undoubtedly have been adaptable, resourceful and resilient. Employers seek out these core skills and they seek candidates who are creative, motivated and can use their initiative – so make sure you discuss how you were able to demonstrate them during the pandemic.
The point of this blog is to help you realise that there is never one right answer to an interview question, especially this one. The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly difficult and if this question crops up in your next job interview, take it in your stride and talk honestly about your experience and the things you did to occupy, entertain and improve yourself, as well as the challenges you faced and what you did to overcome them. Employers, despite seeking out specific skills and experience, are almost always more interested in the qualities and attributes of the person they are speaking to.
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Packed with tips, techniques and inspiration to boost your CV and help you on your path to employment, our first two issues have already tackled tapping into creativity, developing essential work skills and techniques for taking 2021 in your stride.
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