Are you one of the 13 million Australians who have experienced life in a lockdown this year? Emerging from lockdown can feel equal parts exciting and scary, but for many it’s also a time of great uncertainty, particularly if you’re looking for a job.

Whether you’ve been living in a locked down city or not, it’s likely you’ve experienced some form of anxiety or worry over the past 12 months, which can have a huge impact on your confidence.

According to a study from The Australian National University (ANU), there was an increase in anxiety and worry among those living in NSW, from 50.7 per cent to 67.9 per cent between April and August 2021, while anxiety from those who lived outside of NSW rose from 48.5 to 56.0 per cent over the same period.

“The dramatic changes in the past four months have led to declines in life satisfaction, worsening in psychological distress and an increase in loneliness across Australia,” co-author of the study ANU Professor Nicholas Biddle said.

The study also showed a large decline in confidence in state and territory governments nationally.

“These lockdown blues are impacting on people’s reflections on their own lives,” co-author Professor Matthew Gray said.

“Australians are more likely to think that their life had gotten worse, (and) were more likely to say that they felt more negative about the future.”

So while emerging from lockdown might seem like a celebration of “freedom” for many, for the 4.6 per cent of Australians who are currently looking for work, the transition from locked-down to looking for work has never felt harder.

To help you regain your confidence and get ahead of the game, we’ve put together a list of five key things you can start doing today to get your groove back, and maybe even your dream job, post-lockdown.

As always, if you need support finding work, Maxima is here to help.

1. What you really, really want

The best jobs are the ones we really want to do, so start your job hunt looking for job vacancies with the businesses and brands you love the most.

Have you really missed going to that cafe around the corner during lockdown? Maybe they’re missing your daily smile too, and could use an extra hand in the kitchen, or at the front counter?

Do you love a particular fashion brand? Start by going to their website and looking at their careers section. They may be looking for someone just like you to fold, hang, sell, (and wear) their clothes, particularly in the lead up to the Christmas rush!

Not only do employers love employees who seek them out, taking this approach also shows initiative, passion and a commitment to their business or brand, something employers rarely get from a generic job application.

2. You’ve got the skills

Now that the world is opening up there are so many more options available to you for upskilling. Whether it’s learning something new, or building on your existing skills, signing up to a training course or getting that certificate you’ve been needing, upskilling is a great way to gain confidence in your abilities and to get ahead of the job market competition.

Perhaps you’d like to work in childcare, but haven’t got around to updating your first aid qualifications. Or you need a Certificate III to get started. Whatever the situation, now is the time to get cracking!

If you’re not sure where to start, or what you can afford, there are a number of organisations that can help you find the right training program for your interests and skills, including employment organisations such as Maxima.

As part of the federal government’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan, there will be a number of new incentives for Australians to reskill, upskill or start training for the workforce of the future, such as the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program, which helps eligible job seekers “learn the skills they need to get the job they want by improving their language, reading, writing and maths skills”.

Having new skills and qualifications not only helps with your confidence, it shows potential employers that you’ve used the post-lockdown period — and your time out of the job market — to improve your skills and expand your options. This also shows initiative and a good work ethic, which will put you head and shoulders above other applicants.

3. Give a little to get experience

This is always a loaded issue, as employers expect you to have experience, but how are you meant to gain experience if no one gives you a job! Right?

Well, some of the most successful people in the world have started out as volunteers, interns, or mentees and have got to where they are by giving some of their time to gain a whole lot more.

While it’s important to be remunerated for your work, there are some things that you can do prior to gaining paid employment that show that you are passionate, have great skills, and are committed to learning about the workforce and getting a job.

An article from Help Guide summarises the benefits of volunteering for job-seekers.

“If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field,” the article states.

“Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and organization.

“You might (also) feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.”

So, start by thinking of a charity or organisation you’d like to support then offer to volunteer, whether that’s in their office, at a second-hand shop, or in a soup kitchen! Each of these volunteer roles will give you the skills you need to learn about paid work and can be added to your resume to show that you’re willing and able to do just about anything.

4. Employers need you

It’s not what your employer can do for you, but what you can do for your employer.

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s the difference between essential and non-essential work…and it’s not always what you might think.

It’s not just the doctors and nurses who have kept us going through the pandemic. It’s the delivery drivers, post-office cashiers, fruit pickers, shelf stockers, and child care workers who have enabled the rest of us to “pivot” into locked-down life with relative ease, and in relative comfort.

Think about some of the essential workers you relied upon during the pandemic, these will be the industries set to boom post-lockdown, and when an industry is booming the one thing it needs more than anything is a ready and willing workforce.

According to SEEK the top 20 most-needed roles in Australia changed significantly during the pandemic period, from consultancy and IT workers — such as developers and business analysts — in February 2020, to essential industries such as nursing, warehousing and distribution, administrative assistants, retail assistants, automotive trades, aged and disability support, and childcare toward the end of the year.

Ivan Colhoun, Chief Economist at NAB told SEEK that the roles ranked in the top 10 were no surprise, considering their essential nature during the pandemic.

“It may be no surprise that Nursing roles topped the list of roles in highest demand as Australia confronts this health crisis,” he said.

“Some frontline workers in hospitals and aged care may also be dropping out of the industry because of the strain.

“Healthcare aside, lockdown restrictions led to a lift in online sales, and this may have contributed to growth in the need for road transport roles to deliver more parcels to people’s homes.”

The good news is, many of these jobs — with the exception of caring roles (nursing, childcare, and support work) — do not require tertiary study or TAFE certificates as a prerequisite for application. This is great news for those starting out in the workforce or looking for a career change, as trade, warehouse, retail and administrative roles are often taught on the job, or through structured traineeships at work.

5. Flex your flexibility muscles

The “new normal” is something we’re all trying to figure out, especially employers. So showing that you’re comfortable with change and thrive on being flexible during these uncertain times can make all the difference to a potential employer.

In an article from Mind Tools, How to Be Flexible in the Workplace, they observe that in times of great upheaval, it’s essential to show employers that you can be flexible and responsive to sudden change.

“We can’t always predict when changes like these are going to happen. That’s why flexibility is so important. When you’re flexible, you’re versatile, resilient and responsive to change,” the article states.

“You can adapt to unexpected demands in the workplace – sudden surges in work, urgent problems, or an unpredictable event, such as a cyber security breach or financial crash, for instance

“Flexible people are highly prized by managers and businesses. They help to stabilize situations when (a) crisis strikes. They keep objectives achievable and within reach, and they often “go the extra mile” to support colleagues who are in need of advice or help.”

Keep in mind that starting work post-lockdown will be filled with flexibility challenges. Some workplaces will still insist you work from home, while others will want you to be on site. Those who expect you to be on site may need you to adhere to strict COVID-19 health requirements for the time being, such as mandatory vaccination, wearing a mask indoors, and adhering to safety procedures.

Before applying for a job, consider what’s important to you in a work environment and be prepared to either say “no” to a job based on your needs, or to be flexible when the ideal scenario isn’t an option.

Are you looking to step up in the job market?

Contact Maxima today on 1300 669 859 for a no-obligation chat with one of our consultants, or head to the Maxima website to learn more about our Disability Employment Services.