If you’re reading this while on furlough, feeling insecure about your job, or having been made redundant, you’re not alone. A staggering nine million people in the UK had to rely on the government’s first furlough scheme last year to pay their wages; and a report by The Resolution Foundation has found nearly two million have been unable to work for at least six months after being placed on furlough or losing their jobs during the pandemic.
As well as the worrying financial implications, being out of work can have a huge impact on your emotional and mental wellbeing. However, there can be a silver lining. We spoke to six people who found themselves unemployed due to Covid 19, and turned that negative into a positive.
“Losing my job led to love… now I’m having a baby!”
Actress Bethany Suthers, 28, was working on a cruise ship when the pandemic hit. Now she’s expecting a baby with her fiancé Max, and has a new career path ahead of her
“Last March, I’d just arrived on a Caribbean cruise ship for a seven-month stint acting in entertainment shows. But within days, the pandemic hit, and the guests all disembarked.
At first, the cruise company assumed it was temporary; so, staff stayed on board. But before long, it became hard to dock anywhere due to Covid restrictions. We were stranded. In some ways, it was fun – we had our own cabins and used the pool – but it was also worrying, particularly being away from family.
One day, a waiter, Max, introduced himself. Apparently, he’d been working up the courage for weeks, as he’s from Belarus and didn’t think his English was good enough! Before long, we were inseparable – we read books, had in-depth conversations and ate meals together. It was such a special way to get to know each other.
We finally sailed to the UK at the end of April. Now with no job, I went home to my parents’, while Max returned to Belarus. Whatever happened, we knew we wanted to make our relationship work. A month later, I flew to visit him. It was amazing, and by June, I discovered I was pregnant. We’d both decided it was something we’d like, so we couldn’t be more excited.
Max moved over to the UK in the summer, and I was thrilled when he proposed. What’s more, I got a new job, teaching drama in a school for children who’ve experienced trauma. It’s incredibly rewarding and for once I have a real career path ahead of me. A year ago, I’d never have believed I was about to be engaged and expecting a baby with the love of my life. This experience has taught me you can’t always plan your future; things can change for the better in a second.”
“I’m using my pilot’s stress-busting skills to help the NHS”
Pilot Paul Green, 34, lost his job when the airline he worked for collapsed, but it enabled him to create a successful training programme, which he’s used to help NHS frontline staff handle stress
“I’ve wanted to be a pilot ever since my grandad took me to see Concorde landing as a child. I finally qualified in 2016, and flying was a dream come true. So, when the airline I worked for entered administration last year, I was devastated.
My wife’s a teacher, and we have two children, so I tried desperately to find any job that fitted around childcare. I applied to be everything from a delivery driver to a call centre worker but was constantly turned down due to lack of experience.
It was a blessing in disguise, as it made me think, I do have skills – and actually they’re really valuable.’ Whenever I’m flying and find myself in a stressful situation, it’s not possible to step away from the problem, which is what most stress management training courses advise. Instead, pilots need brilliant coping mechanisms to get through the day.
So, I decided to take these skills and create ‘The Cockpit Method’, a training programme to help people handle stress and fatigue. My first clients were doctors and NHS frontline staff, who have to deal with an incredible amount of stress daily. I now also train small business owners, giving them ways to cope with the pressures of the pandemic.
daily. I now also train small business owners, giving them ways to cope with the pressures of the pandemic. I realise now I never gave myself a chance to grieve for the job I lost; and running my own business has helped me feel positive about the future. Flying will always be my passion, but I love seeing my children so much more than I used to, and I’m moving forward on my own terms. It feels great.” ”
Find out more at Thecockpitmethod.com
“Leaving the city made me a better person”
Diana Hudson, 41, a make-up artist in the entertainment industry, lost all her bookings at once so relocated to Yorkshire and feels happier and healthier for it
“For the last ten years, I was working flat-out as a makeup artist in London for theatre, film and television. But when the pandemic hit, everything stopped, and 60 jobs booked for the year ahead were cancelled overnight.
My family live far away in California; so I joked to my husband, Kris, that if Covid started a zombie apocalypse, we’d move to Yorkshire, where his family lived. Instead of laughing, he just said, ‘Alright!’ The idea grew from there, and although I picked up odd bits of work, lockdown London lost its appeal. I realised I could always commute for big jobs, and it didn’t really matter where we lived.
So, in December, Kris, our daughter Bernadette, 9, and I took a chance and moved to a tiny Yorkshire village. It was the best decision we ever made.
The quality of life is noticeably better here – the air is cleaner, there’s miles of wide-open space, it feels safer, there’s a brilliant sense of community, the people are incredibly warm and friendly, and Bernadette is so happy in her new school. We’re also eating more healthily – I’ve lost over two stone!
I can’t believe how much the move has changed me. I’m a better partner, mum and daughter-in-law now. Kris was brought up by his grandmother – I’m loving getting to know her and spending more time with Bernadette and Kris. If Covid hadn’t happened, I’d probably still be on that city treadmill, missing out on life. My only regret is that we didn’t do this sooner.”
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“I fulfilled my dream of becoming an author”
Anupa Roper, 42, worked in a primary school before finding herself out of work due to Covid. She’s now self-published her first book, which helps children develop a healthy attitude towards body image
“As a cover teacher, floating between classes in a primary school, my role disappeared when the pandemic hit.
Unemployment gave me breathing space to think what I really wanted to do with my life. Growing up, I’d always been teased for being skinny – my nickname was ‘Sparrowlegs’. It affected my feelings and choices for years. I decided I’d like to share my body image story, to support others.
My daughter had recently turned 11, and looking at social media, it struck me how much pressure there is on young people. I did some research and found kids as young as four can form opinions around body image; and parents, teachers and carers can play a huge role in developing healthy self-esteem.
I hit upon the idea of writing a children’s book, to educate and inspire kids, showing them their amazing bodies are beautiful just the way they are. Looking into self-publishing, I found it’s surprisingly easy; so I wrote a story based on my own experiences and asked a talented friend to illustrate it.
My book, Sparrowlegs, launched in February. It was so exciting seeing my name next to famous authors like David Walliams on bestseller lists! But it’s been even more exciting reading messages from parents and teachers who’ve found the book empowering.
I’m already planning a sequel and hope to run body image education sessions in the future. I’d never have done all this had I stayed working - losing my job has helped me find my real purpose.” Follow Anupa on Instagram.
Follow Anupa on Instagram.
“Mrs Hinch helped transform my life during lockdown”
Katie Shelton, 31, lost her job as social media manager when the travel company she worked for collapsed, so she created her own baby weaning website that’s grown very quickly
“I lost my job while on maternity leave, and by the time my daughter, Ella, was a year old, lockdown had started, and job hunting wasn’t an option.
To keep busy, I’d been blogging about weaning – writing about what Ella ate, sharing recipes and reviewing products. Now, with no paid work on the horizon, I decided to try turning the blog into a business. I’d always assumed I’d have to pay someone to build a website, but with money tight, I taught myself from scratch. It took time and patience, but it wasn’t as hard as I’d thought!
I designed a weekly meal planner to make my life easier – and had a few printed professionally to sell on my website. They were so popular, I had to make more and then designed some weaning diaries too! Things really took off when famous social influencer Mrs Hinch shared my recipes on her Instagram feed – I got 7,000 followers within 24 hours; and another 10,000 when she mentioned me a second time!
It’s all grown from there. Now as well as sharing recipes and advice, I run eight-week weaning courses. It’s so hard for parents of young children at the moment, and I’m really enjoying helping them.
My advice to anyone in the same situation I was is to be open-minded, find something you enjoy, and give it a go! I love being my own boss – I can fit work around Ella and am in control of my work/life balance for the first time ever.”
“We swapped our house for a camper van”
Laura Greenland, 31, was made redundant from her marketing job and faced a mountain of debt, so decided to try van life out for size
“Like many people, I was furloughed in March last year, but working in marketing for a global travel company, I wasn’t surprised when redundancy followed in June.
My husband, Karl, worked in the leisure industry; and after he was furloughed too, it was terrifying. We were renting a three-bed house at the time and faced a mountain of debt. We needed to do something drastic, and that was when Karl suggested van life – living life on the road in a camper van. We worked out we could still live comfortably by installing wi-fi and solar panels to make our own electricity; and after just a couple of years, we’d save enough to finally get onto the property ladder.
Within weeks, we sold 90 per cent of our belongings and were ‘tiny living’ in our very own van with our dog, Bear. I’m now freelancing, helping small, independent and creative companies to market themselves. It feels much more ‘me’ than the corporate world.
Living in Cornwall, we get to park in some beautiful places; I can walk on the beach during my lunch break; and it’s exciting waking up each morning to a different view. When restrictions allow, we plan to drive around Snowdonia; and we’d love to travel round Europe before we settle down. We’ll just take our home with us!
My life is completely unrecognisable from 12 months ago, but I’m so much happier. Covid was the catalyst I needed to make a positive change. Redundancy can feel like the scariest thing ever. But having been through it, my advice is not to panic. Rather than thinking, ‘How can I find the same kind of job?’, think, ‘Will that make me happy?’ It’s a much bigger question, but hopefully, you’ll get a much bigger answer.”
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We know times are incredibly tough at the moment, which is why we’ve pulled together the most helpful information out there on the current furlough scheme and what you need to know if you’ve been made redundant, so that you don’t have to spend hours searching online.