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When is the right time to quit your pandemic job and return to your career?

·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
I Quit calendar note
Deciding when to quit can be a difficult business. Photo: Getty

Millions of people have found themselves unable to work during the pandemic and as a result, have been forced to find alternative, temporary employment.

Those working in the travel, hospitality, entertainment and arts industries have been hit hardest in the last year. Although some people have been furloughed or managed to seek financial support via the government’s SEISS scheme, others have been left high and dry, and have had to find work elsewhere while restrictions remain in place.

With lockdowns easing over the next few weeks, many people are considering returning to their pre-pandemic careers. But with the future still uncertain over Covid-19 variants, it is hard to know the right time to quit an interim job.

"People have had to take on temporary jobs because the economy has long Covid,” says Adrian Smith, senior director of operations at the recruitment firm Randstad UK. “We've seen entire industries close during the pandemic - think leisure and hospitality - while others have flourished: think the demand for tech workers as businesses frantically tried to move online at the start of the pandemic.”

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"Plenty of employers have gone bust, too. Retail is a good example. The Arcadia Group - including Topshop, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Wallis and Evans - collapsed into administration,” he adds. “Caffè Nero, the coffee chain had to pursue a restructuring agreement - and menswear retailer Moss Bros had to launch a restructuring of its business. It's been a sustained assault on the industry.”

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Not only does this affect shop assistants, Smith says, but the IT and finance teams, accountants and more. It also means less work for shop fitters, electricians, and facilities managers. It’s important to consider the impact these changes may have on the career you had before the pandemic. Although the current lockdown restrictions may be easing, your services may not be as in demand as they once were.

“If you are thinking about quitting your temporary job, I'd pause for a moment,” says Smith. “There is potential for massive unemployment when the furlough scheme ends. I'd hang on until then. When the smoke clears, your decision whether to return to your previous work or stay put should be much clearer and therefore safer.”

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for social restrictions, but research has shown there may be a further round of redundancies as the job retention scheme gradually comes to an end. According to analysis from New Economics Foundation (NEF), 850,000 jobs could be put at risk of becoming redundant or seeing a reduction in hours or pay once the scheme ends in September 2021.

There are hopes the demand for the furlough scheme will decrease over the coming months as lockdown eases, but this remains to be seen. The Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) budget forecast suggests the economy will still be 4.9%, 3.8%, and 2.5% below its pre-pandemic level in August, September and October.

Although temporary work can alleviate financial pressure during difficult times, it is important not to disregard the psychological impact of not being able to work as normal. For some, the pandemic has meant abandoning a dream job or a business they’ve spent years developing, which can take its toll mentally.

However, it may be worth staying in temporary work for a little while longer until things stabilise further.

“The good news is the temporary job market is healthy,” Smith says. “By way of example, at the moment, Randstad has about 3,150 live temporary, contract, or interim jobs available on our website. Around 1,200 of those are in construction or property, 75 of them are in manufacturing, 100 are in secretarial, admin roles and customer services roles, and another 25 are in tech.

“Lots of people who were self-employed and unable to work have taken these temporary jobs in the past year because the opportunities are out there,” he adds.

Smith adds that there are certain benefits from being employed by large organisations too. For example, people can develop transferable skills that they can utilise when they return to their normal work.

“Our research has revealed a great deal of post-pandemic anxiety in the workplace at the moment,” he says. “Many employees are interested in getting training about mental health and resilience to help them deal with it. Be honest with yourself - what are the chances of sourcing that training yourself once you're self-employed again?”

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