Resilience and adaptability in changing times

Road change ahead

In these constantly changing times how are we adapting?  Marc Steward, Careers Consultant gives his thoughts on the challenges faced by students for personal and professional development in these uncertain times and the support the University continues to offer.

Key skills in 2020

In what seems a lifetime ago, but was only semester one of this current academic year, I often quoted a TARGETjobs article to students in my workshops, teaching classes and guidance appointments, about what TARGETjobs predicted the key skills for 2020 would be. Included in this list were adaptability and the need to understand transferable skills.

These skills were key back then in an ever-changing world of work, dictated to by the speed of change brought about by technology. Move forward to the present day and never have those skills looked more pertinent and valuable.

Sector changes

We are now in our second month of lockdown in the UK. After a first week that saw redundancies in certain sectors – including recruitment and some retail outlets – many businesses and employers have since been trying to reinvent themselves to retain both clients (or customers), as well as their own staff.

Careers Service changes

As a Careers Service, for example, we have gone from 98% of student appointments being face-to-face to 100% online appointments. Like many other organisations, our staff have also had to adapt, including learning about, practising and presenting workshops and teaching online in virtual “rooms”, in the space of a fortnight.

We had to adapt to meet the needs and demand of our students and graduates. Thousands of other companies are doing the same to keep their businesses alive.

Change of focus for companies

There are also examples of companies showing incredible altruistic values in how they are adapting to the Covid-19 virus as well. McLaren’s Formula 1 team engineers have put a halt to working on the cars of their “star” drivers to concentrate on building ventilators for the heroes of the NHS.

Likewise, staff at Burberry are making gowns and masks for frontline hospital and care staff and BrewDog started making hand sanitiser at its distillery in Aberdeen when the product disappeared off the shelves at an alarming rate. Great examples of adaptability, creativity and innovation. Great examples of doing the right thing as well.

Changes for students

It is also a key time for students to show adaptability and understand how transferable the skills they gain from work that is undertaken now, will be valued by employers when we return to the “new normal”. Adaptable employers will like to see adaptable job applicants.

For starters, there is the discipline and self-motivation needed to continue with university course work while being “grounded” in your own homes or, in some cases, single rooms in shared accommodation. This requires great resilience as well as adaptability.

Adding to your skillset

We then have examples of students undertaking various extra-curricular experiences in order to:

  • keep their minds sharp
  • address any skills or knowledge they feel they need to in order to make them more attractive as an applicant when they apply for jobs or placements.

For example, I have seen several students posting on social media about their LinkedIn Learning achievements. There is still time to access courses on this portal, the cost of which is being paid by the University of Leeds.

There are those of you who are either volunteering for excellent causes or continuing to work part-time in shops to keep the shelves filled and serve the general public.

Transferable skills

Most of these roles are not what you want to do full-time after graduation, however, all of these experiences are so, so valuable in terms of transferable skills for any graduate role or undergraduate internship. Never mind the transferable skills. The incredible help that you are providing will send out massive positive signals as well.

Take stock

With regards to adaptability, now is also the time to take stock and think about how to proceed once the lockdown is over and the world of work fully opens for business. That “dream job” may not be available right now. The sector that you had hoped to work in might be struggling to accommodate new blood.

Here is where you will need to keep a close eye on what is happening in the news and think of an alternative strategy. You may need to consider “stepping stones” to get to your ultimate career goal. It will just take longer.

Keep busy

This is not your fault and you need to remind yourself of this! Be innovative, be creative and, most important of all be busy. Make sure you update and target your CV. Use VMock our online checking tool- accessing this software is free for University of Leeds students.

We have all encountered challenges and, while it is easy to say “be busy” or “stay positive”, it really is key to tackle the challenges head on.

I did not expect to be working full days from home at the same time as teaching my son Maths, English and Science for 6 hours daily. He certainly did not expect to move from the patient and empathetic Mrs Fletcher to the unusual mix of teaching styles that is his father: 50% Mr Gilbert from The Inbetweeners and 50% R.Lee Ermey from the film, Full Metal Jacket:

man doing push ups

Photo by Ivan Samkov on




“10 minus 6 is NOT THREE! DROP AND GIVE ME 50, SON!” My son is 6 years old.


Get help

Please remember that the Careers Service is still here to help you. You have some ideas you want to talk through about your career goals? Great! You don’t have a clue or your dream job has vanished. Please, please talk to us.  Online appointments are bookable via MyCareer.

Don’t feel there is nothing out there for you. Come and speak to us.

  • Just be prepared to think creatively about your transferable skills.
  • Prepare to adapt to change and prepare to be at the ready for the “new normal” once this pandemic is over.

Most of all, remember that this pandemic will be over…or I will drop and give you 50!




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Filed under Advice, Covid-19

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