The impact of furlough during a global pandemic
In October 2019, I was thrilled to learn I would be starting my marketing career with ITV as an apprentice. Coming from a small village in the south coast, an opportunity like an ITV apprenticeship was something I had always dreamed of but thought I would never achieve. The start of my apprenticeship had been the most exciting and insightful times of my career, so when the pandemic hit and things began to slow down, the worry of potentially losing my experience became a very real prospect.
"Trying to figure out how I am going to finish my apprenticeship in time before the end of the year, especially while being on furlough as there isn't much for me to do, which means there isn't much for me to talk about."
Tyan Benjamin, ITV Apprentice
Luckily however, I did not lose my job, I was put on furlough, although I did not feel lucky at the time. When my manager first informed me I would be taking a break from work, I felt defeated, and that it may have been a reflection on my performance in my role. My job was exciting for me, and I enjoyed waking up in lockdown to bundles of meetings, talking to new people and learning more each day. I worried about my qualification, and if I'd be able to complete my course, with a number of my projects already being cancelled due to the pandemic. The idea of getting a job after my apprenticeship scared me, if companies were furloughing staff, who would want to hire me?
At first I struggled with being furloughed with self confidence and boredom, but I realised it wasn't personal, it was a perfect opportunity to get ahead with my coursework. Returning from furlough took a while to settle back in and get a feel for things as it was a 3-month break, however my team was super supportive and understanding which helped ease the pressure.Emily Ashcroft, ITV Apprentice
The first week of my furlough, I moped around feeling sorry for myself. The weeks ahead of having nothing to keep me busy daunted me, and the repetition of drawing, sewing and baking wasn't resembling the fun and exciting environment of the working day. I turned to my apprenticeship portfolio and in turn, began to think of ways to make this time productive. Due to mostly working with marketing for live events, most of my projects had been cancelled, so filling my portfolio was proving difficult. Linkedin learning and Google Digital Garage became my new learning source, and I buried myself into three courses to keep occupied. I also started an instagram marketing blog, helping me continue to use the skills I had learnt in my apprenticeship. Other people in the same boat as me connected with my experience and I found myself in a community of digital marketers all turning to online communities for support. Within my three weeks of furlough I had achieved 3 new certificates and a community of 600 followers.
It has put a fast-forward on many aspects of my course. A project that should be taking me until January to complete, now has to be rushed due to my furlough which is very stressful. I had to state that I was furloughed and hopefully it doesn't impact my grade negatively. Between meeting deadlines for coursework, prepping for my EPA and working my job on the side, it can be hard to manage the balance.Emily Ashcroft, ITV Apprentice
5 things I learnt from being on furlough
I think as an apprentice, it can be hard to feel like a ‘proper’ member of the team due to your lack of knowledge and skills when you first enter the field. I feel so lucky to have a team that has been so helpful and supportive in my learning and experience. I believe if i hadn't stayed in regular contact i would have felt disconnected from my team. We used Whatsapp to connect every week, and I was still included in ‘Friday Night Drinks” calls. Even though I wasn't working with the team, I felt appreciated and valued as a team member. Don't be afraid to reach out.
Don't stop learning
Furlough is a perfect opportunity to catch up on all your learning, or even learn something new. Services like Google Digital Garage and LinkedIn Learning provide a range of different resources and courses that you can complete, with some even giving you certificates. It’s a great opportunity to boost the skills and qualification section of your LinkedIn profile!
Invest time in the things you love
Staying motivated and happy is important. Take the extra time to utilise your passions or start a hobby that interests you. You could even invest time in personal projects like writing a blog, starting a youtube channel, creating your own small business. Instagram is now a great tool for content creators and young marketeers, giving you the potential to use what you have learnt in your apprenticeship and test your new skills yourself.
Create a routine
Without the familiar routine of the working day, it can be difficult to find a start and end upon months of loss of structure. Keeping/creating a routine for yourself on furlough can really aid in keeping yourself motivated. Create a regular start and end of your day for activities and staying occupied, so it's not as big of a change when you return to work.
Be kind to yourself
Not everyday on furlough is going to be full of following a routine, baking and taking an online course. Being put on furlough can be a big mindset shift, and it may be difficult to process the big change from a fast paced working environment to having little to no structure at all. Take time out for yourself. There will always be days where you do nothing at all, and that's okay. Focus on you and your wellbeing.
My mental health has particularly flown through the roof, I guess it is from all the uncertainty of this pandemic and the course and also since I am used to structure, so you can imagine how that has been. However, I can't complain as the ITV team have been very understanding and supportive in the best way they know how. It is also nice to know that I am not the only one going through this, which makes it a lot easier to talk about the year so far!Tyan Benjamin, ITV Apprentice
Furlough can be difficult for everyone, and especially apprentices. It can be tough to be put on a break from your aspirations, especially when you're just getting started. However I think it's important to remember that is only temporary, and others are experiencing this too. Make it worth while and seize every opportunity you get to learn something new. Having a 2020 apprenticeship on your CV shouldnt be something you're ashamed of, yet a badge to show you survived the pandemic in the workplace, even as an undergraduate. Keep learning, keep motivated and keep persuing your aspirations.
Laynie Symonds, ITV Apprentice