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Coronavirus: ‘What we’ve learned from lockdown job changes’

Composite of Megan, Cath and Liz

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From working as a personal trainer in a gym to earning a wage as a cleaner at a supermarket.

How about swapping life as a sound engineer to become a delivery driver, or the lawyer who’s now out taking medicine to pensioners?

Cath McGuinness, Megan Robinson and Liz Fillingham didn’t plan on new jobs in 2020, but coronavirus has changed things for all of us.

They’re three of thousands of people in the UK who’ve found different work since the country went into lockdown.

As many as six million people have been put on the government scheme that helps pay wages, but not everyone can apply. If you started working for yourself in the last year, or if you’re caught between jobs – for instance – you can’t.

So for these Radio 1 Newsbeat listeners it’s meant a daunting challenge – a job change almost overnight. So what have they learnt from the shock of the sudden change?

Cath McGuinness: ‘Putting your goals aside is frustrating’

Cath’s life before coronavirus was all about music. She’d graduated from uni and become self-employed as a sound engineer.

“I was meant to be going to festivals this summer and getting my foot into the industry,” she tells Newsbeat.

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Catherine McGuinness

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Cath’s used to fixing up gigs for bands

But with live gigs everywhere canned for now, she’s turned to delivering for Amazon near where she lives in Manchester.

“Putting your personal goals aside for a while is frustrating – but the only thing getting me through is that everyone’s in the same boat.

“Everything happens for a reason, so you’ve just got to stick with it.”

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Catherine McGuinness

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Now she says she her days are much more full on – but shorter

One thing Cath didn’t expect to want back are the long days she experienced in her old job.

“I used to wake up between 12 and 1pm because I’d have a gig that night. Or sometimes I’d wake up at 8am not knowing what show I’d be working on or who the band would be.

“Now I get up at 7am, have a shower and go to work. It’s intense but pretty compact.

“I’m missing that exciting part of my day.”

Megan Robinson: ‘I’m not used to sitting around’

Megan had been a personal trainer for three years when we were told to stay at home in March.

She’d become self-employed last summer. That means she didn’t qualify for any government help with pay under the “furlough” scheme.

Coronavirus: What does it mean if I’ve been furloughed by work?

‘I missed furlough scheme payments by a day’

And after the gyms closed, she didn’t have the cash in the bank to set up an online business.

“I was unemployed and I probably applied for 50 to 60 jobs. One of my friends started working in a supermarket as a cleaner and she put a good word in for me,” she says.

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Megan Robinson

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Megan didn’t have a plan after gyms – where she held classes – were shut

“I don’t care what I do as long, as I’m moving and it’s paying for my bills. I started two weeks ago and I’m really loving it.

“Hats off to cleaners who do this day-to-day even before lockdown. Especially with the situation right now. We have to make sure the whole store is thoroughly disinfected and there’s a lot to it.”

Megan says she’s gone from 16-hour days to a morning shift where’s she’s home by lunchtime.

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Megan Robinson

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Megan says was lucky to find something new

“In my last job I’d be doing a session here and there. I’d go for a break when I eat.

“Now, I’m waking up at half-past four and finished at 11. Then I find myself doing one or two workouts a day, walking the dog.

“I’m just not used to sitting around. I’m a helpful person, but I feel like it’s really important I help myself as well right now and do that.”

Liz Fillingham: ‘It feels good for the soul’

For lawyer Liz, the unexpected career change isn’t all bad either.

She’s swapped a commute from Hertfordshire into London every day for a bit of a lie-in.

“I was a solicitor, and my new employer couldn’t take me on in lockdown because it would be impossible to train. I had an offer – but no start date, so I started looking for jobs,” she tells Newsbeat.

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Elizabeth Fillingham

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Liz says she doesn’t miss spending so long on trains in and out of London

She found something when one of her friends posted online about pharmacies that need help getting medicine to people who can’t leave home.

“Even if this isn’t forever, if it’s part time, it feels good for the soul. It feels good to contribute and help people.

“It’s difficult because it’s not the sort of job I thought I’d have, it’s not what I’m used to. But it makes me feel good.

“Most people are really grateful, they’re really happy, and it’s an important job that needs done. I’m so glad I can do it.”

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Elizabeth FIllingham

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She says her work with vulnerable people as a solicitor helps her in the new job

Liz usually starts work close to midday, and she’s at home until her local chemists have their prescriptions ready for the day.

“Before, everything was very orderly and there was a lot of routine,” she says. “Now, actually, my morning’s a lot more relaxed.

“I’ve found my shifts are shorter – but really intense. So I’ll have a packed lunch with me in my car, and eat when I can.

“But I do sort of finish by four or five o’clock – and I don’t have to take my work home. I’m still getting used to that as well.”

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