• Michelle Mackay

Building on What You Have

Twitter has been full of ridicule for the Government's skills assessment quiz that suggests roles you might consider retraining into based on your answers to a series of questions. The service was launched in August 2019, way before COVID-19 started to have such a huge impact on the economy and employment rates, but it got thrown into the limelight last week when ITV News tweeted the following after interviewing Rishi Sunak,

"@RishiSunak suggests musicians and others in the arts should retrain and find other jobs".

Creative folks currently working in the Arts were quick to react and condemn his comments, they've trained hard to get where they are and didn't appreciate his career advice. Only he hadn't singled them out at all and ITV News later deleted the tweet and replaced it with a more generic headline of “Rishi Sunak says people in 'all walks of life' are having to adapt for employment”. Not quite as evocative, but it was too late, people had flocked in their droves to the National Careers Service's Skills Assessments to see what new roles they might consider and had shared some of the comical results with the rest of the world. A choir leader in Scotland was given the suggestion of retraining as a Colon Hydrotherapist, a writer's result was Stunt Performer and a Tour Manager living in central London received Coastguard as his top hit.

Out of curiosity, I completed the assessment myself and the category Creative and Media came out top so I continued and five questions later I had my top suggestion for retraining......as an Actor. I'm sure Olivia Coleman is quaking in her boots right now.

If you take the sensationalism away, I think Mr Sunak had a very good point. Three-quarters of a million people have already lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and it's estimated that another million are under threat. These numbers could end up being conservative, who knows what the final figure will be, but his point was that not everyone will be able to continue to do the same jobs they were doing at the beginning of the crisis and so it's worth thinking about what other options might be out there if you find yourself in that situation.

The assessment has been likened to a Buzzfeed quiz, whilst others said a multi-choice quiz in Cosmo would provide more insight and some of the results are clearly outlandish, although the people posting may well have been going for comedy effect. The assessment isn't very in-depth and is only meant as a tool to get the responder thinking about other possibilities. If nothing else the questions get you thinking about what you do and don't like about work and what things you feel comfortable undertaking. These are all sensible things to consider when you're thinking about options in your career.

One of my absolute heroes, Sue Perkins, was quick to respond to the misleading ITN News tweet, saying "The arts contributes in the region of 10 billion a year to our economy. The people who work in it have already trained long and hard, thank you". She was angry of course and why wouldn't she be, the sensationalised headline was designed to be provocative and it does appear as if the Arts are being treated as the poor relation to other industries. However, the implication that any form of new training would render any previous training useless, isn't how I see it. Training in something new has lots of advantages and it always builds on your current training and experience, how can it not. Any new learning will combine with what you already have to create a much broader set of skills and experience and a greater ability to adapt to the situation around you.

I'm not dismissing how difficult a time it is right now for those out of work or under threat of redundancy. In that situation it feels like the rug has been pulled from underneath your feet and it's really scary - having other avenues open to you can reduce anxiety levels, after all we still need to pay the bills.

Considering another option for bringing in an income shows great flexibility and resilience, both of which are key during periods of uncertainty, plus it might just be temporary to get you through a tricky spot and you can go back to your original schtick in the future.

So please, don't dismiss retraining, however scary it feels, it could be an amazing opportunity.


Michelle is a Professional Development and Life Coach.

She helps people lead happier work lives.

If you're feeling anxious about the future and are considering retraining, but don't know where to start, coaching could help you figure out a way forward.