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Real people: How experience and skills empowered me to look elsewhere

Covid-19 has forced many out of work and into thinking ‘what now?’.  Finding something meaningful that not only pays the bills but also builds upon existing skills might seem impossible in the current climate.  But it’s important to remember and take stock, having experience in one role or industry, doesn’t have to confine us. It can make us stronger.  Our redeployment service recognises employees in hospitality, non-food retail, travel and aviation - some of the hardest hit industries - are a talented and flexible resource pool for other industries such as health, social care and logistics.

Emma Jones, a businesswoman whose career and new business venture were quashed overnight due to Covid-19 shares her career story with us.  Emma had to take a step back, look at what skills and resource she had and find a way to make them work for her new situation.  

Emma began her career in the restaurant and hospitality industry, working her way up into management over 8 years before a change of career into the police.  She had a wonderful 10 year career in the force until she required more work-life balance and switched focus to digital marketing.  Emma worked with her partner to create a chatbot for the Hospitality industry – Caterbot - designed around increasing local customer loyalty using a digital stamp & card integrated with a chatbot as a low cost advertising system for a business.  Emma was due to launch Caterbot at an event in the first week of lockdown.  

What impact has Covid-19 had on your career?

Covid-19 completely changed my career.  I was gutted when it became apparent that after a year of learning and developing new computer & marketing skills Caterbot was going to have to be delayed for the foreseeable and that it may never get going.  I was going to have to find a new way to earn money as we had already lost clients due to the closures.  This, however, sparked an inner determination to use whatever skills I had to turn my hand to something new to pay the bills.

I offered my services back to Devon and Cornwall Police but it appeared unlikely I would be needed so I found myself taking a whole new direction and answered an advert to set up my own franchise as a self-employed sales/delivery driver.  I have now made this a permanent career change after realising I enjoyed the flexibility and opportunities that this enabled. Within 3 months I have managed to not only pay my bills, which was the initial aim of starting this, but have also launched our own business - Oliver Jones Fine Foods.  I now offer an online delivery service as well as the offline side, selling premium quality, frozen meat, fish, seafood and recently added a vegan range.

What gave you the inspiration to try something new rather than trying to find a similar role?

I believe when one door closes it is for a reason. For me the door closed on Caterbot, so I took the initial time to reflect and realised I wasn’t really meant to be sat behind a computer.  This was therefore an opportunity to find something new that would push me out my comfort zone and encourage me to learn new skills.

You’ve had a varied career and will have gained many skills, what encouraged you to match yourself to the role you took on?

My time in the hospitality industry, police and digital marketing has honed my communication, planning and marketing skills which have easily transferred over and given me the confidence and determination to persevere and take a step into the unknown.  In relation to the sales / delivery job, I felt this was well suited to my strengths and I could make a difference to people struggling to get any food delivered, especially in remote areas.  

I have also picked up new sales skills which have helped me establish already a rapidly growing, loyal customer base.  My marketing skills have taught me that loyalty is key to any successful business and that is why, when starting Oliver Jones Fine Foods, I wanted to make sure I rewarded my customers’ loyalty.  We have implemented a loyalty programme and I make sure to price check myself against the competition to ensure my customers are always getting the finest quality food for the best price.  

There are many people out of work at the moment and without an industry they know and understand, would you have any advice to offer/ words of wisdom?

Just because you picked a career at 16 – 18 doesn’t mean you are tied to it for life. I am loving my new role with its freedom and flexibility. I took a breath to reflect on my strengths and skills that would allow me to earn money.  Since I left school I have run pubs and restaurants, spent 10 years in the Police where I became a highly qualified specialist officer, upon leaving the Police I studied digital marketing and created a new business aimed at helping restaurants gain more loyal customers and now I find myself running my own food delivery business.  I’ve learnt that flexibility is key to any success in life.
 
The biggest thing for me, however, is to do what makes you happy and be prepared to do something about it if it doesn’t.  Don’t be afraid to try something new. You can always earn money but you have to be happy in what you do. 

 

Emma’s story is inspiring and hopeful but not without grit and determination. Taking the skills and experienced she had gained here and applying them to work there. Hospitality and tourism workers could see their redeployment potential too if they consider their skill set and recognise their transferability into other industries. Following a successful pilot initiative which attracted over 11,000 displaced hospitality workers to set their sights on a role in care, we're working in partnership with a range of organisations to redeploy people displaced from hospitality, non-food retail, travel and aviation into industries looking for staff as efficiently as possible, for as long as the disruption impacts vacancies. The redeployment service offers hospitality, non-food retail, travel and aviation employees the opportunity to transition into roles within health, social care, funeral care, retail, warehousing and logistics where their sought after skills can be harnessed and developed. 

The skills are there, we just need to find ways to refocus their attention.

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