Jess had been working full time since she was 18 and had started a new retail sales job just a week before the country went into Level 4 lockdown.
She is one of the thousands of young people who have been hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic - the proportion of people under-30 seeking employment has risen twice as sharply compared to those over 30.
Jess had her life planned out at least six months in advance, so it was a shock to suddenly be unemployed.
Once quite confident, and with a good CV, Jess found herself competing for jobs with more than 400 other applicants – an experience she describes as “terrifying”.
“It was demoralising, getting rejection after rejection, even for jobs I didn’t really want, but I needed the pay cheque”.
In October, 8,010 people received the Covid-19 Income Relief Payment, with 2,334 of these under 30 years of age. September was higher with 11,888 receiving the payment, 3,725 of whom were under 30.
Jess says she had an internal struggle around getting a benefit and the stigma associated with it.
She felt like she didn’t have the ability to provide for herself and “felt stink” for taking up resources. But her family explained that she had paid income tax for years so she shouldn’t feel guilty about getting some of that back.
Jess says her family and her partner Ayden were a huge support, both emotionally and financially.
She says she struggled with the feeling of having to rely on others.
“I felt bad, I wanted to pay half the groceries, even though I couldn’t afford it. But Ayden understood and was happy to help.”
After more than a month of unsuccessfully applying for jobs, Jess made the decision to study full time.
“It was quite scary making the decision. I’ve always worked full-time and enjoyed a generous income and being able to travel.”
Majoring in history, Jess is loving attending classes at the University of Canterbury.
“Looking back on the last few months, I can now say my being made unemployed was a blessing in disguise.”
Jess’s advice to others who have lost their job is to try and look forward to new opportunities.
“It can be terrifying, not knowing what the next chapter looks like, but it’s not always about shutting doors, sometimes doors are opening as well”.