Now we see the lockdown measures being eased and the furlough scheme set to change in the next few months, the handbrake feels like it is beginning to come off on the economy. For many, however, this may herald a further period of worry and uncertainty about job security. Come August, the government will no longer be fully subsidising staff wages with employers asked to pick up a portion of this cost. This will undoubtedly push a lot of people onto the job market as employers are forced to cut their staff numbers.
What will this mean for active and passive job hunters during these challenging times? Here I try to give some advice on what strategies may help you in your quest seeking a new role.
One thing is clear: no one has a crystal ball, or can foresee how quickly or well we will recover from this unprecedented situation. In my role, I find myself speaking to people all day every day, and I experience a huge range of responses in terms of people's optimism for the recovery. No one can say with any degree of confidence how this situation is going to play out.
Safe to say, there are challenging times ahead for firms and their staff, and many of us will feel affected directly or indirectly. If you are forced to look for a new role or have been contemplating a change, here are some key factors to take into consideration.
At the moment a lot of companies are busy looking to shore up their businesses in order to remain viable. Tough decisions undoubtedly will need to be made. In many cases, this may mean staff cuts rather than looking to grow.
Therefore, being willing to accept the reality of this situation will be key, so be prepared and realistic about your prospects at this time. Putting unrealistic expectations on yourself will only add to any sense of pressure as time goes on.
The current situation will right itself in due course and keeping yourself positive will be key to succeeding when the right opportunities arise.
Maintaining a positive approach to your job hunting, having a clear plan, following it through, and not being too hard on yourself will be vital.
1. Start Networking
Now is the time to look at your existing network as well as try to grow it.
First off, look at your LinkedIn profile and make sure it is as polished and strong as you can make it. There are plenty of online tutorials to help you do this. This will act as a shop window when people are looking at you online.
Identify all your relevant connections (those working in your chosen sector) and reach out to them with a carefully crafted message asking how they are doing and make them aware of your situation. Subtly ask for any advice or referrals of other people who may be worth connecting with. Also, look out for suitable conversations in your newsfeed that you can comment on and grow your online footprint. Follow relevant people and companies and maintain a close eye on their activities, commenting where possible, highlighting your interest in the company/subject area.
If the thought of being online makes you uncomfortable, unfortunately, you'll have to accept and go with it as a necessary evil or risk not being visible to potential employers.
When reaching out to people, think of interesting conversational topics to discuss rather than focusing solely on whether they are aware of any jobs. Think of some key industry news to discuss/get their opinion on.
2. Consider How Urgent Your Job Search Is
If you are currently employed, maybe use this time to try and improve your current situation at least for the short to medium term as well as investing time in finding a new role. Are there departments or colleagues within your current firm who might benefit from some additional support, which would also give you some valuable experience?
If your situation means you are forced to look for a new role, but positions seem very scarce, then try to think laterally and consider whether there are any short-term opportunities to keep you occupied as well as potentially develop new skills. Clearly, this may require taking a paycut but hopefully, this won't be for too long.
3. Staying in Touch
Many people find themselves in the situation where they were interviewing for roles earlier in the year then things were put on hold due to Covid-19. It is well worth staying in touch with these firms, of course - avoid feeling like you are hassling them. Acknowledge the difficult situation we find ourselves in and just highlight you remain keen, perhaps even offer them some of your time for free to support them in any area they are struggling with currently.
Make sure to follow the company and stay aware of any updates they post on their website/social media. Likewise, connect on LinkedIn with the hiring manager and be sure to follow them. If they do post anything that you can make a comment on that illustrates you have valuable insights to contribute, this will also help to keep you at the forefront of their minds.
4. Use This Time to Reflect
The pace of life has been much slower for many during this period. This should therefore provide more headspace to think clearly about the direction you want your career to go in moving forward.
Brainstorm on paper a number of key objectives for you in your ideal next role, including target industries, types of companies, job titles etc. Having this down on paper and referring to it regularly will be a useful reminder for you. Think about your career and personal goals too. Clearly, you may not be in a position to be too choosy at the moment however as the market returns in due you will have a powerful document to refer to to remind you.
By identifying the companies you would like to work for, you can start building your knowledge of those businesses, increase your network and stay up-to-date with their news.
5. Develop New Skills
Now is the perfect time to start learning new skills and gaining additional qualifications. There is a lot of free online courses to improve all manner of key skills, such as, marketing, creative writing, excel, presenting etc etc. Identify some areas in your current/previous role that you feel you could improve in order to perform better. Look at a range of things from soft skills to technical ones as personal skills.
Brushing up on these will give you added confidence and perhaps even highlight talents you didn't know you had.
6. Look At Your CV
Now is a good time to really look at your CV and think is this as polished and enticing as possible. A good strong CV will be absolutely essential to stand out above the crowd when there are fewer jobs available.
Avoid drab and boring CVs. Aim for a two-page document, well laid out with a strong personal statement, plenty of career highlights, project examples, etc are all stand out things employers will be looking for. Avoid a one size fits all CV and be prepared to tweak your CV for each role you apply to in order to make sure you have highlighted the main skills you bring to that role. Again, there are plenty of online resources to help you tailor the best CV or even consider employing a professional CV writer.
Jeremy Money is the Managing Director of JSM Associates. With over 20 years experience in the Environmental and Sustainability sector, he offers a wealth of expertise to clients and candidates across the UK and Internationally.