September traditionally hails the end of the holiday season and a time to roll up the sleeves and get stuck back in at work.  Inevitably, this year feels somewhat different for a lot of people including myself.

A lot of people are now off furlough and either working full-time or part-time again, but the landscape looks significantly different to how it did 6 months ago.

Undoubtably, a lot of people will be feeling anxious about the next few months and what the outlook is for their job security.

Unsurprisingly the job market is becoming increasingly competitive and it has never been more important to make sure you are maximising every effort possible when it comes to looking for a new role.

One thing is clear, no one has a crystal ball or can foresee how quickly 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.

Needless 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.

Here are my tips on what strategies may help you in your quest for seeking a new role.

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.

Firstly, 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.  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 and highlighting your interest in the company/subject area.

If the thought of being online makes you uncomfortable, try to look beyond this as not being visible online in today’s job market unfortunately means you are disadvantaged and potentially overlooked by prospective 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 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?  This would also give you the additional benefit of some valuable experience.

If your situation means you are forced to look for a new role, but positions seem very scarce, 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 pay cut but hopefully this won't be for too long.

3. Staying in Touch

Many people find themselves in a situation where they were interviewing for roles earlier in the year and then things were put on hold due to Covid-19.  It is well worth staying in touch with these firms (but avoid feeling like you are hassling them).  Acknowledge the difficult situation we find ourselves in and 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 you 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.  You may not be in a position to be too choosy at the moment.  However as the market returns in due course, you will have a powerful document to refer to as a reminder. 

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 are many free online courses to improve all manner of key skills, such as marketing, creative writing, Excel, presenting 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 well 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 CV’s.  Aim for a two-page document that is well laid out with a strong personal statement, plenty of career highlights and project examples.  These are all stand out elements that 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 that 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.