How to find a new job during a pandemic or recession

How to find a new job during a pandemic or recession

Author: Author: Gaelle Blake, Director of Permanent Appointments and Construction & Property, Hays UK&I

Did you intend to start looking for a new job shortly before the COVID-19 outbreak, and are now wondering whether or not you should resume that search? Or perhaps you’ve been forced to seek a new role due to a change in circumstances, directly caused by the coronavirus disruption?

Either way, it’s important for you to remember that it is possible to find a new job during this time – or indeed, any other time of economic uncertainty or recession. After all, as our CEO, Alistair Cox says, “the world is going to need talented people, that hasn’t changed.”

So, what are the steps you could take that would help you to secure a new role?

1. Build your career confidence

Whether you’ve started to feel that you’re not qualified or skilled enough to move ahead in your career, or you’ve been missing the positive reinforcements and praise that you would normally experience in a physical office-based environment, it’s possible that your confidence has taken a knock in the past few months. If so, take a step back and proactively identify your strengths and the areas in which you deliver the most value. Then, focus on reinforcing those strengths in your mind, instead of concentrating on the areas where you may be lacking.

When it comes to addressing your weaknesses, do so with a growth mindset. After all, these don’t need to be framed as ‘weak’; they’re merely areas and opportunities for you to grow and become a more well-rounded professional.

If you’re unsure about how you can regain confidence after a period that may feel like somewhat of an ebb in your career, this Harvard Business Review podcast should give you some concrete ideas for steps forward. It answers the questions of several listeners who have struggled with confidence in their careers, touching on such themes as the importance of soft compassion – acknowledging your positive qualities, for example, even in light of receiving negative feedback – and investigating and learning from previous mistakes, without allowing them to hamper your confidence today.

There are many ways of beginning to build your career confidence back up for the new era of work. One good starting point could be to look back at your accomplishments and successes, while thinking about the challenges you’ve successfully overcome. You might also cultivate confidence by repeating positive affirmations to yourself every morning and in the evening, reflecting on what has gone well that day and concentrating on your own journey of professional progress and growth, instead of comparing yourself to others.

The more confident you can be about your career as you look for a new job, the more effective you can be in marketing yourself to employers and making the case for the value you can bring to every role you apply for.

2. Be open-minded when considering opportunities

Being open-minded and flexible when considering the possibilities for your professional future is vital at a time like this. For instance, instead of thinking about the next traditional step up the career ladder for someone in your profession, why not consider whether a horizontal career move could actually be more beneficial for you? By ‘horizontal career move’, I mean a sideways move into a role that could help to build a skill set you may presently lack – a ‘D-tour’ en route to your ultimate career goal.

For example, take the case of a finance manager who has developed a strong skill set in management accounting and calculating profit and loss statements. The job that person aspires to have in two or three moves’ time, is a finance director. Having looked at the typical job specifications for this level and seniority of role, this finance manager soon realises that they lack the relevant technical skills needed in preparing statutory accounts and managing the balance sheet. Therefore, in order to get this experience, they establish that they need to move across into a more technical financial accounting role, which is a horizontal move. A horizontal move, then, might not take you immediately into the role that you desire in the longer term. What such a move allows you to do, however, is to ensure you have all the skills you need to achieve your future career ambitions.

Keep an open mind, too, about the industries on which you concentrate your job search. Some sectors – such as technology, life sciences and ecommerce – will be hiring more than others at the moment. So be strategic about how and where you look for new roles. In addition, don’t assume that any role that you take should be a permanent one. Temporary or contract roles, for instance, can be invaluable ways to build your skill set and gain experience in different areas, and that’s before you consider that such roles can sometimes be made permanent later.

3. Accept that your career will likely be non-linear

As explained by Professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, in their book ‘The 100 Year Life’, increased life expectancies will provide many of us with more time to continue exploring opportunities and shaping our careers in directions that we might have never imagined or expected, especially when we were just starting our professional lives.

A lot of us might end up working well into our 70s and even 80s. That’s a long time working, so, it’s likely that we’ll need to inject some variety and interest into our longer working lives by switching jobs more often, changing industries, starting our own side projects and perhaps exploring entirely different career paths.

So, as I touched on above, your next move doesn’t necessarily have to be a step up. Instead, you might step sideways into a new industry, or step out to go back into education. Or perhaps there’s a step within your current organisation that you could take, that would also help you to feel you’re making interesting and rewarding progress in your career?

The key point I want to make here is that the next job you have, won’t be your last one. You’ll have many more working experiences over the years, so I hope that helps take some of the pressure off and provides you with a bit of perspective.

4. Reflect on what you want from your career

During this time, it’s important to consider what you ultimately want from your professional life, to ensure you’re making the right career decisions for you. After all, when was the last time you stopped, took stock, and thought about your current situation? Are you genuinely happy with where your career is heading, or the industry you’re working in? Does your career feel meaningful and purposeful for you, and allow you to do what you’re naturally good at? What about your skills – are they being properly utilised in your current role? Perhaps there are some skills you presently lack, that you’d like to develop?

If there has never been a better time to reflect on your career so far and the direction that you would like it to take in the future, it might well be now, when you may have a bit more time to think about these things than you did prior to the COVID-19 crisis. The changes that the pandemic has brought may also present you with an opportunity to be bold about what you truly want in your life and career.

Our CEO Alistair Cox may have summed it up best when he said, “my advice to people would be follow your dreams, don’t hit the stop button. Reflect on what you want from your life and career, understand your potential and how you can realise that potential”.

So, use this time to reflect and be clear in your mind about exactly what you want your next career move to be. This level of clarity and focus will allow you to better target your job search, applying for only the most relevant opportunities, thus increasing your chances of success. Not only that, but this newfound understanding of what you really want will come across well in the interview room, allowing you to further demonstrate why you are the best person for the job.

5. Demonstrate your relevant soft skills

Do you possess the soft skills that aren’t merely in demand now, but will also be increasingly sought-after by employees in the months and years to come? Furthermore, if you were sitting in an interview room now, would you be able to provide tangible evidence of these skills? There are certain soft skills that you are likely to need to build on and develop in the new era of work, including adaptability, a willingness to learn, emotional intelligence, interpersonal and communication skills, problem-solving skills, and creativity.

Don’t forget too, though, that you will have developed many transferrable skills over the course of your career, which may prove helpful when demonstrating your suitability for a new role. According to a recent survey of unemployed jobseekers – as reported by Forbes – 57 per cent of respondents were unable to identify their transferrable skills with a high degree of confidence, and 58 per cent weren’t sure how to include transferrable skills on their CV. This advice from my colleague, Marc Burrage, Managing Director of Hays Poland, will help you here. In the blog, he explains how to discover your transferrable, or as he puts it, your ‘hidden’ skills and, importantly, how to identify which specific roles will need those skills.

So, now is the time to familiarise yourself with your skillset, so that you can be as prepared as possible for the future changing landscape, and steal a competitive advantage over other candidates during the job search process.

6. Proactively upskill to address any skills gaps

If you have identified one or more skills gaps that need filling in order for you to move forward in your career, it’s a good idea to establish a pattern of proactively upskilling, making use of the various related resources out there – including online – that could help you to achieve it. Upskilling now will help to improve your chances of finding a new job by making you more employable and demonstrating to employers your commitment to lifelong learning. Not only this, but as Alex Fraser, our Group Head of Change recently explained, upskilling will help to calm any anxieties you’re currently feeling around job security and unknowns or uncertainties about what the future may hold.

Even for those currently self-isolating or otherwise working from home, there are various ways to upskill, including reading business books, listening to podcasts, attending virtual events, conferences and webinars, and enrolling on relevant online courses. Now could also be a good time to take advantage of any training and development resources your employer offers you.

In the words of Alistair Cox: “The world is going to need talented people, that hasn’t changed. The type of talent they need might have changed, but we’ve all got the ability to learn. So, figure out what it is you need to learn, and go and learn it.”

7. Update your CV for the new era of work

We may be entering a new era of work, but your CV will still be important when marketing yourself to employers, just like it was before COVID-19. If you’re unsure where to start, take a look at our CV Guide, which will assist you with key aspects such as planning the structure of your CV, writing your personal statement and how to best showcase your skills.

Important, too, is the need to optimise your CV for algorithms. Key to this is researching keywords and ensuring your CV includes them: look at job descriptions for your ideal role so you can determine what these keywords are, and where they can be incorporated. For example, you may include “project management”, “governance”, “efficiencies”, “health and safety”, “financial reporting” or “budget management” under your responsibilities.

Another crucial element of your CV is almost certainly your personal statement. Susie Timlin, Chief Operating Officer at UK Government Investments, describes it as your CV’s “elevator pitch on paper”, and has written about how you can draft the most compelling one.

Finally, it’s really important to tailor each of your job applications for each role that you apply for, and Hays Belgium Managing Director, Robby Vanuxem, has explained why, and how, you should do exactly that.

8. Perfect your personal brand

Your ‘personal brand’ is, in a nutshell, how you promote yourself, and it will be instrumental in your efforts to land new opportunities, especially in the current climate. Now, then, is a great time to fine-tune your own personal brand, including optimising your use of social media to more advantageously showcase your expertise. In particular, it’s important to regularly update your LinkedIn profile, adding any new skills you’ve learnt.

Also use any time you have right now to share relevant industry news with your network, and consider writing blogs to share your personal opinion on new developments or trends. This will help to increase your visibility in relevant circles, and in so doing, boost your chances of a recruiter or employer finding you.

When you’re updating your LinkedIn profile, adjust the relevant setting that communicates to recruiters and employers that you’re “open to work”, and consider posting an update to your network asking for their assistance with your job search. It’s crucial at the moment, too, to use social platforms to network, as it might be some time until face-to-face events can happen again in some parts of the world. One great step here would be to join relevant LinkedIn Groups, sharing your expertise and seeking advice from people in roles that you aspire to be in.

Catherine Gutsell, Global Head of Content and Social Media at Hays, has provided a more comprehensive rundown of the key steps of building your personal brand online. These range from the initial auditing process, including Googling your name and reviewing your social media profiles, right through to your use of the tools – like Google Alerts – that will allow you to monitor your personal brand online.

9. Develop your remote interviewing skills

Remote interviewing is increasingly likely to be the norm going forward. So, now’s the time to make perfect your virtual interviewing skills, including ensuring you present yourself in the best possible way when being interviewed via a laptop, tablet or even mobile screen.

It’s true that many of the same tips commonly given for face-to-face interviewing also apply to remote interviewing, especially around preparation and how to best answer common interview questions. However, there are also certain priorities that are particularly, or even only, valid for remote interviews.

Do you, for instance, have an environment that lends itself well to video interviews? Are you also comfortable with using the technology, and aware of your body language? Other good reasons to give the chosen virtual interview software a ‘test drive’ before the actual interview include the opportunity this provides to ensure you won’t be speaking too quietly or too loudly for the interviewer, as well as to check for any time lags, which will help you to avoid inadvertently interrupting the interviewer.

We have a multitude of advice that will help you to get every aspect of your remote interviews just right, ranging from how you can put yourself in a positive mindset as your interview date looms, to the questions you should be asking your interviewer in the wake of COVID-19.

10. Stay positive and look after yourself

These are challenging times, and we are all dealing with different emotions. The added pressure of job searching may make an already trying situation even more difficult to manage. However, it’s vital to stay positive. Remind yourself of your unique strengths and the achievements you have celebrated in your career to date, and have faith that the right opportunity will come along.

Try to be patient and persistent, too; it’s unlikely that you’ll land your dream role after barely a few days or weeks of job searching. However, a suitable role will almost certainly emerge if you’re determined with your search – it might just take a little longer than you’d ideally wish.

In the meantime, look after your wellbeing – your own self-care should be high on your priority list right now. Also try to approach the job search process with a growth mindset, treating it as another opportunity to learn and develop.

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