Covid-19 ruining your career plans?
“I apply everywhere, most firms don’t reply” is this you?
STOP what you are doing. You need a new approach.
I’m mindful while writing this post that many UK industries have been severely depleted through the pandemic, and that a lot of people are out of work. Finding work in a tough job market is made more difficult when there is a pressing financial imperative. And I’m keen to stress that what you’ll find below is not simply about finding work, any work, but rather about securing the kind of job that can be part of a career (which is to say work that progresses within a particular profession).
Looking for work and looking for a career are different things, but the skills involved aren’t exclusive.
To be a good job hunter you have to be, above all, tenacious. You must keep going beyond the point of comfort in spite of rejection or silence.
To be a good job hunter you must be flexible. You will need to try different approaches and be prepared to adapt. You may also need to consider which different industries are suited to your skills and experience rather than being fixed on one thing.
And, finally to be a good job hunter (or an excellent job hunter), you need to be strategic. You should be prepared to research and to learn, because there is lots of good information out there that will help you to secure a job that you want if you are prepared to look and to put the effort into it.
There is so much to be said about job hunting, but the first thing to say is that it requires significant effort and more than a little bit of resilience. Statistics in the press are gloomy with record lows in jobs advertised (fewer than half the jobs advertised per month pre-Covid) and a high number of lay-offs. This is understandably demoralising. However, there is work available, and timing may be key, so broadening the widow (from the mere month that 50% of people look for a job before giving up) to several months, increases your chances of securing a job exponentially.
How to do this?
It makes sense that in the current climate your optimism might be at an all-time low, so it may take more mental and emotional effort to persevere than it might under more normal circumstances. But try to remind yourself of a few things:
1. That there are jobs available and you will do your best to get noticed amongst the other applications.
2. That your likelihood of getting a job increases as you improve your strategy and tailor your efforts for getting work.
3. That you can’t control the job market, and that this can be scary. But you can control the quality of your application process and make continuous improvements which will improve your chances of securing work.
4. That even under perfect conditions it can take several months to secure work.
5. That there are many reasons that you may not hear back from employers, like high volumes of applicants, a saturated market, that you didn’t tailor your application to a particular employer, that someone else’s skills fit the job more closely than your own etc.
6. Keep your confidence up. Holding on to your sense of self-worth in the face of rejection can be challenging. But remind yourself every day that you are not a dispensable commodity, but a person with experiences, skills, knowledge in combinations that are unique and valuable, and that what you want is to find an employer that will value these and with whom you are a good fit.
The world of work is undergoing huge changes. People no longer stay in one profession or role for life, and specialist skills are often transferable from one industry to another. And yet, we often become fixed on a particular career path as though this is the only available route to job satisfaction. This is an assumption, not a truth.
If you are a new graduate, you may have decided that finance is the world for you. But, ask yourself what is unique to the financial industry that can’t be found elsewhere? What is it about your skills, knowledge, experiences and values that can only be applied within this particular context? It seems unlikely that you will find a good answer.
So instead of rigidly fixing on one idea, be curious, explore, understand yourself and the work that is potentially available to you given what you know, what you can do, and the type of person you are.
How to do this:
To embrace flexibility you need to know about yourself, and you need to know about the job market. Research and strategic self-examination is key. Try to remind yourself of a few things:
7. That if you are looking for a change or a start in a particular career, that you may have to wait longer than before. But this gives you longer to research, to get in touch with people in your preferred industry and ask questions, to understand why this industry is (or isn’t) a good fit for you.
8. That pragmatism is your best friend– approach this as a time to learn and experiment, to be curious and interested rather than having fixed plans and ideas.
9. That establishing a career and career change takes time. For everyone. Learn to delay gratification, it’s an excellent skill to possess.
10. Figure out if there are industries in which there are employee shortages that you could apply your skills to, or in which you could develop new skills. Find out which sectors are growing or shrinking. The following are good places to start researching retraining, or shortages of potential talent:
Shortage occupation list to figure out which sectors are currently hiring:
The national retraining scheme (with the caveat that there are restrictions to access to this scheme):
For comprehensive employment information and resources:
If this is your situation: “I apply everywhere, most firms don’t reply” you are not being strategic. Why would you apply for every job in every company regardless of whether you are a good fit for them, or they are a good fit for you? Money is important, but you will have to go to this place very day, for thirty five hours a week or more, and you have to feel motivated, and satisfied (at least to some degree). Not all companies offering the same job will offer the same experience – even if the tasks of the job, and the skills requires to do it are identical. So do your research, get a sense of the culture of a company, not just the tasks involved in a job. You’ll need to feel comfortable with the way that you are required to work, and that your colleagues are people you enjoy working with. Remember to view yourself as an asset, not as a commodity.
If you do this then your application is immediately more attractive. It will show that you have a specific interest in the company, that you are more likely to be dedicated and to stay longer in your job. It will reflect on your character – that you care about the kind of work you do and for whom. This is attractive to employers.
Focus on getting work that suits you, and jobs where your unique skillset, experience and knowledge are required valued. Make sure that you are well informed about your target industry, specific companies you want to work for, and what you, specifically, have to offer.
How to do this:
There is a lot of good information available on how to approach a job search or a career change. Typically books offer better, more in depth guidance than the internet. My favourite is What Colour is Your Parachute because it walks you through the process of self- examination and the practicalities of change. But there are many more that a little research will turn up. Try to remind yourself:
11. That 86% of people that take a deep research approach to the job market, and to self-understanding, secure work quickly in their targeted industry, whereas fewer than 8% do by merely sending applications in response to advertisements.
12. That you are not a robot programmed to fulfil the tasks of a job. To feel motivated and to excel you have to find the best fit for you. Sometimes this requires experimentation, but it always requires analysis and forethought.
13. That there are many component parts to a good job search including market understanding, self-knowledge, skilled application and CV writing, and making connections in your preferred industry.
14. That a blanket approach is unlikely to provide the result that you want.
15. That even in a competitive marketplace people get jobs, so adopt the mindset of the person determined to stand out and be seen, even when you face rejection.
While I hope that this blog provides a good starting place for finding work that you enjoy in a difficult climate, I hope more that you will use it as springboard for arming yourself with the knowledge you need to successfully start your career confident that you are doing what you want in the kind of organisation that suits you.
Career Coaching and CV Coaching
Career coaching will fast track these processes. It's eminently possible to do this stuff alone if you have the motivation and the insight. But I’ve recommended books to so many people, and realised that I’m somewhat on my own with the patience to trawl through 200 pages of career advancement exercises. Having someone appraise your CV, to support you to understand what you really value in life and work (and how to apply them), to create clarity where you are confused, and to help you to create and carry out plans job hunting can speed up the process and make it much more successful. I offer a few options that might help, check out these offers to see if I can help you.
For CV writing and advice:
Figuring out what makes you uniquely valuable:
Unsure, and want to check out coaching before committing:
If you are interested in specific CV writing advice, check out this post: