I originally wrote this blog for The Recruitment Lab back in April 2020 when the UK had begun the first lockdown. I was motivated because, despite lockdown, candidates were making contact and asking that fundamental question – “How can I find a job in lockdown?”
We have all probably lost count of how many lockdowns there have been since then! But, the same question is being asked again. This time though things are actually different to the very first lockdown, so I’m giving this blog a little refresh for you.
What is the same is that during lockdown a job seeker’s desire to find work does not diminish. If anything, you can become more focused on the matter at hand. You can become more worried and worked up about it and you can become increasingly concerned by the lack of opportunities available and the lack of progress you make. Well, stop right there and relax for a second! Take a deep breath. Let’s start to rationalise things for you….Read on!
Lockdown – AGAIN!!
The fundamental issue with the first lockdown was that many organisations saw a catastrophic drop in sales (in some cases 90%-95%). Customers could simply not be reached and engaged with. To counter that many grabbed the government furlough scheme and in effect ran the business as lean as possible – or basically hibernated it. The end result is that the recruitment of new staff was delayed or simply stopped dead.
Fast forward to where we are today…well, for many nothing much has changed! Think of bars, restaurants, theatres, and cinemas and all of those linked to hospitality or aviation. They have to date barely been able to tread water! Sales may have improved marginally at select points, but as industry sectors, they never had a chance to return to work (normally) and they certainly didn’t need to hire. It was the case of just trying to avoid redundancies with their existing teams. Unfortunately, I see no easy relief for these industry sectors moving forward in the short or medium term.
However…and here is the good news…some organisations have been hiring over the last few months. They have successfully rolled out remote working, productivity has not dropped and business is okay (all things considered). You see, these organisations have had to change their culture. They have had to adapt to a “remote first” mentality. But they have found a means of working together and engaging with their customers.
Eighteen months ago, the idea of hiring someone you had not met face-to-face would have been laughed out of many HR manager’s offices. Not now. Zoom meetings, virtual office tours, and a whole host of technologies has facilitated the successful onboarding of new candidates. I’m not saying a new economy has been created, just business has had to adapt where needed.
You could sit around right now and moan about how it will never be possible to find a job in lockdown and do nothing, or you roll your sleeves up and step into the trenches. It really is that simple.
Unemployment is high. We mentioned above that certain sectors are simply not recruiting. It is going to be tough, but not as tough as the very first lockdown.
In my original blog, my main message was to be patient and manage your expectations. I said you need to be realistic in your job search timeline. That advice still stands. Recruitment teams and decision-makers could have been furloughed again or have their role realigned and are not there to drive the recruitment process. So be prepared to have to wait longer for feedback on an application.
The biggest change though when it comes to mindset is your need for flexibility. When I say that, I mean flexibility in terms of what you apply for. You might have a long successful career within hospitality. But hospitality is not hiring. Do you keep hitting your head against a brick wall or change course? Maybe you have always worked in an office and remote working does not appeal. Well, the world has changed. Remove the blinkers and create opportunities is my thinking.
If you create opportunities for yourself, your job search will immediately feel like it has momentum.
Originally, I used the profile of two very different candidates who were job seeking during the first lockdown. I’m going to keep their details the same and look at how they approach things in the current world:
The Senior Executive
One candidate I dealt with was a senior Marketing Director. Her firm has collapsed days before the latest lockdown. Unfortunately, it happens, but it couldn’t have happened at a worst time for her. She is clearly career-driven, lives alone and literally has nothing to think about right now apart from her job status. By the time we spoke she was feeling fairly numb and slightly strung-out (which is completely understandable).
In her case, she needs to actually carry on as normal….Yep, just start her job search! The types of roles she would be interested in would involve her CV being subjected to close examination and benchmarking exercises. A number of senior stakeholders would likely be involved in recruiting the role. She can probably expect a four-stage recruitment process lasting up to six weeks or longer. In short, the roles she would be applying for could have a long lead-time.
Her focus right now is on updating the CV. And then wherever possible, applying for jobs. Making contact with recruitment agencies that could help her. Flexing contacts within her network so they are aware she is available.
I asked her – if she had been in work right now, but was looking to change – how long did she think that process would take? She said realistically 3-4 months. I agreed, the fact she was now immediately available did not change too much in terms of how her job search was going to be undertaken. Opportunities have been advertised, she can apply, but there is a catch…
There are fewer opportunities out there, feedback will take much longer and potentially she faces increased competition with the spike in unemployment. In a normal world, communication would be fluid and opportunities ample. Results or progress could be documented much easier, but this is not a normal world.
A Senior Executive like herself must try not to be so hard on herself – results will be harder to achieve in the current environment – but it is not impossible. So as said, do not be hard on yourself and temper your expectations to the current employment market reality. Things are going to take time.
Students and Part-Time Jobs
At the other end of the spectrum was a student seeking part-time work while he studied at University. He didn’t mind what he did, it was just about earning some beer money and keeping busy. Let me stress – part-time jobs can help significantly on your CV – but let’s leave that discussion for another time.
How do you find a casual job in the current climate? Well, in short, right now it is difficult (no surprises in that statement I know) – but actually, it has been relatively difficult for a number of years. The key is he will need to be incredibly flexible in his mindset.
The student in question may have had a vision of working in a pub or a shop. That is simply not going to happen. He could though work at a takeaway, a warehouse, or even a remote call centre. These roles may lack the glamour or romance he originally envisaged. But hard work is rarely glamourous or romantic!
During the latest UK lockdown, there is more flexibility surrounding organisations. Many will actually continue to operate as normal. In short, there is business’ that have not been instructed to close and that cannot work remotely. Thanks to stringent health and safety procedures it will be business as usual. In addition, many organisations have learned that remote working can be successful. Hence – be flexible in the job search.
When you search for casual work, I think it is worth broadening your options by looking beyond mainstream job boards. Search on various Facebook communities. You’d be surprised how many small business’ post job adverts on these platforms. Look on other community boards like Gumtree or Friday Ad. Again, these are less expensive avenues for advertisers and can be casual job heaven.
What about your friends, do they have casual jobs lined-up – if so where? Can they put a good word in for you and allow you to piggyback into a job alongside them?
And remember, if you can find anything during lockdown, you are doing really well.
So, both a Senior Marketing Director and a student have similarities and differences in how they currently job search. Both have the ability to do something now, and at the very least should make sure they have an awesome CV ready to go. Both can apply for jobs (if they can find opportunities). But – both face some serious limitations in what they can sensibly achieve. Their timelines of action are though quite different. If the Senior Executive is the tortoise then the casual job seeker is going to be the hare.
Therefore, my messages to both these candidates and every job seeker right now is:
- BE PATIENT
- BE FLEXIBLE
- DO NOT BE TOO TOUGH ON YOURSELF
What I have always said is that undertaking a job search is not an ego-boosting experience. Most job seekers can face silence and rejection before they land what they are seeking. In lockdown that feeling is going to be hugely magnified for all job seekers.
The last thing any job seeker should do right now is work full-time at finding a job! Thanks to the internet and the fact you just click to apply…working full-time at finding a job will probably send you clinically insane. You can now apply for hundreds of jobs a day if you want. Therefore, limit yourself to a couple of days a week, or else you will simply be reading the same adverts over and over again.
Finally, one thing which has been more openly discussed by job seekers is should they compromise their salary expectations in the current job market. Is taking “any” job sensible in the current climate or should a candidate holdout for the “right” job. This is a personal choice, there is no right or wrong answer.
I have seen airline pilots make some very difficult decisions; I have seen senior managers refuse to compromise their salary expectations. It depends on what your financial situation is.
One thing I would say is that if you volunteer for a local charity or take a lesser job because you felt you could genuinely help make a difference – no future employer would look negatively on that in the current market. But if you decide to take that route then do it with determination. No matter what the job, a future employer wants commitment and buy-in. Telling everyone it is a stopgap won’t win many fans – because employers don’t like change.
So, there you have it. Maybe not an explanation of how you find a job during lockdown…because the ‘how’ you find a job has not really changed! The mechanics of applying, interviewing, and accepting/rejecting a job offer are actually the same as they always have been. What has changed though is the market conditions, the technologies involved, the unemployment rates, and the industry sectors that are not hiring.
For many organisations’ recruitment is suddenly not their top priority. But, thanks to technology and successfully navigating the earlier lockdown, some companies becoming increasingly confident and are hiring.
As a job seeker, you cannot change the current reality, but if you learn to work with it and manage your expectations you may come out of lockdown ahead of other job seekers. Opportunities are out there, just stay patient and temper your expectations to the market.
About the Author
Simon Royston is the founder and Managing Director of The Recruitment Lab (A recruitment agency with offices in Aldershot and Brighton that offers employment services across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and beyond). Simon lives in Guildford and has worked in Recruitment for over a decade. He has a degree and a masters in psychology as well as a diploma in Human Resource Management. If you would like to know more about anything written in this blog or would simply like to express your own thoughts and opinions do not hesitate to contact Simon through The Recruitment Lab website.