Last week I actually had quite a few candidates contact The Recruitment Lab seeking jobs. That is not actually a huge surprise – I am a recruitment agency after all! But as I write this, we have been in lockdown for a number of weeks now. We still seem to have an eternity to go until it is lifted and the job market has almost collapsed overnight. But some candidates are questioning how do you actually find a job in the current climate?!?!
In short, much depends upon your career expectations and what level of employment you are seeking. You see, there are jobs being advertised and vacancies do exist. But, these unusual times mean candidates are questioning themselves and what they need to do.
Below, I will explain the approach for two polar-opposite candidates I spoke with last week.
The Senior Executive
One candidate I dealt with was a senior Marketing Director. Her firm had collapsed the day before the Coronavirus lockdown took full effect. 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 role 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 to 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 will be fewer opportunities to apply for, feedback will take much longer and potentially she faces increased competition with a 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. Currently the whole recruitment process is working in an ambiguous environment. Decision-makers have other issues to deal with – or may simply not be available. There is the possibility that roles advertised are actually put back or even stopped outright as employers struggle with the current economy.
A Senior Executive like herself must first and foremost 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 Summer Jobs
At the other end of the spectrum was a student who was seeking a job for the summer before starting University. He didn’t mind what he did, it was just about earning some beer money and keeping busy. Let me stress – summer jobs can help significantly on your CV – but let’s leave that discussion for another time.
How do you find a summer job in the current climate? Well, in short, right now it is really difficult (no surprises in that statement I know) – but actually it has been really difficult for a number of years. Firstly, you need to be incredibly flexible in your mindset. If you can find anything during lockdown, you are doing incredibly well.
If you want a summer job you can start by making your CV truly awesome. Then be patient and pick your moment. You will know the moment I’m talking about….rumours of lockdown ending will be increasing, COVID-19 data suggests the pandemic is moving in the right direction….you could be about a week away from being allowed out of the house (at least for work reasons) and then you pull the trigger!
Hit, every job board you can find and get active. 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 summer job heaven.
You need to put the feelers out with friends and family. Does anyone know of anyone needing some temporary help? Do your friends have summer 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. What about what everyone did last year – which pub did they pull pints in or which shop did they stand on a till at….then make contact with those employers.
If you can leave the house, then there really is nothing stopping you in hitting the high street and handing out CVs. Trust me…summer jobs are one of the most competitive areas of the job market. With the UK suddenly seeing a rise in unemployment you need to be prepared to work incredibly hard and incredibly smart to make things happen. That is why when the time comes you will explore every opportunity as hard and fast as possible….until then though, be prepared to save your energy and just test the water rather than dive into the deep-end of your job search.
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, i.e. update the CV and make sure it is 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 summer job seeker is going to be the hare.
Therefore, my message to both these candidates and every job seeker right now is BE PATIENT. The current lockdown means timelines for job seekers are undetermined. What might have been a fortnight night of job searching to find a summer job has just turned into 6 weeks.
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 fulltime at finding a job! Thanks to the internet and the fact you just click to apply…working fulltime 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.
All candidates have to be realistic in their expectations and they need to take small victories as genuinely huge achievements. A friendly chat with a recruiter clarifying details on your CV is probably a significant result during lockdown! Just being able to send an application could be seen as a big win. A Zoom interview could be a bit like winning the lottery!
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 ambiguity in the market and maybe the technology hiring firms are using.
For many organisations’ recruitment is suddenly not their top priority. Key decision-makers may not be around, when and how they onboard a candidate is a complete unknown to many.
As a job seeker you need to understand how this effects recruitment. You can not change the current reality, but if you learn to work with it and adapt then 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.