Job hunting? Here’s how to find a job right now
2020 is the year of things that seemed easy suddenly being oh so hard. Take going out for dinner, for example, which many of us took for granted until restaurants worldwide were shut. Or from a work perspective, ease of logistics. Closed borders in every continent has certainly presented way more issues than any of us ever thought possible.
And yet another area of life that always presented its own challenges, and now even more so, is looking for a job. Whether you’ve been made redundant or stood down, or you’re starting to feel as if the pandemic isn’t bringing out the best in your employer, the prospect of job hunting right now seems a little scary. What’s even out there? Will I ever find something? And how do I manage my emotions in such an unstable time?
To help guide you through your job search, we spoke to two highly experienced recruiters, Imelda Walsh, Manager of The Source, an boutique procurement recruitment agency based in Australia, and Christina Langley, Consultant at Langley Search and Interim in the UK. Both enlightened us on not only the nuts and bolts of how to manage your job search at the moment, but also how to best manage and talk about your experiences if you have found yourself unemployed.
I’m not feeling that confident at the moment. Is that ok?
At the best of times, job searching can feel a little daunting. But right now, job searching can feel downright terrifying. With job listings in some sectors in the UK down by up to 59%, and job listings in Australia following a similar trend (latest reports show listings are down 54%), many people are feeling overwhelmed by the competition out there, but at the same time underwhelmed by their ability to break back into the market, especially if they’re unemployed. But is the situation so dire when it comes to procurement?
Christina certainly doesn’t think so, as many of her clients are actively hiring for roles. Yet at the same time, she understands that procurement professionals may be feeling a range of emotions right now:
‘How people feel right now depends on their coping strategies. Some will feel empowered and organised; confident in their skillset and pragmatic about what they will consider.’
‘Others may be in denial, unable to view themselves in the context of what has happened. They may be feeling angry, or even struggling with home obligations so it might be difficult to devote the time needed to find another role.’
I’m unemployed right now. How should I be looking for a job?
There’s no doubt that looking for a job right now can be stressful. So how do you ensure that you don’t get caught up in it all, and spend hours and hours obsessively looking for anything and everything?
When it comes to job searching, Imelda says that you need to make a plan and stick to it:
‘Start your job search by defining what roles you want. And at this time especially, I’d also recommend having a plan b. Be clear on what you want but also what you’d accept if you don’t get what you’re looking for in a certain amount of time.’
But what about if you’re really keen to get back to work? Should you apply for anything just in case?
‘No.’ Imelda says.
‘Be strategic about what you apply for, and don’t apply for something that doesn’t genuinely interest you, as this will dilute your profile and make you look desperate.’
Throughout the job search process, Christina says it’s critical to keep balance in your life, and to make sure you’re exercising, eating and sleeping well. Beyond that though, Christina says that like anything, in your job search you need to create achievable goals:
‘Give yourself goals, such as, this week I’m going to network by contacting ten former bosses or colleagues, next week I’m going to write my CV.’
‘Completing these actions will make you feel like you are making progress.’
How do I network effectively at the moment?
Right now, it’s fair to say that most people have a lot going on, with many still working through the pandemic and what it means for their jobs and lives. Thinking about careers and networking might not be at the top of everyone’s mind, so it may feel awkward or inappropriate to network.
Christina believes, though, that we don’t need to feel embarrassed about networking right now. It’s all about mindset, she says, and thinks that we need to change the fundamental question we ask:
‘It’s not “please do you have a job?” but instead “please let me know if you hear of anything.”’
Imelda and Christina both believe that if you are networking, you need to be systematic and targeted in how you do so. Specifically, Imelda recommends:
‘Start by researching the market. What industries are hiring right now? In many parts of the world, that might be healthcare, government, FMCG, tech and a few others.’
‘After you’ve done your research, figure out, ideally, what industry, company and leader you’d like to work for.’
‘Then specifically connect with them or ask to be introduced on platforms such as Procurious and LinkedIn.’
Actually connecting with people should only form part of this process though, Imelda says. The other part is giving back to the community and growing your personal brand and presence. The best way to do this is to be proactive online, through sharing your opinion via commenting on what others are doing and saying in your industry, and publishing your own thought-leadership articles.
How do I interview confidently?
Interviews are nerve-wracking at the best of times. But especially if you’re unemployed, and especially during a pandemic, they can be particularly nerve-wracking.
Fortunately, Imelda and Christina both believe there are many things we can do to calm our nerves before an interview, and especially one with a hiring manager.
Imelda believes the key to good interview performance is preparation. Prior to any interview, she says that it’s imperative that you know your resume:
‘Before an interview, ensure that you can explain all of your roles and your amazing achievements. To do this, reflect on your career and the value you’ve delivered.’
‘And make sure you’ve done your research. Practice storytelling and have answers prepared to common questions.’
Preparation, in and of itself, can make you feel more calm. But if it hasn’t completely taken away the nerves, do whatever you need to just prior to the interview to get yourself ready:
‘Whatever it takes to make you feel better. Meditate, listen to your favourite song, practice your answers in the mirror. If it works for you, ensure you do it!’
As someone who interviews hundreds of people in any given year, Imelda does acknowledge that interviews can be harder than they seem. But at the same time, she thinks that we need not be too hard on ourselves. Hiring managers and recruiters alike know that it’s a difficult market, and that many people have been stood down. The key, she thinks, is to be able to effectively explain your time off:
‘The pandemic is global – everyone knows what is happening. So if you’ve found yourself with a resume gap, people will generally understand.’
‘But still, a good explanation of what you’ve been doing will help. For example, if you say you’ve been doing “nothing” managers might be a little concerned. But if you say you’ve used the time to upskill, or even to progress a personal hobby or project, that will suffice.’
Recruiters can also be a big help if you’re nervous, Christina says. Specifically, she encourages all candidates to ask questions in order to understand the big picture of any job they may be going for:
‘Always ask your recruitment consultant for the real story and requirements beneath the job description.’
‘And also try and find out about the hiring managers who will be interviewing you. What is their background? Where have they worked? Etc.’
How do I know if I’m nervous in an interview?
Try as we might, sometimes it’s just not possible to get rid of interview jitters. But how do you know if you’ve successfully squashed your nerves or not? There’s a few things that give you away, Imelda says … and they may not be what you think.
‘Fumbling over words, sweating, nervous twitches like shaking a leg, a lack of eye contact, or even talking too fast and rambling are common signs you’re nervous.’
Christina agrees, adding that your voice volume can also give you away:
‘If someone’s nervous, they often talk too loudly or even too quietly.’
While these might be common signs of nervousness, Imelda has also seen a couple of other less common signs of nervousness that we should all be aware of:
‘Often, candidates are told to use “power poses” before the interview to calm nerves. But a couple of times, I’ve seen the overuse of power posing, for example, sitting back in a chair with a leg up on your knee, in interviews.’
‘Although this may feel commanding, it is often a compensation for nerves.’
Note to all: keep the power posing to before the interview!
What should I talk about in an interview?
The world of procurement has most certainly undergone a shake up since the pandemic. So does this mean that employers are looking for certain traits and experiences now that may not have been as important before?
Imelda certainly thinks so.
She’s seen the following shift in what employers are looking for:
‘We’re seeing an even bigger focus than ever on supplier relationships. Organisations are wanting procurement to have a genuine strategic relationship with vendors, meaning they can lean on them in times of need.’
Beyond supplier relationships, Imelda believes that the soft skills that were always considered important in procurement are considered even more important now:
‘Your ability to influence, engage and be customer-focused is even more critical right now.’
‘Beyond that, businesses want savvy procurement professionals who know that now is no time to waste a crisis. Instead, now is the time to step up and show the importance of procurement.’
‘Innovate, be open to change and take advantage of this opportunity to make a positive difference.’
How is job search going at the moment? Are you having to do anything differently? Let us know in the comments below.
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