According to the Office of National Statistics, unemployment in the United Kingdom among those aged 16 and over has been on a downward trajectory for over 10 years. In August 2011 unemployment stood at 8.5% and dropped to a low of 3.9% in the period January to March 2020, just as the COVID-19 virus was hitting.
Most now expect the unemployment numbers to jump in the coming months and for that trend to continue as we start to come out of lockdown, businesses reopen and government stimulus packages like the furlough scheme are gradually lifted.
In one example British Airways announced a consultation period for its 45,000 staff, the start of the firm’s plans to reduce its workforce by 30%. This trend will no doubt accelerate in the months ahead and as a result many of us will, for maybe the first time in our careers, be staring job and financial uncertainty in the face.
Against this backdrop, and reflecting on conversations with friends who have found themselves looking for work, what advice can we offer? Do the normal rules of job searches still apply in a post-COVID-19 world and how can you stay positive, focused and active?
Gareth joined Templar after two decades in Financial Services Sales having held positions as a stockbroker, private banker and Head of Sales for a Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
He specialises in communications, relationship management and sales and as a coach, his clients come to him from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, industries, and seniority.
Here are my 8 top tips:
1. Let go, and I do not mean to give up on everything but, simply, remind yourself that you cannot control everything around you and let go of any feelings that you can. Uncertainty is less than ideal, but it can be acceptable and tolerable.
Accept that there is only so much you can do today and as time unfolds some things will become clearer. Focus on what you can control and most importantly take care of yourself and your feelings, and if you want, let others in and seek out their help.
2. Do your research into what financial help and support is available to you
It is easy to bury your head in the sand and let weeks and maybe months go by whilst the toll on your personal finances grows, so in week one:
- Visit the government website which guides you through what state support you can apply for
- Talk to your lender if you have a mortgage or other loan. You will be surprised at how willing to help, many mortgage and other lenders are likely to be when you simply ask. Check out Money Supermarket’s advice on what to do if you are struggling to pay your mortgage
- Go through your bank and credit card statements for the last year and audit any subscriptions, apps, standing orders and the like and ask yourself, “do I need it today”? If you don’t, cancel them now.
3. Look after yourself – have a routine that works for you and that gives you energy and focus.
No one can work at something 24/7, so structure your time and give yourself breaks and rewards for completing tasks or hitting deadlines.
Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins sometimes referred to as the “feel good” chemical because they act as a happiness booster.
So, find the exercise you like and build some into your day.
4. Talk regularly with trusted friends and contacts who you know give you a boost. Avoid the pessimists. Instead what you need on a regular basis is a good dose of realistic optimism, so seek out those that give you that.
5. Set yourself goals (daily, weekly, monthly) and write them down. The problem a lot of us face is that we generally have positive intentions, but often fail to act on them.
Research by German social psychologist, Peter Gollwitzer suggests that when you write down or simply think about where you want to be, there is a gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Our instinct to close this gap helps us act on our intentions.
Beware broadcasting your goal widely as Gollwitzer’s research suggests that when you let others know about your goals, the gap between where you are now and where you want to be closes because you (artificially) feel the same way you should after completing your intentions.
As a result, part of the stimulus to work towards your goals is lost. If you’re interested in finding out more about Gollwitzer’s research on achieving goals you’ll find links to his research here.
6. Be objective. Spend time (it’ll probably take a lot longer than you think) to write down what you’re looking for from your next role and how this will fulfil you – professional challenge, company culture, location, work/life balance, advancement potential, earnings etc – everything that is important to you.
This is your objective brief which benchmarks all opportunities that may present themselves during your search. It is easy to be distracted/flattered when you are either approached for a role or if opportunities are thin on the ground, and to grasp the first thing that comes along. Applying your objective brief will help you avoid that trap.
7. Be prepared to reinvent yourself, especially in the short-term. It might be that companies that are likely to have roles that fit your objective brief might not be hiring right now.
If your finances dictate that your job search is urgent, look around at industries and companies that are still hiring as we emerge from lockdown. Consider a stopgap that pays the bills and keeps you afloat whilst still giving you the time to focus on your wider job search.
8. Audit and carefully curate your online presence to give your chances of online networking success a turbo boost
Face-to-face networking is on hold for a while so online is more important than ever. Start by doing an audit of your online presence and cleaning it up where necessary.
LinkedIn is still the go to for business networking so take time to curate your profile. You will find tons of great tips on creating a powerful profile but some of the best comes from LinkedIn themselves. Check out their recent blog that offers some simple practical advice.
Remember that most of us view LinkedIn on a mobile device and many won’t get past the first screen view. Understanding that, make sure it’s obvious from your LinkedIn summary what value you bring to an employer. Also think about asking for recommendations from past clients/colleagues/employers and pin these to your profile.
These can act as powerful persuaders to anyone taking the time to read past the first paragraph on your profile.
Then get active online. The best advice I can give is to think of yourself as a great brand, there’s no point being a great brand or product and no one knowing about you.
So, decide upon your “brand narrative” and start getting that out there. Join groups and forums online and start contributing to conversations. Share content that you think might be useful to your network and author a post that demonstrates expertise and thought leadership.
So, in summary, if you find yourself looking for a job as we emerge from lockdown try to focus on what you can control today. Don’t delay, seek help, there’s lots available if you ask.
Set yourself goals, establish a routine and reward yourself for hitting your goals. Look after your physical and mental well-being.
Get clear on what you want from a future role and if the job search is urgent be prepared to reinvent yourself, especially in the short-term. And finally, give your online networking a turbo boost, audit your online presence and make sure you don’t remain a well-kept secret.