Concern for family and friends always occupies the high ground in my mind. It’s a presence more noticeable in recent weeks for obvious reasons. For me, that “top of mind” place has been getting increasingly crowded. As the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis intensifies and companies across insights are forced to make gut-wrenching staffing decisions, the emotional toll has been severe. Many people I know (and have worked with) are now out of work. They are worried about providing for their families. They are uncertain about the fate of the economy and what it will mean for their future.
How can I help? That’s always my initial question during trying times. Thankfully, as head of our industry association, my actions can extend broadly. For example, following consultation with many business owners and chief executives, IA has taken a stand against the enforcement of non-compete agreements. We’re extending IA member benefits, including access to our Career Center, to those out of work. And we’re hosting a forum this week focused on providing advice and encouragement to job seekers:
Virtual Town Hall: The Search for New Employment in Insights, Friday, April 24, 12 - 1 p.m. ET.
Please register to join us – there is no cost and it’s open to all.
I also want to share some advice for my industry colleagues who are seeking new work. There’s a massive amount of job search guidance to be found online and I encourage everyone to do some research there, but it can be overwhelming, and that’s the last thing you need right now. This is a time to simplify. Tap your penchant for practicality and use those organizational and analytical skills to distill things down to what is reasonable and actionable.
So, in that spirit, I’ve identified some things for you to keep “top of mind” as you go about finding your next amazing job.
Our Competitive Edge Is Dull
With an unemployment rate of just 3.6%, the U.S. breezed into 2020 with an air of confidence. The historically tight job market buoyed workers, especially in well-paid, in-demand sectors like insights and data analytics.
That party sure ended fast.
From January to the first week of April, about 20 million Americans lost their jobs. Since then, businesses have continued to reduce staff and shut down. Just this week a surge in applications crashed New York State’s unemployment website.
Many in our industry, especially the younger set who have never known anything but a growing economy, are spoiled. They were used to receiving unsolicited offers for higher paying positions and rest assured they could jump to another opportunity if they were feeling unappreciated or unfulfilled. When fielding job offers, they could be choosy, wait for the right fit, and make additional demands. Those luxuries no longer exist. Competition for each job will be intense.
So, roll up those sleeves and get to work.
Wipe the Slate Clean
The focus and energy required to undertake a successful job search is considerable. You need to strip away all obstacles. First and foremost – clear your mind of all emotion associated with your prior (or current) role. I’ve sat in interviews where candidates talked badly about their former employer. It shut down the chemistry. If you openly criticize your past employer, it tells me you may well bash your next one. Anger about your past experiences can easily leak into your interview discussions. It’s important to release any negative emotions pent up inside you. Vent early and often to friends and family. Work through it in counseling. It will hold you back unless you grapple with it and make peace. But you MUST leave it behind.
It’s also wise to temper expectations and be willing to take a short-term setback. Realizing business owners are extremely cautious right now, “you may need to help de-risk the initial decision to bring you onboard,” observed PureSpectrum CEO Michael McCrary. “If you’re in sales, this might mean a much lower base salary and a higher commission rate. It may be an ego blow but getting in and proving your worth is not a bad outcome in today’s environment.”
Prepare or update your key documents, including resume, any restrictive covenants/non-competes, copies of performance appraisals, sales numbers, and confirm a list of 3 to 5 people you can tap as references, advises Laura Drews Freund, CEO of Cranbrook Search Consultants.
Spend ample time on LinkedIn, she adds. Change the tag line on your profile to something like, “open to new opportunities”. If you are open to relocation, add that as well. Contact your first-degree network of former colleagues, clients, and associates to let them know your status, send your resume and encourage them to share it with their networks. Join LinkedIn groups, connect with Insights recruiters, share/like/comment on your network’s postings, post your own insights and relevant content. Set up job search agents (via LinkedIn jobs search, monster.com, etc.) with daily or weekly email results.
Another way a job search is like a business: It’s important to create a financial plan. Know from the outset your budget and track cash flow, expenses, etc.
Keep A Routine
You don’t NEED to be anywhere at a specific time. You don’t have any “real” project deadlines. Thinking this way means every day is a vacation and that’s not the mindset that’s going to get you a new job.
Embrace a routine. It is vital structure upon which your whole job search endeavor rests. Start each day at the same time; take a shower and get dressed (real clothing, not sleepwear), advises Thomas Powner of Career Thinker. “Take pride in your appearance,” he says. “It will make you feel good and keep you motivated.”
Powner also recommends planning your next day and week before they begin, and to squeeze some time in on the weekend to research new job postings so you can jump right in on Monday.
In my own personal job searches, things have moved quickly when I was able to devote my full day to it. I acted like I was already working for my future employer, and my time and energy was theirs even before I received my first paycheck, as I searched for them and allowed them to get to know me.
While it’s wise to bring full-time effort to the job search, boundaries are essential to maintain. As many of us find out when working from home, it is important to have a clearly defined end to your job search day. Work-life balance is crucial now, so you must carve out ample time to spend with family and friends and partake in hobbies, exercise and leisure activities.
At the start of each week, make a list of specific, manageable goals that you would like to achieve. Think through which activity goals make the most sense – cold calls, employer searches, cover letters, interviews, job fairs. Attach dates to key milestones. Be sure they are reasonable and achievable, cautions Alison Doyle, job search expert for The Balance Careers. By focusing on small, achievable goals, you will feel more accomplished throughout your job search.
“You need to figure out where you want to end up and also understand that flexibility during this time is key,” notes Brin Moore of Trusted Talent. “Do set goals for yourself – number of searches, interviews, etc. – and be committed, but also be kind to yourself and employers if things are taking longer than you hoped. Adjust your goals, not your determination and stamina.”
Define Your Brand
Who are you and what do you stand for? When selling something you need to know the product. In this case that product is you. And you may not know yourself – or know how you are perceived – as well as you think you do. “Get out a piece of paper. Or go to your preferred writing device and honestly state to yourself the self-brand features that you believe you possess,” instructs Joel Evans, Professor Emeritus at Hofstra University’s Zarb School. “Is your perception realistic? Does it represent the past? The present? The future? A combination? After doing that, articulate your perception of your self-brand. Try to do this in 25 words or less. That becomes your positioning statement. It should highlight your best attributes. Revise your statement until you believe it truly represents you.”
In future steps, Evans suggests performing a SWOT analysis of yourself and identify areas in need of improvement. You get the idea – take a step back and try to look objectively at yourself.
What is your value-based USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? Why should companies choose you over your competitors? Create sales collateral. Your resume, 30- and 90-second elevator pitch, scrutinize and rework your LinkedIn profile. Do homework on yourself (search your name, review your digital presence).
“Is your passion in finding insights in the data? Do you love report writing? Are you a great mentor/leader? Are you a ‘Seller/Doer?’ a Hunter?” – these are things to consider when developing your USP, notes Cranbrook’s Freund. “Make sure your value prop matches the mission statement of the company and/or the skill sets required for the job description.”
It takes some detachment to look at yourself as an object to be coveted or ignored, but you need to also identify and exemplify your personal attributes. “Authenticity,” Brin Moore observes, is not a buzz word. In the new normal of working from home, it is important that your employer and their team members know you and you know them.” Open yourself up in a cover letter, resume, on LinkedIn or in a Zoom interview and share a personal interest or passion. It’s another facet of you as a person and “brand” and can create a meaningful, memorable connection.
Learn & Prepare
Performing a personal SWOT analysis was mentioned earlier. If you do one, or if you just have a general awareness of your weaknesses, now is a great time to fill those knowledge gaps. Look into online courses and ensure you’re up on the latest methodologies and technologies. Practice for video interviews. They’re quite different from in-person conversations, and you’ll want to conduct multiple dry runs before the actual sit-down. Analyze your posture, eye contact, tone of voice, sound and lighting quality, and backdrop—all essential details to get right, notes Keca Ward, Senior Director, Talent Experience at Phenom People.
Practicing virtual and in-person interviews is critical, Cranbrook’s Freund says. Record mock interview via audio and video. Set up accounts with the main virtual communications platforms (Skype, Zoom, Uber Conference, etc.). Practice sending/receiving mock invites and conducting interviews with friends.
Keep abreast of what’s happening in market research and data analytics – be aware of emerging companies, product launches and company mergers. Read books – business-related or otherwise.
Showcase Your Skills & Determination
While speaking with a hiring CEO recently, he shared with me that he was surprised that successful salespeople who were laid off, were not reaching out. He would connect with them on social media, and they would accept his invitation, and that would be it. No attempts to seek an opportunity. His comment was, “We expect good salespeople to be able to demonstrate strong sales skills in the job search process.”
A company leader shared with me that hiring people has a six-month window of return, at a minimum. That means that anything you as a new hire can demonstrate will add value more quickly helps hiring companies differentiate you from others.
Adds Moore, “You need to make an impression that comes through the monitor – a combination of having done your research on the position, the company and the team, and having your authentic self shine through.”
Be creative and persistent, advises PureSpectrum’s McCrary. “You’re probably one of dozens trying to reach hiring managers. Everyone sends LinkedIn messages and emails. Think of ways to reach the right person and break through the clutter, such as a handwritten note.”
Put Yourself Out There
Being out of work can depress your mood and drain your self-esteem. This is common and completely understandable. It’s vital to fight the urge to isolate. Reach out to former colleagues, get involved with conversations on social media, and explore all resources available to you. For example, IA’s Engage community, Linked In group, and our Career Center, which offers job seekers several free resources, including the ability to upload resumes, get a complimentary resume review, and create customized job alert emails based upon specific criteria.
I’m optimistic that work will begin flowing again soon and the many talented people sidelined during this crisis will find fulfilling new roles.
Please reach out to us if we can help you in any way!