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Looking for a new role in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic

It’s difficult to overstate how damaging the Coronavirus pandemic has been to a whole host of different businesses. Previously solid companies, both large and small, have started laying off and furloughing staff en masse. This presents a particular challenge for those unfortunate enough to be caught in this particular storm. How can you find a new job when so many companies are laying off staff rather than hiring?

Sources of work

There are three main routes to finding a new role;

  1. Advertised positions – sites like Linkedin and are popular places for hirers to advertise roles
  2. Through a recruiter – both contingent and retained recruiters will have access to roles that aren’t often visible, and the roles may not be advertised at all. More on this later.
  3. Through your network – you will have worked with people in the past who like and rate you. Even if they aren’t hiring themselves, they may have heard of opportunities in the market that are suitable for you. Networking this way can unearth hidden opportunities – when a company may just have started thinking about hiring someone and it hasn’t even hit the wider market yet.

Working with recruiters

There are two main kinds of recruiter;

  • Contingent recruiters who work on a “no win, no fee” basis. They typically don’t have exclusivity on their roles, and usually specialise in a certain area. Whilst the quality of contingent recruiters can vary, the best ones will have specialism and network in their area. Try to find a recruiter who specialises in your sector or function, or ideally both.
  • Retained headhunters (aka executive search) operate on a retained, exclusive basis with their clients. They may work for large, multisector firms (e.g. the “Shrek” headhunting firms) or in smaller, sector or functional specialist boutiques. My firm, Neon River, would fit in the latter category – working with internet, software and broader tech companies.

When thinking about approaching a recruiter, it’s important to;

Be targeted – Be cognisant that the most important thing to a recruiter is their time. With the right targeting, you are a solution to their hiring challenge. With the wrong targeting, you are a distraction and a waste of time to them. Don’t be offended if you write to a recruiter looking for a job and don’t hear back. Whilst all recruiters should reply to you, they won’t want to meet you or have a call with you if you’re not adding value to their current hiring needs. If you work in manufacturing, and write to me looking for a job and a meeting / phone call, you’re wasting my time as this isn’t a sector in which we work. Research their focus and specialism before you approach them. “Spray and pray” doesn’t work.

Don’t make obvious copy and paste mistakes – If “Hi Peter” is in font size 18 and the body of your email is in font size 12 it’s going to look like a copy and paste job, and isn’t going to get you many meetings or replies. Everyone copies and pastes stuff, but if you make it obvious, it won’t make the other person feel special. If you can’t be bothered to make your email look targeted, why should the other person give you their time? Also, never send a group email to lots of recruiters at once. It’s lazy and we won’t appreciate it.

If you earn £100k+, target both sector / functional specialist retained executive search firms in your area, and some of the “SHREK” firms (short for Spencer Stuart, Heidrick and Struggles, Russell Reynolds, Egon Zehnder, and KornFerry).

In the tech sector in Europe, boutique firms include Neon River (my firm), Renovata Partners, The Up Group, Erevena, and Renaissance. There are many others too. I’m less familiar with other sectors, but there will be specialists in those sectors as well.

Building your digital brand

Linkedin is a huge source of candidates for recruiters of all kinds. Recruiters will either find you;

  • By company – with high profile companies (Google etc) often getting the most attention. If you work for a smaller / less known business, consider filling out your profile to both help anyone looking at it better understand you, and to hit more keywords that people might be searching against.
  • By keyword – If you have specialism in a certain sector or function, talk about it. There could well be a recruiter out there right now who needs someone with just that focus.

Recruiters don’t have the time to get to know everyone on a personal basis, so if we can’t understand you or your experience, we’ll move on.

Small companies are less known, and equally you can “get lost” in bigger companies where it can be harder to stand out from the crowd. Make sure your profile is up to date and easy to understand.

The consulting route

Many people find consulting an interesting route, either as a stopgap or a more permanent option. Some companies don’t need a £150k salary CFO five days a week, but they might need them for one day a week. This allows you to “try before you buy” and work with a range of customers. Setting up a limited company is easy too. Do you have a network of contacts you can ask for work? Even if you don’t, can you think about who to go after?

Remember that every company is different

Whilst the macroeconomic picture is pretty bleak at the moment, it’s worth remembering that every company is different, and there are still many companies out there hiring. Sectors like travel and retail are hurting, whilst purer digital businesses, that don’t require physical locations and interactions, are much less affected. None of our projects have been putting on hold yet due to Coronavirus, and I’m hopeful that the need for new technology insures us somewhat against the economic difficulties. If you use all your craft and wisdom, there’s no reason why you can’t find the perfect next role for you.

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