On Point | 10 Tips for Managing Your Job Search in a Tough Market

by Directioneering

One of the questions we are getting asked most often at the moment is, “how hard will it be for me to find a job in the current market?” As you might imagine, there’s no simple answer and everyone we talk to has a different view. What is clear though, and where the experts do agree, is that COVID-19 is having a marked impact on many sectors of the job market.

We’ve spoken to many of our partners in executive search and recruitment, and while it is evident that the market hasn’t stalled, all have seen a downturn in business over the last several weeks. Having said that, there are sectors that are still going strong and continuing to hire. Government, transport and logistics, health, utilities and financial services are among the areas that are still seeing steady recruitment activity. There is also activity at the senior end of the market in mid-tier firms that need to replace mission critical personnel regardless of the impacts of the pandemic.

So, what can you do to manage your job search in a challenging market? For many of our candidates, the pandemic is providing a precious window of time and space to take stock and invest more holistically in their transition. I’ve pulled together our top 10 tips to help you maintain momentum in your transition journey over the coming months.

Tip 1: Make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row

  • Have you got a clear and coherent job search strategy? Do you know what roles you are targeting and how your skills and experience connect to what hiring managers are looking for? What’s your story and how does it convey your value and brand?
  • Make sure that your resume, LinkedIn profile, networking pitch and interview responses all line up and make a compelling case for the contribution you can make to a prospective organisation.
  • Attend to your online presence. Take the time to review your online profiles, including LinkedIn, and make sure that they reflect your brand in the right way.

Tip 2: Audit your approach

  • Take this opportunity of time to review all aspects of your job search, from your resume to your interview performance to your networking approach, and identify areas where you could get greater traction. This will ensure that you make the most of any opportunity that does arise.
  • Try to identify areas that are letting you down or not working as effectively as they could be. For example, if your resume is getting you to interview but you’re not landing the role, you might want to review your interview performance or brush up your video interview skills (check out our earlier On Point newsletter about acing virtual job interviews). On the other hand, if you’re applying for roles but not getting to interview, you may want to review your resume and job application approach. You should also check that you’re applying for the right roles. We generally say that you need to hit the mark on around 70-80% of the key selection criteria for a role before applying.
  • Ask your Directioneering coach about our Job Application Diagnostic Tool to help you assess the effectiveness of your job search approach and pinpoint areas that you could strengthen.

Tip 3: Consider contract work

  • When confidence and certainty are low, organisations are more likely to consider contract or temporary hires than permanent placements. In the current climate, it makes sense to broaden your job search by considering interim work.
  • Even if your preference is for a permanent role, contracting is a great option in a tight labour market and delivers many benefits that will enhance your employability.
  • In particular, contract work enables you to keep your hand in and can allow you to grow your skills and experience. It also expands your professional networks which may lead to other job opportunities down the track.
  • Contracting can also provide an entry point into an organisation that you are targeting, even if not in the ideal role. By getting your foot in the door, you have an opportunity to “earn your stripes” and build a reputation that could springboard you into the roles you are targeting.
  • Speak to your Directioneering coach about how to engage with interim recruitment firms.

Tip 4: Can you pivot to sectors that are hiring?

  • As with any significant upheaval, there are winners and losers. While some sectors are clearly struggling, others are thriving and growing. We are coaching many of our candidates at the moment on how they can pivot their skill set to industries that are still employing. One example is a chocolatier who was working for a major gourmet food retailer that has had to close its doors due to COVID-19. Thinking laterally about sectors where she could transfer her skills and experience, she has started applying for jobs in hospital kitchens. Although the roles she is exploring are not strictly aligned with where she wants to be, she will have a compelling story to tell at the end of the crisis about adaptability, learning agility and grit. She is also using it as an opportunity to experience something new and different.
  • Think about how you could reposition your skills with organisations that are looking for capable people who can solve their problems. Draw on your past experiences, particularly where it involves helping an organisation or team navigate major change and disruption, and consider how you could use that experience to help another business. Unconventional times demand unconventional thinking, so don’t be afraid to think outside the square.
  • For information about the sectors and organisations that are hiring at the moment, check out the sites below:

Tip 5: Be easy to find

  • You need to be easy to find by the organisations who are hiring.
  • More and more employers are using LinkedIn to find talent so having an up-to-date and compelling LinkedIn profile is absolutely critical.
  • This means making sure that your profile is search-optimised and has the right keywords in it. Trawl through Seek and other job boards to find out all you can about the keywords that hirers are using in their job ads and make sure you use those words as often as possible in your online profile. To help get your LinkedIn profile working for you, speak to your coach about booking into one of our LinkedIn workshops.
  • Being easy to find also means keeping up your networking activity so that you’re on people’s radar when a job opportunity comes up. Remember, luck and timing play a big part in finding your next role. Being in the right place at the right time counts for a lot and while you can’t control the elusive forces of serendipity, you can increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time by networking as much as possible.

Tip 6: Are you firing on all 4 cylinders?

I always tell my candidates that to be hitting your job search as hard as possible, you need to be visible, accessible and active in 4 key areas:

  1. The visible job market including job boards such as Seek, LinkedIn and Indeed. Being active in the visible job market not only gives you access to advertised roles, but is a great way to educate yourself about what’s happening in the market, who’s hiring and what hirers are looking for.
  2. The hidden job market. This is where networking comes in. If you’re wondering why your Directioneering coach keeps talking about networking, there’s a very good reason! Around 70% of our candidates land their next role through their network. We also know that referred candidates are 15 times more likely to be hired than applicants from a job board. Of all your job search strategies, networking is the most important, and while the coffee catch-up isn’t possible in person right
  3. Recruiters and search firms. Apart from their direct connection to hiring managers, recruiters are an excellent source of valuable information that can help you optimise your job search. They can provide you with an assessment of where you sit in the market and which organisations are looking for people with your skills and experience. While working with recruiters can be challenging at times, they are an essential part of your job search strategy, so learning to leverage your interactions with them is crucial to your success especially in the current climate. Speak to your Directioneering coach about attending our next Working With Recruiters Seminar for tips and advice about how to engage with recruitment and search firms.
  4. The direct approach is a longer-burn but still important strategy in your job search campaign. It involves coming up with a list of organisations that you would like to work for who are likely to be looking for people like you, and then working out a strategy for how you can get an introduction. Mapping who you know, including connections of people you know, who are currently working for the organisation or have worked for them in the past, is the first step. You can use the search function in LinkedIn to identify first and second degree connections of your target organisations. Once you’ve identified these connections, plan an approach for getting in touch and asking for an informational networking conversation. You can do this via email or phone depending on the nature of your relationship with the contact. Remember, people are generally very willing to help when they can but it’s important to be clear about why you’re reaching out and why you’re reaching out to them in particular.

Tip 7: Use the time wisely

  • If there’s not much happening in the job market in your field or sector at the moment, think about how you can redirect your time and energy to gaining an edge on the competition so that you can hit the ground running when the market picks up.
  • There’s never been a better time to learn something new or brush up your skills in an area that will make you a more competitive candidate. You’ll find a plethora of free online education options at the moment. In particular, we recommend online learning platform Coursera. This global leader in online education has partnered with over 190 leading universities and training institutions to provide professional development and qualifications in subjects like business, computer science, data science, language learning, and more.
  • Here are 3 of our favourite sources of free online learning sources:
  • In addition to brushing up your skills, this is a golden opportunity to do some deep-dive research on the jobs, sectors and organisations you’re targeting. Annual reports, news articles and industry associations are all great sources of information. You can also access Directioneering’s research website which has links to valuable resources including IBISWorld. IBISWorld is Australia’s most comprehensive collection of industry, market and company research. IBISWorld reports deliver top-level analysis on companies and industries, to provide you with insight and knowledge prior to interviews or networking conversations. To request IBISWorld research, check out our research website or contact our Head of Business Information, Victoria Pollock.

Tip 8: Talk to your mentors

  • For those of you who already have a mentor, you’ll understand the significant benefits that having a trusted adviser and sounding board can have, not only for your career, but for your life more broadly.
  • If you don’t have a mentor, now could be the perfect time to establish a mentor relationship. This week, Directioneering’s very own Amy Poynton delivered a terrific presentation about the value of mentor relationships. Speak to your coach to get a copy of the presentation notes.
  • Seek out support from your mentor and any other trusted adviser as you navigate this difficult time. They will help keep you motivated, expand your thinking and provide advice about what you could be doing to stay productive and resilient during the pandemic.

Tip 9: Don’t panic!

  • A tight and uncertain job market can lead job seekers to panic and start applying for anything and everything. While understandable, this scatter-gun approach rarely works and can even damage your brand if you start applying for roles that are not a good fit.
  • Avoid the temptation of measuring your progress by the number of jobs you’re applying for. Instead, focus on building relationships with people in your network, including recruiters, so that you are top-of-mind when the right opportunity comes along. Quality over quantity is the secret here.

Tip 10: Turn off the struggle switch!

  • As well as auditing your job search strategy, thinking about how you could pivot your skills to something different, or doing some online training, it’s also important to be kind to yourself during these challenging times.
  • Part of looking after yourself involves accepting what you can’t control and trying to redirect your energy towards things that recharge your emotional batteries. This is a key tenet of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT model developed by Steven C. Hayes. The model aims to develop greater psychological flexibility, something we could all do with right now.
  • Russ Harris, an expert in ACT therapy, calls it, “turning off the struggle switch”. In the context of your job search, this means accepting that the current job market is tougher than usual at the moment and it may take longer to land your ideal role. So set realistic expectations for yourself, seek support when you need it and keep investing in your physical and mental wellbeing. Here’s a link to a great little video from Russ Harris about looking after yourself in COVID-19.
  • And remember, don’t take it personally! I know this is easier said than done, but I can’t emphasise this enough. In a tough job market, even the best candidates may take longer to find the right role. If you experience knock-backs, long-winded processes or a lack of responsiveness, remind yourself that it’s got nothing to do with your value and worth as a candidate. Bide your time, pace yourself and do what you can to be in the strongest possible position to take the opportunities when they emerge. This is a marathon not a sprint, so persistence and endurance will be key.
  • Check out our previous editions of On Point for tips and tricks for building resilience and looking after yourself and remember to seek professional help as and when you need it.