A Pandemic of Redundancies? – A Recruiter’s View
With restrictions now easing and businesses able to take a more positive approach to recruitment again, I am conscious that many senior executives have still not found their way back into employment after facing redundancy.
What learnings are there to take away from this?
“I can’t save every business; I can’t save every job’ were the chilling words of the UK’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak at the beginning of this pandemic. What followed was a redundancy wave that none of us in the recruitment sector could have predicted.
The most senior levels were hit early, with cost cutting and chunking down of roles as businesses rushed into survival mode. Whilst some sectors grew and capitalised on the situation, notably the tech and e-commerce sectors, those in the hospitality, travel, bricks and mortar retail and events sectors were hardest hit.
Even if you had strong digital experience that didn’t spare senior marketers, large swathes of whom were seriously affected as advertising budgets were slashed and there was less focus on longer-term strategic initiatives.
The 2021 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey statistics painted a grim picture of the impact Covid-19 has had on marketers’ careers. One in 10 marketers have been made redundant over the past 12 months, while 12.7% have been put on furlough.
Listed below are 7 key observations surrounding redundancy and job loss that I’ve taken away from the pandemic.
Companies have unusual access to very high calibre senior talent.
The pandemic has created a wealth of senior talent that companies wouldn’t normally have access to. Long-gone are the days when companies discriminate against candidates who have lost their job. I don’t doubt that unconscious bias may exist in some quarters but several of the most significant placements I have made in my career have been with candidates who are ‘in between roles’. Good numbers impacted by the pandemic have found their way back into roles, but many are still searching and especially more senior professionals within marketing in the 20 years+ experience bracket where opportunities are fewer and further between.
Taking a smaller job.
Clearly there are different considerations for us all but there are a few things worse than financial stress, especially when dependents are involved. There is a level of pragmatism that enters the equation at some point when one has to contemplate changing expectations to get back into employment. However, there is unquestionably reluctance from employers to ‘over-hire’ especially if your future manager is going to be less experienced than you. The perception can be that even if you accept the job, you won’t stick around. This is where addressing that specific concern head-on at the interview is important. If a future employer is fixed on that view, then there may not be much you can do to change their mind, but I encourage you to put the cards on the table and have the conversation.
Switching into a hotter sector.
Whilst e-commerce and tech are leading the charge to hire, these companies are typically looking for a very high level of fit which excludes plenty of otherwise strong candidates. It becomes a chicken and egg situation and I regularly counsel my clients to think laterally about their hiring strategy to tap into an audience that brings fresh perspectives. I can cite examples of individuals who have made the switch but competition on shortlists is fierce. Your greatest chance of securing a role is going to be in a sector and job specialism that you have recent experience of.
Here’s a few tips to help you deal with job loss.
Take your time to process what’s happened.
Redundancy might feel like the end of the world when you are on the receiving end, but it can also provide a valuable opportunity for potential candidates to take stock and refresh before considering their next step into a new role.
The first thing to understand is that there is no shame in being made redundant. Try to remember this is business decision and not a personal one. In the unprecedented time we have been facing, and in some countries continue to face, businesses are having to survive before they can thrive again. Don’t see their decision to let you go as a reflection on your ability. If finances allow, give yourself a break to get to grips with where you are at and where you want to move next.
Looking for a job is a full-time job.
When you are ready to start looking for your next role then treat it like a job and get organised. First update your LinkedIn profile so recruiters know you are open to opportunities. I confess to not being an advocate of the ‘open to opportunities’ banner on profile photos but that’s just my personal opinion. The important thing is to regard LinkedIn as no different to attending a job interview – it’s about giving the best possible impression. These days LinkedIn in a default ‘directory’ (amongst many other things) that any prospective employer will typically look you up on so it’s critical you keep your profile high online and participate in online conversations where you can add value and showcase your knowledge and skillset. Review your profile as if you were a recruiter; does your profile picture look professional, have you posted articles that position you as a thought leader in your sector, have you asked people to endorse your skills and review you? Take the time to research and connect with people in the areas you would like to work in and make new contacts.
Is it time to re-invent yourself?
Redundancy can be a great liberator and offer you the chance to re-invent yourself and try something new or turn that hobby into a business. According to statistics 2020 the UK saw a record number of companies created, with an extra 84,758 businesses setting up in 2020 compared with 2019.
Iain Wright, director of business and industrial strategy at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, told the Times: “Every downturn in economic history is accompanied by a rise of entrepreneurship. This could be the start of new, innovative businesses.”
Many executive leaders who were made redundant during the pandemic took the opportunity to establish their own consultancies or took on interim appointments which lead to permanent roles. Is there somewhere you could look for a temporary role that might lead to a permanent position?
Connect with a recruiter who can work with you honestly and objectively
For many people being back in the job market can be bewildering and confusing. Many senior executives may not have updated their cv for many years and be out of touch with interview techniques and the best ways to present themselves as a candidate. Having a recruitment expert on your side to help you navigate the market with expert inside knowledge, support and contacts is invaluable. Just as critical in my opinion is objectivity and honesty from recruiters.
Guy Day is Founder and Director of BartonRock, an executive search firm that specialises in hiring senior executives for digitally transforming companies. For more information visit www.bartonrock.com.
About BartonRock: We are the executive search partner for companies where data-driven digital leadership is intrinsic to growth.
We manage the careers of leaders whose know-how and commercial acumen within digital steers the strategic direction and future survival of companies.
Our assignments search for executives who understand how to implement and lead data-centric digital agendas.
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