How to open up your next career opportunity during COVID-19

23 Apr 2020

How to open up your next career opportunity during COVID-19

Searching for the right sport, media or entertainment role can be daunting at the best of times. But despite today’s climate, there are positive steps you can take to create a brighter future.

If you are either currently seeking a role, or in a role, but concerned about the perceived lack of security created during this hiatus, of course, you might be feeling anxious.

The first thing to remember is that this will not go on forever. Sure as the sun will rise, the markets will recover.

It is how you choose to spend their time in the coming weeks and months that can make all the difference to your prospects of securing the next position.

It is important to remember that even under normal conditions, securing the next role can take time, up to 6-12 months. This is due to a range of factors, including the number of available roles, competition from other equally-talented candidates, and being at a career-stage when there’s less flexibility on salary, company culture and scope of the role.

What you can do now to prepare to succeed

Finding a job is, as they say, a full-time job. You’ll be planning your day, setting targets, segmenting the market, researching the companies and senior leadership teams, appraising the robustness of their governance, and downloading accounts and annual reports. And you will still have to ensure you have down-time to exercise, talk to friends or simply reflect, which will all help to maintain sanity.

Develop your network

Your network is your most important asset, so reach out to as many people as possible. Not just those from the last few years, go right back, you never know what that colleague you lost touch with years ago may now be doing.

As a headhunter, I have lost count of the number of times the ideal candidate for a role has been recommended by someone in their network.

Reach out to a select number of search firms/ recruitment companies. As a rule of thumb, the main global search firms with wider cross-regional and cross-sector reach will often have more choice of potential roles than a number of specialist, well-regarded boutiques that focus on your target markets.

When reaching out to a search firm you have not worked with before, identify the best people to speak to, including researchers, associates and delivery consultants as they should be working as teams and will talk to each other. 

The more people who know you, the more this will stimulate debate about your particular skills and experiences and potential.

Potential versus past performance

More often than not, the smart organisations are now hiring on potential, as opposed to past performance. Contrary to popular belief, past performance is certainly not the best indicator of future performance.

You might want to be proactive and consider having your ‘potential’ assessed by a professional in the field.

At Odgers Berndtson, we have developed a bespoke ‘Leaderfit’ assessment tool which does just that.

Really think about what it is you want to do, the sectors you are interested in and what it is you bring to the table. While it may seem logical to claim an interest in any sector, being focused and clear makes a big difference, both to executive search consultants and to those you connect within your network.

Refresh your CV

Give your CV a fresh look. It might seem obvious, but all too often candidates fall at this first hurdle, with poor formatting or simple spelling and grammatical errors.

When crafting your resume, think about your audience. Imagine you are the hiring manager, what would you want to see? As a rule of thumb, think achievements, rather than day-to-day tasks, what have you delivered that makes you stand out, what are your particular differentiators?

Drop the generic rhetoric and focus on what makes you special.

If in doubt, ask someone else to give your CV the once over. Recruiters will usually be happy to offer guidance, as does this bespoke guide.

Take time to develop your interview technique, especially considering that any interview undertaken in the coming few months will likely be virtual by phone or video conference. Here is a link to an A-Z guide to shine in your next virtual interview.

Be very, very well prepared

The most important thing to remember is the old adage: if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.

Arguably the most common differentiator as to whether candidates make a shortlist or not is down to the amount of pre-interview preparation they have or have not carried out. That includes research on the company (accounts, annual reports, recent fluctuations in share price, market share) and its strengths and weaknesses, the governance structure, the people, the external competition, and the opportunities and threats concerning the particular market segment in which your potential employer operates.

Interim appointment?

Interim work can be an excellent option for many while they seek the next executive position. Taking the time to identify those skills that might be most relevant for an interim opportunity will bear fruit here. Some examples might be expertise in restructuring, project management and strategy.

You might feel concerned that taking an interim position may harm their prospects of finding a permanent role since you will no longer be able to start straight away. This is almost never the case.

This is because most searches take two or three months to complete and hiring managers will be expecting that candidates are likely to be on a notice period of between three and six months.

Finally, look at joining professional networks such as GLG and Third Bridge where applicable. Our sister company Odgers Interim is a leader in placing interim leadership for leading companies.

Finally, don’t give up. Keep at it, because the rewards will come, but only if you invest time and effort in your own career just as much as you would in your dream job.