The UK went into lockdown on 23 March; a lot can change in a month. The advent of COVID-19 has altered everything we know, including how we find and undertake work. The situation continues to develop, but we’ve pooled the Career Centre’s knowledge and experience, from crises past and present, to help you navigate this new reality.
Drawing on our work with students and employers, we offer some thoughts and recommendations. If you’re job-hunting at the moment, the uncertainty can be a real drain on motivation. So much remains out of your control but the pressure (and necessity) to secure an internship or full time role remains. What might be the best direction? Is there a ‘safe’ option? How do you persevere when companies are also adapting to such uncertainty?
- Re-assess your priorities
It’s tempting to react to this situation with activity; to counter the stagnation of hiring processes and plans by doing – reaching out, chasing up. But now is the time for thinking as well: MBA Career Co-Lead Elizabeth Bailey advises, ‘re-assess what’s important to you in the short term. Then take the next step along that path. The longer term will take care of itself once this crisis has moved on.’
Similarly, MiF Career Coach Raquel Santos says ‘there are three things that you should be re-evaluating before you take practical action: re-evaluate your strengths, re-evaluate what the market needs and then, re-evaluate where your strengths align to the market opportunities.’
- Reinforce your narrative
Of course, this pandemic is not solely affecting the world of work; Zoe McLoughlin, Head of Employer Engagement, suggests putting the time you have other uses, alongside the priority of job searching: ‘give yourself a story to tell about how you spent this unprecedented time – how did you contribute to the community? Make an impact? Develop yourself? If you can spend even a few hours a week helping an elderly neighbour or fund-raising for the NHS, you’ll both be making a difference in the world and showing the positivity and impact-mindset that companies are looking for.’ Undertaking acts of kindness for others also helps you get away from your laptop and break the cycle of worry for a short period.
Jane Charlton, Head of Leadership Programmes and Alumni Careers, advocates spending time developing your personal brand and investigating what you can offer a company: ‘this is the time to stand out – you need to have a good personal brand. Think of yourself as a collection of benefits; identify how you can solve the company’s pain points. Weave your unique value proposition through everything from your CV and LinkedIn profile through to your networking intro and interview responses. Start by thinking about 4 things: your competencies (your strengths and key areas of expertise), your reputation (how others see you and your potential) and your style (how you communicate and lead) and your values (what motivates you).’
This clear narrative, demonstrating your best qualities in any situation, might be what sets you apart in the hiring market. Kira Hughes, MiM and MAM Career Lead, agrees: ‘any application you make, should be a really considered application. In this market, competition is likely to be higher, so put effort into really thinking about how you get across your connection to that role/company/industry in the materials you send. Would you be convinced if you were the recruiter?’
- Reconnect with your network
Once you’ve evaluated what your priorities are and what you might be able to offer to a company, it’s time to express those thoughts to your network. Annette Minihan, Sloan Career Lead, advocates ‘focusing on building relationships and gathering insights on what’s happening in the market now, and that could deliver results when lockdown ends. To build a relationship, start with thinking about how you can be helpful to the individual that you want to connect with. Remember that people don’t have to help, but if they want to help you, it can lead to amazing things.’
This is something that we’ve seen time and time again – Raquel echoes this from her own experience too: ‘keep in contact with your connections so you are in front of mind when the market opens up. It’s those that have found ways to keep their contacts warm that will be remembered first. I remember the students who speak to me regularly and when I hear of an opportunity from a friend or alumni, I immediately think of those students and send them the opportunity.’
If you’re looking for some ideas about just how to reconnect, Head of Early and Mid-Careers Coaching Patricia Keener has some food for thought: ‘reconnect with past colleagues, undergraduate connections, professional associations, people who share a common interest you’ve lost touch with. Now is a good time to reach out and share some common support. Do that with sensitivity as you never know what they are experiencing in this crisis.’
For more inspiration, why not read LBS Professor Herminia Ibarra’s piece on reinventing your career in the time of coronavirus, or watch her webinar on this here