Friday 6 November 2009

How to get a job in a recession

Been meaning to write this for the last month but my new role has predictably distracted me.

This is a summary of my 'moving jobs' experience in the middle of a recession over the last few months. I have some people to thank, some sites & recruiters to recommend and some to, well, not recommend. I also have a (hopefully) useful collection of tips on how to get through the process.

Recruitment Experiences

I spoke to a LOT of people. This is a summary of those experiences.

I wanted to use The Ladders but they were far too busy trying to upsell me to realise they were showing me premium ads that had expired. They should have put my needs first and their needs second. They didn't.

I contacted a whole host of recruitment agencies relevant to my sphere. 90% did not bother to show any interest. This as probably more to do with the fact that there were less roles around so they were picking candidates very carefully to maximise their chances of getting commission. Fair enough. I am no 'unilever guy' so took no offence.

I signed up for Guardian Jobs of course but alas every job of interest that I was monitoring via job aggregator (a must-use tool) seemed to just forward me to the Guardian homepage. Very irritating. The jobs direct on their site worked well as you would expect. You'd be nuts to not use Guardian Jobs.

A friend worked at Michael Page and hooked me up with the right person. I think they did a fab job but I am just not cut to standard size and I suspect they found it hard to place someone as, ahem, unique as me, in a pretty dry market. Hats off to them though.

Andy Levis at Propel (was at Norton Leigh at the time) deserves a major mention. A smart and friendly chap who I came too very late in the game (again thanks a friends referral). Andy was ready to leap into action if needed. Alas, t'was just not meant to be this time.

Top marks are reserved for the fantastic Becky Folb at Major Players. She worked so hard and came through for me alas I went another way at the end thus denying her a commission reward. She deserved it but I had to make the best choice for me. Top marks though and if you are a digital specialist looking to move you really should contact Becky.

Recruitment Tips

Focus on the Lemonade:
Attitude is everything. I needed to move on (due to a merger resulting in the company relocating up north) and it was daunting, to say the least, to be accepting redundancy in the midst of what looked like a horrible recession.

I focused on one word to get me through it: Lemonade.

I figured that regardless of how things turned out the best approach was to make the best lemonade I could out of the lemons around me. Pure positivity. And frankly, it worked.

When negativity strikes (and it will) I recommend you deal with it swiftly, decisively and pull out even the smallest positives. It is vital you take a win, no matter how small, away from every situation to better enable yourself to remain positive.

Leverage your network:
You know lots of people hopefully, some relevant to your line of work, some might know others who are. Email them. Ask them for advice, leads, tips. Engage with them. The more people you engage the greater your chances are going to be. Go through your social networks (FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc) and contact those that might be of help. If you don't ask, you definitely will not get!

Don't be afraid to ask for advice:
Nicholas Butler (aka @loudmouthman) gave me some great advice and I remain very grateful for it. As suggested directly above I had sent my CV to a few people I paid attention to on twitter and beyond and Nicholas was one of those who responded.

Nick gave me some of his precious time on skype and his advice was simple and brilliant:

Include your Twitter address, web address and LinkedIn address on your CV.

If you are digital and do not have a twitter account, a blog or website and are not on LinkedIn you should resolve that asap. I honestly had not thought of that before and it made a huge difference. I had a pretty good CV but adding a social media section made my CV stand out and literally every person who saw my CV after that rewrite commented first on that section of it. I even took Nick's suggestion further and also included a mention of the number of LinkedIn recommendations I had gathered over time.

Blow your own trumpets:
If you don't big yourself up who will? Whilst in any role for any company keep a running tally of your key successes to ensure you do not forget them down the line. Then when job-hunting make sure you include the pick of the bunch in both your CV and subsequent interviews.

Do your research:
No doubt you will do your prep for the interview, the standard stuff about the role, the company and so on. But, and especially in digital land, chances are high that the people interviewing you will have a social footprint. You will be amazed at what you learn about them in advance of the interview. It helped me feel more relaxed and any and every angle counts. And let's face it, chances are they are going to check you out online too so you may as well level that playing field.

Some quick interview tips:
1) Never read from notes in an interview.
2) If they say you have 15 minutes to do a presentation be ready to do it in 10 in case they are pressed for time.
3) Always look forward, leave any 'current job' baggage outside.
4) Weave successes into answers.

Anything to add? Good luck!