Category Archives: Entry level

Please mind the gap

Has a prolonged recession softened hiring managers’ attitude to periods of unemployment and a gap in a  CV?  Perhaps not…

mind the gap

Almost exactly 4 years ago to the day  in December 2008, I was walking through an eerily deserted Canary Wharf in London. It should have been one of the  busiest shopping weeks of the year, but the full impact of the banking crisis was being felt and the shops were empty with up to 75% price cuts in many.  The worst fears of the financial pundits were yet to materialise as many  in non-related sectors were sucked in to one of the biggest economic downturns  for 80 years, generating a massive global domino effect on employment.

Has the scale of this calamity changed the views of hiring managers to the plight of  candidates who have been unemployed for a period?  I talked to a group of people who share their perceptions 3-4 years down the line as they continue to deal with the fallout.

 Michael – Arts graduate June 2009  U.K.  “Instead of a feeling of achievement and elation the whole class was anxious. All through our final year we had seen the economy tank and prospects looked grim. Only one of our class mates had a job and that was with his father’s advertising agency. I did 3 unpaid internships in a row in galleries and agencies supported by my parents.  I finally got a job in a start-up but the conditions were border-line exploitive and the manager was a bully.  I’m now working in a fast food restaurant as an Assistant Manager and although I’m acquiring great skills (I manage a team of 8 and deal with all the HR issues) I still get comments that it’s not a “proper job” when I go for interviews in my field and struggle to account for my “career” choices.  Portfolio careers seem to be more talked about in the press than in the real world! So  although I’m not unemployed  – I may well have been.  I don’t think there is that much sympathy. Work ethic doesn’t seem to count for much”.

Béatrice – Recruitment  Manager France – ” I was delighted to get pregnant with my second child born in August 2008. When I returned from maternity leave in 2009  there had been a hiring freeze because of the crisis, the department cut by half and completely re-organised. My old job had been re-distributed with the only role remaining a junior administrative job.  I accepted a redundancy offer and was unemployed for nearly 2 years. Explaining that period is very difficult in interviews even now,  especially when it follows maternity leave. People in jobs forget really quickly that unemployment rose to 10% in France in that period and is still a huge problem.”

Ricardo – ex Marketing Director Italy  – ” I had a successful career in marketing and brand management in fmcg sector. In February 2008 I was head hunted to lead a team in an SME company supplying the construction industry which gave me a place on the management committee.   I started in June 2008 , but by  April 2009 the marketing budget was slashed to zero as the order pipeline dried  up and I was made redundant.  Initially I tapped into my network and was able to go for interviews,  but although I was shortlisted I was never selected. The feedback was that it was related to salary and that I was too expensive and over qualified. I tried down grading both my salary and CV – that didn’t work either.   I slipped into depression and struggled to find the motivation to face the  world.  In 4 years the only work I have done is small consulting projects.  I am divorced and wanted to stay in Italy to be near my children but am now internationally mobile.  I seriously worry that I may never work in the corporate world again.”

My own observation is that “copy-paste” hiring is  still generally the preferred selection process for many companies. In a supply led market the  harsh reality is that most hiring managers have a huge choice of candidates and easier access to them. It’s not so much that they mind the gap – it’s really important what you do with that time and how it’s presented on all platforms.

What advice would you give?

Job search: Are you missing in action?

Off the radar

Getting on the job search radar!
I have spent the past week with two different women, of two different ages. Their backgrounds could not be further apart. One is a young graduate, seeking entry-level employment, the other a woman in her 40s, with extensive supply chain and procurement experience, as well as an MBA. She has taken an eight year parenting break, relocated internationally with her husband and is now dealing with the inevitable challenge of explaining motherhood and her CV gap.

Both want to enter the workplace. Both are struggling. Both are drifting off the job search track and are M.I.A. Despite feeling they had nothing in common, even just idle chat reveals the numerous common elements. Not only were they simply failing to get the jobs they wanted ( when they could even find a job they were interested in) they were receiving no response to their CVs, sometimes not even a rejection letter.

Back on track
All job search candidates regardless of age, gender or time in life need to have some basics in place, so here are some easy tips to get back on track:

  •  Identify and articulate transferable skills. It doesn’t matter how you do this but this is a critical exercise, taking time and thought. I repeat my mantra – if you don’t know what you’re good at, how do you expect anyone else to know? Recruiters and hiring managers are not telepathic and don’t have the time to drag it out of you.
  •  This basic but critical exercise leads to the creation of an effective mission statement and elevator sounds bites. CVs should stop disappearing into cyber space and interview performance will be strengthened. If there is any hesitation in delivering your USPs – practise and practise again!
  •   Establish and develop a professional online presence. This is vital for anyone, male or female, young or old, entry-level or transitioning. Failure to do this is tantamount to professional suicide. The entry-level woman had received no advice from her university careers advisor to create this type of profile, which in my view is a scandal in itself! Careers advisors – read my open letter! The older candidate needs to resurrect and tap into her existing network from her days as a professional woman and connect with them virtually on platforms which simply did not exist when she was in the workplace ( LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +) This small step shows you care about your professional image and that you are current in your approach. Your LinkedIn profile url can also be used in an email signature or on other online profiles as a way of extending the reach of your CV.
  •  Create a modern CV with targeted keyword usage. Their current versions are probably not getting past ATS ( Applicant Tracking Systems) or coming to the attention of recruitment sourcers. 97% of CVs, it is maintained, are not read by a human eye! Once again this could account for a failure to obtain an even a first interview.
  •  Most jobs (estimated at 85%) are not advertised. Creating a strong online presence and strengthening a personal brand will drive traffic to your professional profile. It’s no longer about looking for a job – it’s also about raising visibility to ensure you are found. Many jobs are also only advertised on LinkedIn.
  •  There is no substitute for strategic networking at any age and stage. No matter how young you are, or how long it’s been since you were in the workplace, we are all connected to someone! Have some simple, but good quality business cards printed – you never know when you need them! Connect and re-connect. Join networking groups and professional bodies especially if any membership has lapsed during a career break.
  •  Be active. Inactivity is not just a barrier to getting top jobs, it’s a barrier to getting any job! It’s also a great way to beat negative thinking, and maintaining your confidence, vital in job search. It also gives you data to monitor, from which you can make any changes to your job seeking strategy.
  •   Tweak those strategies . Don’t panic and especially don’t be afraid to change. Nothing is set in stone and what works in one set of circumstances may sink like a lead balloon in another! Be flexible

But most importantly never give up. The estimated time to get a job is reported to be on average a minimum of 7 months currently. If you carry on struggling – seek professional help. It will be worth it in the long-term!

Good luck!

Open letter to university careers advisors

Graduate


Dear University Careers Advisor,

I’m not sure to whom I should write this letter, but perhaps you could pass it on to your colleagues if this is not your field.  I tried to contact directly, the heads of 3 university career services, in 3 different countries, posing the same questions, but received no response. I’m sure they are very busy. However, these questions continue to baffle me and have done for over 5 years now.

I am an international executive search professional and career transition coach. Through my profession I coach new graduates in the job search process and as a parent of 2 Gen Y kids I have a wide circle of friends with children of the same age, many seeking entry-level opportunities. So I come across on a daily basis, young adults who are simply overwhelmed by the process of getting a job. I just have to ask myself why that is. Then I thought I would ask you too – as presumably you must have the answers.

Gen Y have to be the most  technologically savvy  generation of all time,  multi-tasking is in their blood. So why are so many of them confused about what needs to be done? There is so much free information on the internet, yet many don’t use it. How much time do you spend with them introducing them to social media platforms explaining their value as a job search technique? Or are they simply ignoring you?

I have many other questions. Let’s start with basics. What percentage even use your services? I’m perplexed why so many of them simply don’t have the first clue. They don’t know what they’re good at and they don’t know how to find out. What sort of aptitude or personality tests are available to them via university careers offices?  Or is it that they just choose not to get involved and prefer this hit and miss process?

I’m also bemused why so many of their CV/resumes are so badly written.  It doesn’t matter where in the world they’ve been to college: US, Canada, UK, Europe.  Most are seriously suspect.

From my perspective, further education should be about two things : learning for its own sake and the acquisition of knowledge, but also to equip young people to be strong contributors to our economies and to make them self-supporting and sufficient. They are supposed to be our brightest and best. Do you think therefore, there is a place for job search techniques in our educational curricula, in the same way as we include Economic Theory, The complete works of Shakespeare or Engineering Applications of Artificial Intelligence?

So I continue to remain bewildered, as millions of young graduates year after year, flood our global workforce, seemingly poorly equipped to join international economies, or worse still expected to work as unpaid interns to gain even basic skills. I can’t help wondering if it isn’t time for educational systems to formally address this problem and ask what your plans are, if indeed you have any?

I look forward to your feedback.

Yours faithfully,

Dorothy Dalton