Finding the job for you in challenging times

A lot of things are changing. Job interviews take place online, you need to build your network online and even the jobs themselves start online. How to deal with such changes? is a question that many of us are asking ourselves. The SECTOR-committee got the opportunity to attend a webinar from Career Services SBE where they answered all of these and many more of questions. This webinar was co-hosted by Lonneke Korenromp and Tamar Pagrach. In the webinar, they use their own experience as a coach and trainer, as well as the experience that recruiters shared with them, data of recruitment agencies, and data about the job market to get a good overview of the job market. In this article, we used some of the tips & tricks we learnt from them to give you advice on how to start in the job market.

The road may be long, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel

Changes in the job market
The year started quite differently than expected, which brought a lot of uncertainty and anxiety along with it. Education has substantially changed, for better or for worse, and the job market has also seen some radical changes. However, we want everyone to realise that, even in these trying times, changing one’s perspective and approach is very important. 

Let’s start by setting the scene, what is truly different? From the data, we can see an approximate 30% decrease in vacancies since the beginning of 2020, which is particularly clear in Amsterdam (CBS, Meer banen en vacatures in het derde kwartaal). We stick to a more general overview, as the current situation is very unpredictable. We currently see that the unemployment rates are around 4.5% (CBS, Toename werkloosheid afgevlakt), and are expected to 6% in 2021 (CPB, Macro Economische Verkenning (MEV) 2021). However, this once more depends on the development of the Covid crisis. 

There is a freeze on hiring in most places, which means that most companies are not hiring anyone new. Besides that, a lot of temporary contracts were terminated, such as internships or part timers, as this is an easy way to save costs. This also holds for those seeking independent employment, as these contracts are easy to void, but they are also easy to employ quickly and efficiently. So, in the eventual rise of the economy it can be very lucrative to be an independent consultant, as companies will have a high demand for anyone to help them pick up their business. 

Above all, we urge you to think outside of the box. There may be a similar position as the one you are aiming for in another industry where the Covid crisis might not have hit as hard. The progress may not seem staggeringly fast, but there’s a vaccine on the way and the recent measures are improving the situation. The road may be long, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, so we urge you to prepare yourself for when the time to bask in that light is finally there, which brings us to our next topic. 

Building a profile 
Covid is not an excuse for not working on your CV or LinkedIn profile. Whether you are currently finished with studying or want to work on your CV during your study, there are still things you can do so you have something to add to your profile. For example, you could think about working on your hard or soft skills by using Coursera or other online courses, next to the courses of your study programme, for example. Want to learn another programming language? Interested in making your own investment portfolio? Just try it! These days a lot of free resources have become available. You could also try to find a position for an internship or find a voluntary job. How can you help society with your background? Whatever relevant things you decide to do, make sure you actually add it to your profile.

LinkedIn is one of the best ways to build your online network. But to do so, you need a complete profile! In order to get this, it is important that you know yourself. Finding out your personality and focus are very important. Furthermore, you should not be afraid to show who you are on your LinkedIn profile. Make sure your profile is up-to-date. Show how you can add value by including your accomplishments. If you use LinkedIn: Connect AND stay connected. In these digital times, it has become even more important to maintain a good presence online. LinkedIn can give a first impression of who you are, and when it comes to first impressions it’s still as important as in an offline setting. More tips & tricks about a strong LinkedIn profile can be found in the previous interview with Career Services about LinkedIn.

Online Networking
Humans are social animals and prefer to meet others in real life. However, these days it is hard to meet people. You might be thinking that networking is impossible now, but there are still ways to do it! If you have a clear goal in mind, like a certain company you want to work for or a certain workfield/sector, you can for example attend online inhouse days or go for online coffee dates. Another option might be to ask for an informational interview. This way you can talk to recruiters in your target job. You can ask questions so you get more understanding of the job or the company you are interested in. You can also explore if they have other opportunities that might fit with your interests. Furthermore, show some interest in their story, you could ask them about their career paths and how they got to the place they are now. This might give you inspiration on how to start your career (or how you want to continue it). Moreover, even if this company is currently not looking for new employees, you still got in touch with them. So they know who you are, and they are able to find you when they do start looking for someone. 

For people that are still searching for what they want (also for people who already know), there are virtual career events where you get the opportunity to get in touch with people from different companies. Think about the Landelijke Econometristendag (LED) which was held on the 4th of February 2021. This year even this big event took place online and brought opportunities to get in touch with potential future employers. But there are even more events, so be active and make sure you stay updated on when these events take place.  

When it comes to networking, it doesn’t necessarily have to be on online company events. You can also think of attending webinars, online workshops or the online courses you follow. If you are active there and try to be visible in a way, you can connect with people when you are for example in a breakout room and later on send them an invitation on LinkedIn with a personal message. This is also a way of growing your network. Another advantage of attending a webinar is that you might even be able to use the content of the webinar in an application process. 

Your preparation is key.

Online Interviews
The process for hiring someone has changed, although not that radically. Online applications were already a widespread phenomena, whereas the most significant change has occurred in the later stages of the interviewing process. The first rounds of interviews are now conducted either online through programs such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or by phone. 
The people approached in this round have been picked out based on their CV and cover letter, showing skills desirable to the interviewer through their CV and their intrinsic motivation for the company through the cover letter. 

Besides the first round of interviews, a good amount of companies also require an assessment nowadays. These assessments were already quite popular, as they are a good tool for companies to gauge for example your problem solving ability and competence in your trade. These assessments are usually online, but you can also have companies that allow for in person assessments. These live assessments are important, as they do not only serve as a way to showcase your skills, but also serve as a way to show how you behave in a group setting.

When it comes to the interview, there are a few points you can pay attention to. First off, your preparation is key. It’s harder to make a connection in an online interview, so it is extremely important that you do everything in your ability to make a connection. Therefore, you should make sure no technical issues stand between you and your new job, so test your setup a few times, and practise speaking over Zoom or Teams with somebody. Knowing how to accurately express yourself through the internet connection is of the essence to accurately present your well-prepared story. 
Second, the interview itself also has a few key points. You can quite easily build some rapport and have a more active presence in the meeting through active posture, maintaining eye contact with the camera instead of the screen, using gestures in view of the camera to articulate your points, and look especially closely for clues to allow the conversation to flow normally. Besides that, it’s important to be concise and to-the-point in the conversation. Due to the delay in online conversations, it is possible to interrupt each other which makes it harder to assess whether you can speak or not. You can always elaborate when more detail is needed. A small tip here is asking “Does that answer your question?”.

And don’t forget to consider the people around you. 

Piecing it together
These challenging times provide all sorts of uncertainty and wonderful opportunities. However, above all, it is a time where connecting with your family and friends and weathering this tough period is the most important part. It is therefore imperative for everyone to simply take the time and space to sort everything out, and pick up the pieces wherever they have fallen. There is reason to be anxious, but worrying yourself into a breakdown isn’t doing anyone a favour, least of all yourself. 
Furthermore, if the pandemic did hit you hard on your job front and you are left with a job gap in your resume, then welcome to the club. Again, worrying isn’t going to help, so we would recommend you find something to fill up that time. You can take online courses, attend seminars, or participate in workshops. It is not necessarily important as to what it is, as long as you can clearly formulate whatever you did in that timeframe.
And don’t forget to consider the people around you. Your friends and family are in the same situation as you are, and they are there to help you. Reaching out to them and building your support-team can be incredibly helpful in such trying times, as they can cheer you on and help with getting everything just right for that application. On the flip side, it’s important to make sure they are doing okay as well when it is more difficult to see each other.

Hopefully, the tips provided in this article could help you a bit in this challenging time. Are you interested in this webinar? Third year students and higher can watch it here!" And if this is not enough, Career Services provides several workshops to help you start your career!


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