It's been a difficult year for many people given the parlous state of the Western European economy. In the UK unemployment remains high and job opportunities low. It's been particularly saddening recruiting in the public sector and the construction industries where amongst the good news for appointed candidates I have all too often been breaking bad news and rejection to many worthwhile and worthy applicants.
So on this shortest day of the year in the UK let's turn to face tomorrow's lengthening daylight and look forward to 2012 with some advice for those people seeking a return to employment.
My top tips for finding a new job are:
CV: An almost too obvious subject to start with. However, as my bricklaying father likes to say "strong foundations make strong houses" and no job search will work unless you start with a good CV. So lets briefly cover the essentials: a) make it clear, easy to read and accurate b) two or three pages is enough and four at a stretch but any longer is a liability c) emphasise your most recent experience and sell yourself - a hirer doesn't often want to know your achievements and responsibilities from further than 10 years back so enter the basics but don't waste space on unnecessary detail d) make sure it's a mixture of responsibilities and achievements and not just a vague list of skills; e) measurable numbers give your achievements scale and impact; e.g. increased sales by "x%", added "£x" to bottom line, saved "y" in time-scales
Social Media: Love it or loathe it social media such as Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook are the burgeoning hunting grounds for hirers. It's too huge a subject to go into detail here but the best advice I can give is to start using these sites if you're not already doing so and if you are make sure you're making the best possible impact by being professional, courteous, inquisitive and participatory. If you only ever want to use one social media site then I would recommend starting with Linkedin; a combination of online CV, research tool and networking event
Flexibility: If you're out of work and seeking a return don't be too fixated on finding a carbon copy of the job you've just had and be aware that employment is changing; not all jobs are five days a week or permanent or salaried in a traditional way. Make sure you make potential hirers aware that even though you'd love the 5 days-a-week-pensioned-monolithic-job you're willing to be flexible (within reason). Many companies are still unsure of loading on staffing overhead given the economic uncertainty and would prefer a more fluid employment model. It'll be up to you how flexible you're willing to be to get a job but I've met many candidates this year who have built up busy "portfolios" of work by offering flexibility to hiring companies
Recruitment Agents: Hands-up I am one so I have a fair amount of bias; but also I hope a fair amount of scepticism in regards to the recruitment industry. A good agent can get you into the hidden job markets, offer help and advice and project manage the hiring process. A bad agent can give you false hope, the run-around and flood the market with your CV in a spray-and-pray approach to candidate marketing. So do some research on who's good, who's bad, who's handling jobs in your sector and location; Linkedin is a great way to do this or ask the HR team at your old company who they used. Don't use too many agents or it will get confusing to the hiring market
Little Black Book: So many jobs never go out to the company job boards or are given to recruiters but remain hidden and are filled by word-of-mouth, reputation, recommendation and direct contact between hirer and candidate (I'd love to find some reliable statistics on this subject). So if you're looking for a new job thumb through your business card file, little black book or outlook address book and then start spreading the word. I'm not proposing a mass "I'm looking for a job" email; be sensible, target the right people and phone them - the human voice is a great lever for receiving help
Don't Stand Still: If out of work for more than a month please don't let the grass grow under your feet. Take new courses, offer help to charities or your kid's school, pursue non-executive roles. Not only will these actions give you more skills and experience, it will keep morale high, grow your network, raise your profile and demonstrate a positivity and mental strength to a hiring company
Go It Alone: Surprisingly dark times for employment are often great times for entrepreneurship. If there's no company out there willing to hire you then create your own. If you look around for help in starting a business I can assure you you'll find it; according to old Bonaparte we are naturally a nation of shopkeepers ........and IT technicians, and engineering professionals, and marketing gurus and VAT accounting experts - the list is endless and the opportunity to create your own business is there if you really want to (and when you do and you're a hiring give me a call)
And Finally: Thomas Hardy was a clever old chap when he wrote his poem The Darkling Thrush and it's strange to marry this poetic message on finding positivity in a wintery moribund landscape with the man who earlier wrote novels as bleak as Jude or Tess. But let's not allow this contradiction get in the way of a very good poem on "blessed hope" that I think rings true at this time of year and allow the thrush's "happy good-night air" to sing us out of 2011 and into 2012; Merry Christmas and all the best:
Darkling Thrush (http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/)
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.