Keep Developing Your Skillset: Advice for Job Hunting During COVID-19

Assess skills: Skills get stale quickly, so if you simply wait for the “right” job, your skills may go out of date. It’s important to constantly assess what skills you have, whether they are relevant to the roles you’re applying for and whether you need to acquire more (hint: this is always a good idea!). I…

Keep Developing Your Skillset: Advice for Job Hunting During COVID-19

Assess skills: Skills get stale quickly, so if you simply wait for the “right” job, your skills may go out of date. It’s important to constantly assess what skills you have, whether they are relevant to the roles you’re applying for and whether you need to acquire more (hint: this is always a good idea!).

I recently had breakfast with someone who works in IT for a small company that has developed an app for research. As it turns out, his company has done very well during COVID-19 – licenced user numbers are up, there is cash in the bank and they are hiring.

They have been hiring for a Developer role, and despite being in an industry that has not been negatively affected as others have, they received very high numbers of applications. Approximately 1% of those applications were accepted to go through to the interview stage (nothing unusual there) but it was my breakfast companion’s comment that “anyone whose skills are more than 12 months old is rejected” that caught my attention.

Granted, skill development is very important in IT, but this concept of skills getting stale is going to be a much bigger issue for job seekers as we go into a high unemployment economy than it was in the early 1990s (the last time unemployment was over 10%).

As I said in a previous article, as of mid-2020, wage subsidies are still propping up the workforce in both AUS and NZ. When these are withdrawn, a large number of employees will be unemployed.  

If you are middle or senior level management, then you are most at risk. Wage subsidies will be withdrawn in September, then, because of COVID-19 uncertainty, Christmas and New Year hiring freezes and a “let’s see how things go” attitude in January, companies are unlikely to hire at mid or senior level management till the following February. That hiring process will take between one and three months, which puts us in April/May 2021.

COVID-19 hit the economies of AUS and NZ in mid-March 2020 – from then until April/May 2021 is over twelve months. If you have not taken this time to upskill, then regardless of how talented, experienced or qualified you are, you will be running the very real risk of ‘resume rejection.’

Am I basing this assumption on IT? No. We saw this happen in the early 1990s. Remember, in 1992 we are talking Microsoft Windows for Workgroups 3.1, or $4000 for a gigabyte of storage. In 1992, IT wasn’t what it is now, yet ‘stale skill resume rejection’ was around even then. So, although this point certainly applies to industries other than IT, it demonstrates the importance hirers place on upskilling, even in the context of COVID-19.

Upskilling to Stand Out to Employers

So, what do we do? How do we upskill, learn and, most importantly, make hirers aware we have been doing this?

Thankfully, upskilling and learning is super easy these days – any number of free YouTube tutorials, online courses, podcasts and webinars are available. Complete them, listen to them and attend them!

Then, make sure you have a concise record of what you have done on your since COVID-19 on your resume; don’t just leave it blank. List every course podcast and webinar you attended and what you learned. Although the learning needs to be professional, don’t be too concerned about its direct relevance to the role for which you are applying – after all, you probably don’t know what that is yet. Hirers are looking to see that you have been working to stay up-to-date and that you are prepared to change and learn, because it is likely that you will need to do so.

If you are looking for more specialised advice, find a specialist recruiter who works in the area in which you will be applying for roles and ask them. They will have their ear to ground and know more about what companies in your sector want and expect.

To find out how we can help you get a job in this challenging market, get in touch with us today, and make sure you read the first blog in this series for a summary of my job hunting advice.

If you are looking for a fantastic new role or someone to join your team, contact us to find your people.

 

Pete Davis is Managing Director of Frontline Recruitment Group (FRG). FRG is a specialist recruitment company with offices across Australia and New Zealand – they have been operating since the early 1990s and have worked in high unemployment environments with job hunters in many different industries. This blog series is about sharing some of the lessons from the past and integrating them with the technology and business practices of today. We hope you enjoy these articles and welcome your opinions.