Job hunting in tough times

By Irena Zientek, Operations Manager: Information and Engagement (Careers and Placements)

Job hunting can be difficult at the best of times – it takes time, effort and (sometimes) trial and error. In the current situation it’s become even more difficult, with some employers suspending recruitment, reducing their vacancies or withdrawing job offers.

It’s not just during the pandemic that job hunting may be harder, but there is likely to be a knock-on effect on the labour market, as world economies try to rebuild.

Despite the ‘doom and gloom’ there are more positive things to focus on. 

1) Most job hunters are in the same boat 

This situation is not something that will only affect you. Employers aren’t going to expect you to have gained work experience in the current climate, so don’t stress about what you haven’t been able to do. Concentrate on what you have done to date and what you can do in the immediate future. Draft up that list of past experiences that you can use to demonstrate your skills, so you’re ready with some ready examples for applications and interviews.

2) Where the jobs are

While there are some industries and sectors suffering (e.g. hospitality, travel and tourism, heritage, and creative arts), other sectors are experiencing growth (e.g. health and social care, retail. food production, public sector).

Look into sectors and roles you may not have considered prior to Covid-19. Going into such a job doesn’t mean you’ll have to stay there for the rest of your working life. If you secure a job – even if it’s not quite what you wanted – use the time and experience to develop skills you can put into practise elsewhere (when the time comes). You will also learn a lot from being in a workplace and have a greater understanding of how businesses work. An understanding you can demonstrate to other potential employers.

3) Opportunity for candidates to learn and develop 

The unusual times have offered people the chance to take time out from their typical routine. Even if you haven’t learned a new skill or volunteered with a local organisation, you will have learned something new about yourself. How have you adapted to the circumstances? Has your resilience grown? What new ideas and aims have you going forward?

4) Learning from others 

Lots of people are put off by the idea of networking – approaching strangers (and even people you know in another context) can feel like a difficult thing to do. 

However, networking isn’t just about trying to get a job – you can use your networks to help with your fact-finding. People working in a particular sector or role are a great source of information. They can provide an insight into the industry, which will give you an idea of what’s best for you and how to get it.

5) Get creative

Don’t just rely on vacancy sites and job adverts. Some industries and sectors have always had a hidden job market (e.g. media and broadcasting), where more creative job hunting is needed. Think 

  • speculative applications
  • making and using contacts
  • getting involved in unrelated areas (such as volunteering in another area of the sector or organisation)
  • following companies and individuals on social media
  • being open to the most (seemingly) unpromising sources.

Try to be as open minded as possible about opportunities and don’t close off an avenue of possibility, because you don’t think it’s for you. You never know where an opening might lead you. If you don’t believe me, have a look at some of the York Profiles and Mentors to see how some alumni careers have taken different turns!

6) Traditional job sites

Keep looking at the usual job sites, as there are still vacancies out there – not every company has stopped recruiting. There’s currently over 200 opportunities being advertised on Careers Gateway. Okay, they might not all be graduate-level, full-time posts, but it does show there are jobs out there, so keep checking those sites and keep up with those email job alerts you may have signed up for. 

If you need some further sources, have a look at the Look for Work pages and Job Sectors pages for more specific job sites.

7) Checklist

So, try out these steps:

  • draft up a checklist of things to do and job sites to check 
  • consider what you might gain even from opportunities that may not be quite what you’re after
  • draw-up a list of your skills and the experiences that illustrate those skills (ready for use in those applications and interviews)
  • think about who might be good contacts to make 
  • try to keep things in perspective – things might seem tough, but it’s a temporary situation, so keep going
  • make sure you take time out from the job hunting and do something fun and/or relaxing

Finally, you’re not on your own in this. Friends and peers will be in a similar situation. Family and friends are there to offer support. The Careers and Placements team is still available to help with any aspect of your job hunting – so contact us, if you need us.

Good luck with the job hunting!