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The business complications of the recent global crisis have not been evenly distributed, with some sectors, demographics and jobs putting a heavier burden on them. And while it may seem wiser (and tastier) to focus our eyes on the task of recovery rather than measure the magnitude of our setbacks, it’s important to understand what each business cohort has been through so we can understand what they need. as we move forward.
Early career professionals, for example, have had a different pandemic year than their older colleagues. Entry level roles were among the first positions to be thrown off; Glass door reported in June 2020 that the number of posts targeting recent graduates had fallen by 68% compared to the previous year. And of the novice professionals who had entered the labor market, 20% lost their job within the first few months of the pandemic.
Related: How Covid-19 Changed the Way We Look at Recruitment
The recovery in the labor market has been faster than many experts had expected. But entry-level roles experience a slower return, even two years later. And sectors such as the service industry, where young workers often earn hours, experience and references, are more limited than others when it comes to working from home, re-engagement or new hires. Not only are young job seekers dealing with a shrinking job market, they are also dealing with a CV gap that can leave them feeling less qualified.
The important silver lining is this: early career candidates will enter a job economy where they can be more creative, versatile and impactful than they otherwise would. The job of recovery is to ask every professional, established and otherwise, to contribute to the best of their ability. The speed of change in all sectors is unparalleled and the need for new, unique perspectives is unprecedented. A huge opportunity awaits young workers who can overcome the above-mentioned barriers to employment. Below are a few proven techniques to get them started:
Understand that experience comes in all shapes and sizes
It’s easy for eager candidates to be put off by the experience requirements included in a job posting. But it’s helpful for candidates to understand what employers are really looking for when they say “experience.” For entry-level positions, each employer calculates an induction period. They don’t expect candidates to come fully home to the nuances of their role. Relevant time in another position is less to indicate competence, but more to indicate interest. Does this candidate have experience in this type of position? Did they like it enough to seek out similar roles?
Too often, job seekers equate experience with working hours. But with this insight, workplace hours can be supplemented in a number of ways. Low-cost and no-cost training options are just a click away and candidates can earn multiple certificates in an area of their choice. Those training programs can be listed on a resume, and they go a long way in communicating to employers that the candidate is not only interested in the position, but that they have shown initiative and have devoted many unpaid hours to practicing, training and to learn. Smart employers know that experience comes in many forms, and they will recognize a self-starter when they see one.
Related: Don’t Make This Common Mistake When It Comes To Your Company’s Post-Covid Recovery
Be creative with your references
In a similar way, candidates often limit themselves based on a lack of references. But references serve the same purpose for recruiting teams that screen candidates; they help recruiters understand the candidate’s existing competency and the way they could perform in similar roles. An often misunderstood aspect of achievement is soft skills, including communication, professionalism and creative thinking. Most candidates have a figure in their lives who can speak with those skills, even if they don’t have a previous employer. Coaches, mentors, or community leaders are more than qualified to give voice to the candidate’s ability to interact with their peers, achieve their goals, and meet challenges.
To further complement the reference section, bringing in a homemade portfolio is an incredible way to leave a lasting impression. A work sample can come from previous work or from personal exploration. Web designers can bring printed portfolio booklets that are examples of home page designs. Coders can bring a printed proof of work and graphic designers can bring a compelling display of projects they’ve worked on in the past. Arriving with a polished and physical portfolio immediately indicates what the recruiting team is looking for – most importantly, does the candidate show an interest in this type of work? And in terms of competency, where are they currently?
Related: The Case for Hiring Workers with No Experience
Develop your soft skills
With the current pace of change in the workforce, it is difficult for any job applicant to be confident that their investment in education will align well with this new normal. A great way to address this shift that can otherwise feel like a barrier to entry is to invest in the evergreen skills that will always be transferable: strong listening, effective communication, and interview etiquette. At this point in our recovery, a candidate who knows how to learn, train, and upskill is a company’s most valuable asset.
Employers also learn along the way. Flexibility has been critical to their Covid recovery and most teams are open to cultivating a flexible dialogue with new hires. They may have a model candidate in mind, but if they come face to face with an enthusiastic candidate who shows interest, competence and a mastery of soft skills, they will be motivated to move forward. Their job is to act in the best interests of the company and build a valuable team.
Candidates at the beginning of their career should avoid listing their experience, including relevant training programs or course materials, on their resume. They must be creative with references and ensure that their interviewing behavior and self-made portfolio answer the questions that a lack of references leaves open. They should come up with thoughtful questions that show they are attuned to the current circumstances; they are interested in the company’s bigger project and think hard about the ways in which they can contribute. These are the kinds of things that make any resume gap obsolete, and it’s important to everyone that no talent is left behind in our collective recovery.