How to stay competitive in the labour market after covid-19

Article by Cesar Shimura | Illustration by Armadilly Comics

“My process got cancelled.”

I often heard this kind of expression from friends that are currently facing my same situation: recent graduated students looking for opportunities to either find the first job or to be reallocated to a different one. Others might say “my company decided to lay off X employees” or “I got selected, but they decided to postpone the internship or to convert it into smart working”. Covid-19 not only let many candidates frustrated, but also created a specific void: “Ok, what should I do now?”.

It is very difficult to predict what will happen. We can have a glimpse of what the future may be, like more institutions adopting digital solutions or a possible change in people’s interactions and behaviours, but it is impossible to guarantee a certain scenario. Uncertainty is predominant. Nevertheless, given that many institutions froze their hiring process, that many students are graduating while many people are being fired, it seems that competition for jobs spots will tend to increase.

Instead of listing possible ideas of how to search, find and apply for jobs, my goal with this article is to bring some broad inputs that I believe are important to keep in mind whenever we are doing our job hunt.

What now?

After watching webinars, conducting web research and talking to some friends, I’ve come up with the following inquiry: “First, what does it mean to be more attractive work-wise?”. To answer that, I think it is worth considering what the employers might be asking in the future, like “Can the candidate help us?”, “Can the applicant get things done?” or “Can the person represent the company?”. Secondly, I think we need to assess the gap between what the institution wants and what we can offer to them, matching the institutions’ need with our own individual’s knowledge, skills and motivations.

As many websites suggest, now it is a good time to learn new skills. As we can see from Udemy’s report, some people are investing their time to learn new things, ranging from new digital capabilities to new languages or technicalities of a specific field.

Apart from filling the knowledge and skill gaps, I believe it is also a good time to reflect on our motivations, aspirations and past achievements. While it might help us to narrow down our energy to find those jobs that are more aligned with our personalities, it is also a way to prepare us to answer questions like “Tell me a time when you demonstrated X skill” or whenever we need to write cover letters for new applications.

In parallel with better understanding our aspirations, as the FGV Webinar with Seja Trainee mentions (unfortunately only in Portuguese), we need to prepare ourselves to discuss what are the big topics discussed in the market. For each specific segment, while it is important to know what are the new terms and terminologies being used, it is useful to learn the main issues faced by the institutions.

For that, the webinar suggests to look for these topics on the news, newsletters and research papers, to participate into online forums or live webinars, to follow specialists at LinkedIn, to use Telegram forums, among other initiatives. These can help us understand what are the main issues faced by the employer.

Keep it up!

Moreover, as pointed out by the same webinar, some people look for jobs using archaic methods: they find an interesting job and send their CVs and cover letters, hoping, in the best case scenario, to be called for the first interview. In order words, we first look for opportunities, then we see if we have the required skills to finally assess our motivations for the role.

However, this process should be the opposite. Instead of spending inefficiently energy to apply for jobs that pop in front of us once in a while, we should initially know our own motivations, then analyse our skills to finally look for new opportunities.

The reason for this is that once you find what motivates you to work with, you might engage to discover new possibilities that you haven’t been considering before. You might discover new industries, different sectors, unknown jobs or companies that, while only you may already have the required skills, perhaps you might also find new opportunities with less competition.

In general, I believe discipline is important for our job hunt. Discipline to learn new skills, to reflect about ourselves, to prepare for future interviews, to search for unknown jobs and, especially, to keep on track to our application journey whenever we enter a negative loop.

In this uncertain scenario, in which we will face many “No’s”, we are susceptible to create narratives that bring us down, saying that we are not good enough or that the market is too competitive for us. We need discipline to learn from the downturns, pick us up and keep working on our goals.

Looking ahead

Looking into a broader perspective, it is worth conceiving our professional career as a life-long journey. Differently from the past, it is most likely that people from my generation will experience many different work experiences rather than staying at one single company.

If this is true, it is important that we try to shape our reality the way we want it, taking actions to learn new things, differentiating ourselves and not expecting that only online courses or companies will guide our professional path.

There won’t be a phase after covid-19, but rather a more fluid transition. Some countries are not in quarantine anymore while others are adapting to it at a different pace. Overall, covid-19 will be a common topic for everyone, not only for us candidates but also for the recruiters.

While we can see how the company we are applying to values its employees by considering its previous actions during the pandemic, we might want to know how to answer the interviewer’s question, “So, tell me, what have you done during the quarantine?”.

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