Am I in Demand?
The start of a new year is the most popular time to look for a new job, but not everyone will get one. In this age of one-click instant gratification, it hurts when your CV is a one-way ticket to rejection.
You see a job you want, you apply for it, but you can’t have it. You can’t save up for it, ask the bank of mum and dad to buy it, win it over with dance moves or hang around in reception until you’re given it. It has gone, out of sight but not out of mind.
This mismatch between what you offer and what employers want can make you question your employability. You are experienced, qualified, with a list of bullet point achievements, but you keep missing the target. The dilemma is that everyone knows you are looking and you cannot give up now because that would make you average and vulnerable. Well, that’s what your inner voice is telling you.
Good news and bad news
This is your time to shine. Unemployment in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since 1975, baby boomers are hitting retirement age, and AI will help rather than replace skilled staff. The bad news is that organisations are struggling to fill a variety of roles because of a global skills crisis, older people are staying in work, and the push to digitise operations may put the spotlight on the suitability of your talent and credentials.
So, not only are more people getting jobs you want, there are domestic and international vacancies you are not good enough to fill, and the digital future means you have to gain or maintain skills to stay relevant. Now is not the time to dwell as positive visualisation and freestyle thinking are essential in building your brand, escaping process-driven jobs and avoiding automation.
Creativity and soft skills
Develop your mind as creativity will be the most important skill in the world, according to the LinkedIn Economic Graph, as people can think of new, better solutions to problems; whereas robots do the same task again and again.
The international consultancy firm McKinsey is championing creativity and soft skills. Its Skills Gap 2019 survey found that problem solving, critical thinking, innovation, creativity, ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity and communication are the missing skills in the job market.
Employers are advised to solve this skills mismatch by upskilling existing staff and hiring new talent to develop business capabilities and meet clients’ needs. While skilled professionals with emotional intelligence should feel positive about their careers and go with the flow, there may be challenges ahead so get ready for change.
What does this mean for me?
I am a skilled HR and communications professional with emotional intelligence, but when I told my 75-year-old dad that soft skills were the future, he thought I was “talking bollocks”. Somehow his negative comment means more than what LinkedIn, McKinsey, PwC and The Economist are saying about the future of work.
Like most people, I wanted to make my parents proud and keep up with my peers. But I am having difficulty progressing in my career. If I am not rejected at the application sift, the interview gets me. What am I doing wrong? I contacted career coach Hannah Salton to find out more.
Hannah put me at ease, saying the comparison trap is a private shame compounded by the disappointment of job rejections and not hitting career milestones. Instead of comparing my internal doubt to other people’s shiny, best self, I should aspire to be my best self by deciding what I want to achieve in my career and how I will do it.
My five-year plan
- get promoted in HR or another suitable business area in the Civil Service
- gain private sector experience
- write an HR book and become a highly respected HR blogger
- write a short stories book about running
- have a popular website that generates income
- get a TV or film screenplay optioned
I consider myself a multipotentialite and Hannah said my broad experience in communications, corporate services and HR was a strength, not a sign of a drifter. My HR blogging and creative writing boost my profile and show potential employers I have passion and commitment.
But I didn’t consult a career coach to massage my ego. My CV is too long and jumbled and lacking results and data to highlight my successes. However, Hannah said that spending hours polishing and tweaking a CV is a common pitfall people get stuck in. Whilst great CVs might be needed for need for ‘blind’ applications (where names are anonymised), networking becomes more important when your job search is focused on the external market. A CV needs to be good enough, but showcasing your motivation and skills through focused networking and building connections can get you noticed faster.
I have invested time and effort in developing my LinkedIn profile, but Hannah advises not to rely on your profile to do the hard work for you. The greatest opportunity for LinkedIn is to use it as a networking platform to make connections, have conversations, and build my reputation which may lead to employment opportunities less directly.
I know people who have found work through connections but I still haven’t found paid work or had any job offers yet. Hannah advised me to notice thought patterns that focus on the past/negative, and shift my focus towards the future/positive – focusing on what I want to create or achieve now.
I cannot escape the trendy empowerment term ‘own it’, preferring Hannah’s advice to take full responsibility for my career and not blame external factors. Challenges such as the economy, former managers, LinkedIn or job rejections can be frustrating, but I need to focus on the things I can control. What I enjoyed most about the coaching session was the opportunity to chat with someone impartial. I’m not seeking permission to explore new opportunities; I just want to unload occasionally and get good advice.
Keep your chin up
It can be hard to find a new job, start a side hustle and future-proof your career. When you are on YouTube instead of typing work emails you may see adverts nudging you to launch your own website to market your expertise so you can work when you want and get paid enough to hang around in tropical gardens and paddle down crystal clear rivers in your canoe.
It’s good to dream but better to be realistic. You have to look after number one. Be loyal to your employer if they are loyal to you as you are on this journey together. Never stop learning, snap up development opportunities, have an online profile and pursue your side hustle in a professional manner.
Job hunting can be stressful, especially when you are inundated with rejection notes thanking you for the hours you spent applying for a job you did not even get an interview for. Excel autosum cannot solve it for you. Just keep going and be in demand for being you.