Five useful tips on finding a new job in 2021

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Here are some practical tips on making the best of your chances.

1. Gain insight via informal conversations

Whatever your career goals, consider that you do not have to look for a new job entirely by yourself. Researchers Hans-Georg Wolff and Klaus Moser at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany have confirmed that reaching out to others is linked to better chances of securing new jobs. Over a two-year period, the researchers found that professionals were more likely to secure new employment when they agreed with questionnaire statements including:

  • ‘For business purposes I keep in contact with former colleagues’
  • ‘I meet with acquaintances from other organisations outside of regular working hours’
  • ‘I use my contacts outside of my company to ask for business advice’.

Whether you’re looking for a new job doing similar work or investigating a different career path, it’s a good idea to get first-hand insights and advice on dos and don’ts. So, ask your professional acquaintances for referrals to people who are doing the kinds of jobs you want to do. For example, if you are looking to work in a certain sector or even a specific company, then ask the people you know whether they have contacts within that sector or company.

When you find your way to individuals within your target sector or company, respectfully ask if they would be willing to chat to you briefly about their experience and what they enjoy about the sector or company. Use online resources such as LinkedIn, Google and Twitter to find out more about these individuals so that you can explain to them why you are interested in learning from them in particular. Job hunters are often surprised by how often people end up saying yes to politely phrased requests.

When people eventually say yes to speaking to you, be sure to prepare your list of questions carefully. What do they enjoy about the work? What route did they take to enter the industry or company? What lessons did they learn that they wish they had known when they were starting out? Your goal is not only to gather intelligence on the sector or company – you should also be aiming to impress people enough that they might refer you on to other people you could speak with.

2. Move towards growing industries and sectors

The Covid-19 pandemic represents one of the biggest upheavals in the global economy for decades. Many industries worldwide such as travel, tourism, fashion, and arts and recreation have struggled. However, other industries such as healthcare, fintech, online retail and digital services have grown.

There are also other longer-term trends to consider. For example, concerns about the environment may lead to continuing, outsized growth in cleaner forms of energy provision. Expanding middle classes in many developing countries are leading to greater demand for leisure and recreation, whereas a greater proportion of older people in developed nations likely means more demand for health and social care.

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The chances of restructurings and job losses are likely greatest in flat or declining industries such as book or newspaper publishing. In contrast, the best opportunities for promotion and career progression are likely within growing industries and sectors. So, weigh up the growth prospects of different industries and sectors. To ensure you maximise your future career opportunities, consider over the next five, 10 or 15 years if is this an industry or sector that is likely to be hiring – or firing – people?

3. Pursue your curiosity, not cash

It can be very tempting to apply for jobs that offer the biggest salary increase. However, data suggest that this may not be the best career approach in the long run.

In a classic research study, academics Andrea Abele and Daniel Spurk collected information on 1,336 working professionals over a 10-year period. They measured both their objective success (ie changes in income and hierarchical position), as well as subjective success (ie the extent to which the professionals reported being satisfied with their jobs).

Based on the data, the researchers were forced to conclude that ‘the “objective success influences subjective success” relationship is smaller than might be expected, whereas the “subjective success influences objective success” relationship is larger than might be expected.’ In other words, salary growth and promotions – perhaps surprisingly – made relatively little difference to people’s levels of happiness. In contrast, being happy with their work was a very effective method for the professionals to increase their salaries and gain more promotions.

Accepting a job simply because it pays well may actually be a self-defeating strategy: if you hate or even merely tolerate the work, you will likely be unable to work productively in it, which will make it that much more difficult for you to impress key decision makers. When you enjoy your work, you are more likely to be able to work hard – and therefore get the raises and promotions that you think you deserve. So, as a broad rule, it may be good idea to apply for and accept jobs that you think you will enjoy the most.

4. Write a CV that paraphrases skills rather than listing chronological experience

In a traditional CV, job hunters often use up as much as three-quarters of their CVs merely listing their job experience – describing dates, job titles and companies, and then giving brief summaries of major responsibilities. Unfortunately, this old-fashioned CV format makes it harder for interviewers to see why you in particular should get the job.

The best way to make your CV stand out is to create a new ‘Skills’ section within your CV and then to paraphrase the specific abilities or experiences that any particular employer mentions in their advertisement or job description. For example, if a job mentions that the successful candidate must have ‘analytical and problem-solving skills’, ‘well-developed interpersonal skills’ and ‘thorough understanding of standards and regulations relating to procurement and contracts’, then actually use these precise three terms as sub-headings within your skills section. Then write a couple of paragraphs explaining what responsibilities you have had and the actions you have taken with regards to each of these skills.

By using phrases that the employer has used, you make it clear to the employer exactly how you fit the role. You do not require the employer to intuit from your CV the extent to which you may or may not fit their requirements.

Consider a second example of a job advertisement looking for a trainee accountant who must possess ‘management accounts experience’, ‘excellent communication skills’, ‘self-motivation to work independently’, and ‘ability to develop professional business relationships with colleagues’. In applying to this employer, you would need to use these specific four sub-headings rather than recycling the sub-headings you might have used for another application.

Writing a skills-based CV rather than a chronological experience-based CV makes it far easier for employers to see the extent to which you would fit with a role. Skills-based CVs are also especially useful for job hunters who are looking to rethink their careers rather than do more of what they had been doing in the past. So, emphasise your skills early in your CV – and then reduce in length the chronological listing of where you worked and put it after your new skills section.

5. Develop your distance interviewing skills

Many job interviews are now commonly conducted using video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. However, some candidates may be unwittingly creating disadvantages for themselves simply by the wrong positioning of their cameras.

A pioneering research study conducted by Jan Ernst Bekkering at Mississippi State University asked volunteers to watch videos in which a speaker was recorded from different camera angles. In one video, the camera was eye level with the speaker’s face. In a second video, the camera was placed above the speaker’s face, and in a third version, the camera was placed to the side of the speaker’s face.

The researchers asked the volunteers to rate the degree to which they trusted the speaker. When compared with the video that seemed to enable eye contact, the videos that prevented eye contact (ie those using the top or side camera) led the observing volunteers to rate the speaker as less trustworthy.

To ensure that you come across as trustworthy, ensure that your camera and screen set-up is such that you appear to be looking as much as possible into the camera. Eye contact is such an important human need that even small deviations from apparent eye contact may make you seem less trustworthy to interviewers.

Dr Rob Yeung is an organisational psychologist at leadership consulting firm Talentspace

Visit Talentspace | Follow @robyeung

This article was first published in Student Accountant in April 2021

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