Covid-19 and my job search experience
Wednesday 2nd December 2020
Andrew Garvey (Test Analyst)
In this article we asked Andrew Garvey to document his job searching experience in 2020. He covers topics ranging from LinkedIn, job search and CV's. This first hand experience is a unique insight into the issues facing people looking for employment in the midst of a pandemic.
On reflection, the lockdown has been kinder to me than many others. From working in the same office as a colleague who was one of the first Covid-19 cases in the UK, to spending six months with a travel company through the most turbulent trading period in their history, and wondering which day would be my last, it's been a challenging time. But I'm one of the lucky ones, I've managed to stay in a contract throughout this time.
With the uncertainty around my role, I found myself constantly checking the job market. It was so unsettling to see people in my network, with the same skill-set and similar career history as me, go from month to month without securing a role. It doesn't fill you with confidence. But I tried to offer them support, highlight opportunities, and generally just help where I could. However, this has also helped me.
Prior to the epidemic, I had relied almost entirely on job boards to find roles. Jobserve, Indeed, Total Jobs and Reed were my go to apps when I was searching. Throughout this year, it became apparent to me that these sites were no longer the real provider of opportunities they had once been. I'd used LinkedIn, but really only as a history of my employment, and to keep in touch with former work colleagues. I hadn't realised just how important it would become. In fact, it's now invaluable.
At the start of lockdown, I'd have to say I didn't have a very strong LinkedIn network in place for the months ahead. But I've spent the summer building that up. For me, it's been beneficial to make sure that the connections I make generally have a role that relates to my skills, or they recruit in my sector. Where candidates in my network have 'liked' a role, I will make a point of adding the author of the post. I'll also look through the comments, as most of those people will have an interest in the opportunities I'm looking for, and I'll request a connection from them too. This has proved to be the most valuable asset I have, because the number of opportunities that have appeared in my LinkedIn feed has increased greatly. I would never have been aware of most of these roles if I hadn't been able to strengthen my network.
I also wanted to find another way to draw people to my profile, since I'd noticed that some posts attract a huge number of views, likes and comments. I'd tried a few posts, things like "I've just finished at......" or "I'm looking for new opportunities......" but these barely achieved double figure views. It's noticeable that there are people who quite bluntly say "Please don't ignore my post......" or "I've got children to feed......" or even "I'm about to lose my house......" But the thing is, people are starting to use this tactic, when it's not a true reflection of their situation, and that is creating a negative feeling across the network, which in turn has a reverse effect on the expected outcome these posters want to achieve. Eventually I hit the spot with a post that questioned peoples reasoning, I asked what was stopping people clicking the "like" button. It struck a chord with people, received thousands of views, hundreds of likes, and many comments. I felt like I had "gone viral", and received so many new and relevant connections as a result of this. I've been contacted directly, with work available, and that only happened because of that post. If you can think of something that will get people reacting, then post it.
Something I hadn't used before was LinkedIn Premium. I didn't want to be spending almost £30 per month, when I couldn't see the benefit. I was offered half price membership for two months, so this time, I thought I'd give it a go. It proved to be very useful in showing me who was viewing my profile. I found that I was seeing a lot of Test Leads or Test Managers amongst them, so I made a point of asking for a connection. These are the people in the network who are going to have the requirements for my skills, so it was a no brainer to have as many of them on board as possible.
I already had good content on my CV, but I still researched and asked in the network, for any improvements I could make. There are some excellent people who have helped with this, Chris Pennington, Lee Woodrow and Andrew MacAskill provided good constructive feedback to build on. As a result I made changes, even replacing the font, and removing the tables I had used in the document. I feel confident submitting my CV for a role, but that doesn't guarantee a response. You have to follow up. Use every available method to make contact, phone, email, LinkedIn. That's another reason for having premium membership, you can message those you aren't connected with, so use it as an introduction.
The most disheartening part of the job search, is the wait. It's been so hard getting hold of recruiters after the CV has been dispatched. I've lost count of the number of times people were on lunch (no matter what the time of day!!) or in meetings, or on another line. Then when you do reach someone, there's no feedback. On the occasions I have managed to get a CV over to a client, it's then more waiting. I've had roles that I have been a great candidate for, certain to get an interview, only to be told it has been filled internally. You have to wonder why a client would invest in the recruitment process if that is the outcome.
Thankfully, there have been interviews, and there have been contracts I've accepted. This has only been possible with the good network I've put in place. I'd encourage you to do the same, and I wish you good luck and every success in your endeavours.
Andrew Garvey, Test Analyst