Geraldine King of the National Recruitment Federation is smiling into the camera in an office setting.
Geraldine King. Image: National Recruitment Federation

8 tips for taking stock of your career during Covid-19

11 May 2020

With normal work routines disrupted, many people may be re-evaluating career options, writes Geraldine King of the National Recruitment Federation.

If you weren’t altogether keen on your job in the first place, trying to now work from home and possibly deal with radically altered business conditions is not going to improve job satisfaction.

It’s usually during holidays that people think about a new job, retraining or going freelance. Most of us probably dream about giving up work altogether, if truth be told. Realistically though, a healthy respect for steady employment is good, so approach big change with caution.

Be ready for business as usual

Don’t be afraid of changing your career or evaluating the prospects, even now, says Bryan Hyland, commercial director at Morgan McKinley. “Despite all the disruption at the moment, there are excellent career opportunities now, and there will be in the future as the economy needs to recover.”

In the current environment, sectors including pharma and fast-moving consumer goods are seeing a significant uplift in recruitment, as are those aligned to supply chain channels.

In terms of preparing for a move, Hyland says now is the time to upskill, where possible. “Look into online learning platforms or research the appropriate skillsets needed. If making approaches, deal with a recruitment firm specialising in your role or profession. Be prepared to interview remotely and, if successful in your job search, be ready for remote onboarding and induction, too.”

Ask yourself about money matters

A desire for flexibility in our working lives is a big driver of change. Financial concerns are cited as the biggest obstacle to a career change, particularly going freelance or starting a business. We may want to strike out in a new direction, but we still need to pay bills.

Those worried about finances must carefully explore the financial side of starting again. What is the set-up cost? How can you finance it? Is there a market for what you’re planning to do? How well and how regularly is it likely to pay?

Take it one step at a time

Anne Fanthom of Recruitment Plus set up her own agency, having worked for two big names in the industry. She advises taking small steps.

“Gather information and assess what you want to achieve, including what it is about your current role or employer that’s not right,” Fanthom says.

“There are always options for those unhappy in their job, and it isn’t necessarily a move. Employers don’t want to lose talent, so may work with you on training or on evolving your role to suit your career or family plans.”

Even if the job change you’re planning is dramatic, the process of making it doesn’t have to be. A transition period can help. If possible, reduce hours in your current role to free up time to take on freelance projects or set up a business. This will help get your Plan B up and running while you’re still earning.

Network with people and places

Talk to former colleagues or college friends, and those elsewhere in your sector or in an area you might like. Find out what’s happening in the industry, people moving on, salary scales and good places to work.

Polish up your CV with study completed or conferences attended, and read industry blogs and trade magazines for insights on the latest tools of the trade you’re interested in.

Make contact with an employer you admire, or with a recruitment agency, or use this slowdown productively to plan approaches. Volunteering in a different role is helpful too, for the learning experience and to broaden your network.

Research new work options

Colin Donnery, general manager at FRS Recruitment, says that physical distancing is a great time to look at your career options. “Research the employment market and maybe do one of the many free skills assessments that are available online.

“Contact people in the industry you are looking to get into, and you will generally get valuable insights into what their career is really like, warts and all.”

Evaluating what exactly you want from a career change is also important, Donnery maintains. “Is it money, purpose or a life-long ambition?

“Research the career and what qualifications or training is required, and also if you are likely to have to take a drop in salary or maybe move location. Once you have all this relevant information, it is easier to plan the dream job and go for it.”

The need to research and benchmark your value in your new profession is crucial, Frank Farrelly, COO at Sigmar Recruitment, adds. “Be realistic, as you may have to take a cut in earnings, a step back in level, relocate or reskill, all of which can be costly,” he advises. “What you definitely need to do is to hustle and promote yourself, so be absolutely sure of your conviction and commitment.”

Do your sums

If your career Plan B may not pay as well, get familiar with your bank account and recent credit card statements. This gives an idea of what you need to earn, save or borrow to cover your living costs.

Include essentials such as housing, food, childcare, transport and household bills, as well as variable spending like clothing or car and home maintenance. Factor in loans or card repayments and deductions like memberships, insurances or pension contributions.

If your new income is likely to be lower for a period, challenge yourself to live on it for a few months before making a move. And save something to tide you over in emergencies.

If returning to study, there are lower interest rate student loans, but expect to work part time, too.

Weigh up pay options

When you know your costs, research what you can earn in the career you’ve set your sights on. Speak to people who do something similar or consult a recruitment adviser or website on salaries and terms.

If retraining or setting up a business, get a realistic idea of how long it will be before you start making money. Local Enterprise Offices or your local chamber of commerce may put you in touch with a business mentor.

Professional contracting is common now and is worth considering if flexible employment is your goal, according to Donal O’Donoghue of Sanderson Recruitment Ireland. “Contracting is ideal for working parents juggling school and holidays, for people over 50 who want to scale back but not stop work, and for flexibility and work-life balance in general,” he says.

“There are temporary and part-time roles, depending on the sector, and the contractor largely decides when and where they work, once the contracted task is completed in an agreed timeframe.”

Most recruitment agencies have specialists in professional contracting and there are accountancy firms that can deal with the money aspects, like tax returns and financial planning.

Go for it

If a career Plan B starts to seem viable and more attractive, try setting goals to test your commitment. These might include networking more or getting out of your comfort zone.

Maybe decide you’re going to make five new business contacts in the next six months or take on some public speaking. Do some volunteering, mentoring or study, or learn a new technical skill for the job or for running a business.

Job satisfaction is about more than a higher salary. Quitting can be the first step towards reinvention, but remember to plan your exit and new role beforehand.

By Geraldine King

Geraldine King is CEO of the National Recruitment Federation, which represents recruitment agencies throughout Ireland.

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