Trying to decide if you should pursue an executive job search during COVID-19?
Many people have asked this question, especially with numerous layoffs and industry changes.
If you’re among the fortunate leaders still employed – but already planning your next move, this unprecedented time can be confusing. Should you put off your job search, stay in the executive job market, or pivot to a new career?
Use these guidelines to map out a plan of action to benefit your executive career – both now and after the crisis:
1 – Look closely at your industry and the impact of COVID-19.
Not all markets or industries have been affected in the crisis. In fact, some types of executive talent are in hot demand, particularly in technology, biotech, logistics, operations, or healthcare.
Even if you’re not directly working in these fields, consider how a strategic pivot could benefit you now and in the future, especially in light of the agility needed in a post-COVID economy (as noted by Dean Trimble in The Senior Executive Job Market and Coronavirus). For example, an IT leader involved in remote work infrastructures could leverage this expertise to pursue a role supporting global telecommuting capabilities.
If you’ve built e-commerce strategies as part of your marketing or sales career, these skills could catapult you into a digital strategy role for companies making the switch to online sales.
If making this switch requires additional knowledge, look into university-level online education, or even the free / lower-cost online training available during COVID-19, such as the resources offered to LinkedIn users, Coursera university-level instruction, or Udemy’s low-cost courses.
There’s never been a better time to brush up on high-value skills.
2 – Watch for pent-up demand in your field.
Many industries were poised for an almost-certain growth trend prior to COVID-19 – and they could be among the first to recover after the pandemic is gone.
If your top skills are in these industries, take heart; your strengths didn’t disappear overnight, and your executive-level opportunities will eventually rebound. (Just ask anyone who was in the construction business during the 2008-2010 downturn.)
However, this lull in your field will give you the chance to pull together a strong value proposition, tune your skills with additional training (see above), and strengthen your professional brand.
You might consider joining a professional association, volunteering as a Board member in an industry organization, or running an online forum dedicated to industry-related topics.
Also, take this time to bolster your executive resume or LinkedIn presence with these new skills, career achievements, and industry associations.
You’ll want to be ready when industry demand bounces back.
3 – Boost your visibility and professional presence on social media.
Enhancing your personal brand message can pay off greatly, both now and after the crisis.
Job searchers who are more active and visible online often report faster results and the opportunity to be recruited for a prime executive job – directly from social media.
Start by updating up your LinkedIn Profile. When was the last time you updated your Headline, Photo, or About section? Take a few minutes to add new Skills section entries or new training from the courses you’re taking (in Step #1).
Be sure to actually post or comment on social media; many of these sites “reward” frequent activity by showing your profile more often to other users (including employers!). See Hannah Morgan’s tips for LinkedIn engagement at Career Sherpa.
4 – Reach out to your network (or build a new one) during the COVID crisis.
Professionals and executives in many fields have taken the opportunity to re-connect in the COVID-19 era. Many people are reaching back out to former connections for a friendly chat.
By checking in with old colleagues, you’ll put yourself one step closer to a group of people eager to hear about your career progression.
What should you say when getting in touch? A simple “I’ve wanted to catch up with you and find out how things are going,” can suffice for a former classmate or boss.
Don’t forget to add new LinkedIn connections in line with your interests and goals, especially if you’re expanding your leadership skills.
Issue a note with your connection invitation such as “As we are turning toward new robotics solutions, I’d like to connect with you to continue to share insights. I welcome the opportunity to add you to my network.”
5 – Put out feelers to recruiters and potential employers.
By developing a value proposition message and strategically putting the word out, you’ll get a sense of the demand for your skills.
If you initiate conversations with recruiters and listen carefully to their responses, you’ll get valuable intelligence on the hiring conditions in your field. Maintain a pulse on the market (as described in Step #1) and proactively seek out new skills or education, especially if you sense your industry is on a downward trend.
Job search expert Liz Cohen recommends these efficient strategies for combing LinkedIn to see who is hiring, with tips on evaluating job posting freshness and reaching out to employer contacts.
Use employer job postings for information – not just for sending your resume. Consider applying to these employer’s competitors if you believe demand is picking up. Look at the LinkedIn Profiles of your job-seeking competitors to see if they’re changing positions or moving up the career ladder.
By paying close attention to the news and trends in your field – while continuing to network and hold informal meetings – you’ll be able to identify hot leads and decide which are worth pursuing.
Remember, COVID-19 and the associated downturn will someday be behind us.
The time to polish your personal brand, re-connect with valued colleagues, obtain new skills, and monitor new trends in your industry is NOW.
Take advantage of this time window to carefully consider next-step executive career moves and start executing your strategic plan.