In a recent edition of ImproveMe’s ‘Advice from the Experts’, journalist and PR expert Anastasia Salamastrakis wrote about what she did to improve her skills, gain experience and rise above the competition whilst job seeking as a graduate in the midst of a previous recession.
It led me to think about job seekers in today’s challenging economic climate and the competition they face in the job market, what with so many Australians currently job seeking. This competition is likely to grow even more fierce when JobKeeper comes to an end.
Imagine a hiring manager looking at the resumes of two individuals whose education and past job experience is virtually identical in terms of suitability for a role being recruited. How to differentiate between the two candidates?
The hiring manager notices that since being made redundant due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one candidate has completed three short courses to develop a basic level of knowledge on topics of emerging importance, used an online tool to better understand and utilise their transferable skills, attended a webinar on an industry related issue and volunteered at a service helping others impacted by the pandemic.
However, the other candidate – also made redundant due to the pandemic – does not appear to have taken any steps to develop their skills and knowledge since losing their job. If you were the hiring manager, which candidate would you likely choose to speak to first?
With this scenario in mind, what can job seekers be doing to give themselves an edge above the competition, however minor?
A search on LinkedIn, industry association websites, professional services firm websites, event sites such as eventbrite, or even just Google will bring up a range of free webinars on offer from a vast array of organisations.
Some businesses use Facebook and Instagram to advertise their free webinars too – these ones may be useful, but be warned they may also turn out to be trying to sell you something!
Try to stick to educational webinars from reputable companies that you can reference on your resume. Think about what topics would compliment your resume experience and business knowledge, then sign up to attend. Don’t forget to take notes, you never know when you might like to refer back to them to brush up on some conversation points for an interview.
Undertake online courses
There are many quality courses available online for free or at a low cost. These range from short courses that take 1 – 2 hours to complete, through to options that will see you graduate with a diploma or greater.
Coursera, Udemy and edX offer courses from leading organisations and universities all around the world, while Torrens University has around 50 short courses that are currently available for free to ImproveMe portal users until the end of the year.
Why not learn the basics of digital marketing, design thinking, artificial intelligence or other emerging topics that will be highly useful in the future of work?
Many online courses will provide a certificate as proof of your course completion, which you can use as an appendix to your resume if required.
In ‘Advice from the Experts’, Anastasia discussed volunteering at a community centre where she learnt how to deal with members of the public and provide them with accurate, timely information – skills every journalist needs.
Consider where you could volunteer your time or services. Sites such as Go Volunteer or Seek Volunteer can help you to identify opportunities that might be suitable. Think about what transferrable skills you might be able to learn – communication, leadership, critical thinking and more – when deciding which opportunities are right for you. Also make sure that the opportunity is safe (eg. allows you to maintain physical distancing) and is something you are passionate about!
Volunteering is a great option because it can allow you to develop personally whilst contributing to the community in a time of need. Added bonus – it will make you feel great!
This is a tricky one at present due to so many people working from home. However, depending on your industry of interest, gaining work experience may still be possible. If it is, reach out to individuals in your network or relevant organisations to explain your situation and ask if you can undertake one or more days of work experience with them. Offering to do so unpaid may be beneficial – why not consider it “short term pain for long term gain”?
If you are lucky enough to gain work experience, immerse yourself in the experience. Offer to help in any way possible, ask lots of questions, soak up as much information as possible and write yourself a brief journal each day of what tasks you undertook or what you learned. This information will come in handy down the track, either to add to your resume or to discuss in job interviews.
Don’t forget to reach out afterwards with a heartfelt message of thanks. You never know when they might reach back out to you with a future opportunity.
Understand your strengths
Your strengths are the skills that are going to propel you forward in your professional career. But how can you make the most of them if you don’t know what they are? The ImproveMe Competency Assessment and Development Portal are currently available for free to all Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ImproveMe Competency Assessment will help to identify your two key strengths, which you can highlight on your resume, and the Development Portal can help you develop those competencies (strengths) further, through a range of tailored learning and development opportunities.
The five ideas above are just a few of the available methods of growing your skills and experience, to legitimately expand your level of experience on your resume. If there are other ways you have seen or thought of, please share them with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s widely known that the experience of job seeking can be very different for those in the later stage of their career. John* is a friend of ImproveMe who is aged in his fifties and is currently job hunting. We asked him to share his key observations with us.
For those finding themselves over 50 and looking for opportunities there are several key factors to consider as careers paths in this stage of life will be different.
If you have been employed for single organisation for a long time – say over 25 years – you need to understand that these days potential employers look at tenure and “company” loyalty differently to what they did decades ago. This means some self development may be required to differentiate in the marketplace – to move away from the “one trick pony” perception that comes with being in one organisation for so long. You may find online courses from local and International learning institutions are available to enhance your skill set already achieved as an example.
If you are looking outside your initial industry of expertise, then understand how to position your experiences and achievements you have gained, so as to be seen as a value add for solutions to issues other organisations face. This may open up consulting avenues and the lifestyle changes that go with it. In this situation, a good 12 month budget needs to be considered as you may be moving from a mindset of guaranteed monthly wage to being paid for specific jobs.
If you are undertaking your job search utilising existing networks, you may need to consider expanding to recruiters – but make sure you find those that have experience in the industry you are considering. A lot of recruiters employ careers advisers that do not have the understanding to look beyond the CV and are reluctant to offer a candidate over 50 to their clients as it “falls outside the scope” of their assignment.
There are opportunities if you put yourself out there but it certainly means you will need to be flexible with your expectations as organisations and industries place different value on experience and what financial worth to apply to this segment of the employment market.
* Name has been changed to protect our contributor’s anonymity in his job search. Image used is not of our contributor. Our contributor has extensive local and international experience within prestigious global organisations such as Ford and Caterpillar. If you would like to be put in touch with him, please contact ImproveMe.