How to find your next career opportunity in a pandemic

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

‘Finding a new career opportunity is a common start to the New Year for many. In the time honoured tradition of scrolling through LinkedIn alerts, checking through the weekly e-newsletters and trade publications and arranging numerous cups of coffees with business colleagues, family and friends – the ritual is familiar’

These were the words I wrote in a LinkedIn blog at the start of 2019, but how much more difficult has it become in these challenging times we find ourselves in? Who would have thought almost 12 months into the pandemic, there are still so many unknowns about how soon the Economy will grow again, when can we travel freely again and when social distancing measures can be relaxed.

2020 has been a year like no other. The news is relentless. Shrinkage of the Economy, the hospitality business devastated by lockdowns, live events virtually non existent and arts venues and theme parks closed until further notice. Redundancies which have not yet even reached their peak. And of course the toll on human lives is without parallel.

The industry has experienced seismic changes over the last couple of years with increasing consolidation of the major US Studios and Content Owners, ‘cord-cutting’ to the Pay-TV channels and streaming services booming. According to an Ofcom report, there are now more UK subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV than to ‘traditional’ pay TV services.

For many of those working in Entertainment and Media though, this has turned out to be less catastrophic than other sectors – especially when many people are working from home in various levels of lockdown binging on box sets, challenging friends on their games console or just listening to music as a way of relaxing and getting some mental and physical relaxation. Demand for these welcome distractions has never been higher and the need to have shared experiences with our friends and families who we cannot see.

The new OTT players are investing more heavily than ever in content, Netflix alone are investing £1 billion in the UK this year which will create a whole ecosystem of new roles across associated parts of the sector. The same is true of many other international territories. Lumina has certainly seen a steady stream of business with SVOD services despite challenging market conditions these last few months.

At Lumina, I am faced every day with individuals who are looking for ways to ‘put themselves out there ‘ and come up with a plan which widens their chances of finding their next big role.

To kick off the new year, I’m putting my personal tips to navigate the employment minefield from last year – which still hold true.

  1. Focus on Strategy not Tactics

While it may be surprising that some senior level candidates think they can rely on LinkedIn to find a job, this isn’t the easy solution that it appears to be. Many people complain they never hear back from the company advertising on LinkedIn. Not a very positive experience!

Even senior level executives can forget to do the basics: 1) what companies are you targeting, 2) what’s your unique positioning, and 3) what’s your strategy for creating “warm” introductions?

Many executives immediately start calling people because they’ve been told they need to network. However, they need to first understand what they want. Be prepared before you contact anyone and ensure that there is a seamless story that connects the verbal story (personal elevator pitch – where you’ve been and what you, specifically, would like to do next) with your LinkedIn profile (career summary) with your CV (detailed business accomplishments). If your CV indicates you have had a string of CMO positions and yet you verbally indicate you want a GM role, it’s confusing. The art is to tailor the CV for each position.

  1. Search Firms

Transaction versus relationship oriented: The biggest mistake candidates can make is believing that working with executive search consultants is a discrete transaction and doesn’t require relationship development. Some candidates don’t respond when a recruiter calls or emails because they “don’t need them at that moment”. The problem is that search firms have a long memory (and a database). With the days of “life-time employment” far behind us, everyone will be in a job search at some point in their career. That same candidate will need help. Prior rudeness or lack of courtesy may also likely result in that individual being put at the end of the queue; candidates should think about treating executive recruiters (and their associates) like insurance – you regularly invest (in developing the relationship), so that when you actually need it, you will get the help you need.

  1. Egos not Welcomed

A common mistake is to think that you are the answer to a prospective client’s prayers: not so. Candidates show up at the first client interview thinking they are there to get their questions answered and not the other way around. Until you have made it past the preliminary interviews, it’s best not to assume anything. Humility is a much rarer and more prized commodity than ego.

  1. Approach as a Seller not a Buyer

Too many candidates consider interviews a fact-finding mission. Rather, in the early stages, candidates should approach the process as a seller rather than a buyer. The goal should be to get invited back rather than to have all of their questions answered.

  1. Be Prepared.

An individual is never bigger than the organisation, no matter the position, and this logic is great advice for interviews. Show interest in their business too, and show that you have researched them thoroughly and looked at their website at the very least.

So my top tips are:

  • Define your strategy
  • Do your homework on the company
  • Be prepared for the interview (don’t just ask questions)
  • Be humble
  • And finally….

…be nice to Executive Search Consultants – both as a client and as a candidate. They could be the best friend you’ve ever had!

Anne Fenton

Managing Director, Lumina Search