For people trying to fill open positions and those looking for jobs, these are challenging times, says Mark Hamill, CEO and founder of The Naked Headhunter, headquartered in London and focused on C-suite and succession roles within scaling small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups.

After months of hunkering down in the mountains of the Czech Republic with his family and running his organization remotely, Hamill has been busy traveling to London, Paris, Prague and Berlin, as Europe begins to emerge from the global pandemic.

“London is still suffering the most with tremendous uncertainty,” Hamill says. “Paris is under the threat of further lockdown as is Madrid, which is very unsettling for locals. Berlin and Prague seem to be the most ‘operating as usual.’”

It’s more important than ever that individuals, when it comes to their careers, think carefully about where and how they want to land post-pandemic.

Writing on the wall

Hamill says he is already seeing businesses suffer from losing talented individuals due to how organizations initially reacted to the pandemic. “We are reporting lots of unsettled senior candidates who are disappointed at the way their companies handled the crisis. Many are open for other opportunities,” he says. On the flipside, he says, “The companies who were transparent and engaged openly definitely have come out of it with more energized teams and focus.”

Still, there is no way of getting around it completely. “It’s hard out there for everyone,” he says. “The uncertainty absolutely remains, and there is so much fragility in the markets.”

First time in the job market

Many of the people Hamill is seeing are seasoned managers who have never had to look for a job before because they either moved up the ranks or were recruited to their jobs. “It can be such a difficult place for people to be in, particularly now,” says Hamill. The sheer number of businesses and people being affected since the pandemic began is remarkable, he says. “We’re almost overwhelmed with the number of people coming through.”

In such a tough market, candidates need to develop a thicker skin and not take rejection personally. “You will be rejected, so get used to it,” says Hamill.  “Don’t feel bad about rejections or no-replies. This is part of the process.”

Navigating the new normal

Hamill says that a lot of people are talking about “the new normal” and what that is going to look like going forward. Much of that “normal” will depend on the industry segment. “Some industries have been absolutely torn apart:  travel, hospitality and retail, for example. They’ve been pretty brutally affected, and it’s pretty difficult to see any way out,” says Hamill. “Other businesses, be it online retail or online education or some aspect of finance or communications, some businesses are having the opposite problem: how they can scale and how they can grow. And some businesses are somewhere in the middle: with opportunities to pivot and hopefully find a better path forward.”

So, it may be time to consider a different industry. Make a list of your transferable skills and those skills you could easily gain while looking for a new position. Hamill says it is important to stay “open minded.” For example, a lateral move may be the right way into an organization in these unprecedented times.

Time for upskilling is now

“People who are agile across different functions will become more and more invaluable,” says Hamill. This doesn’t mean the need for specialists who are deep experts in their fields is going away anytime soon. “But in general, people who can work cross-functionally, who have got more of a broader business mindset, from commercial to finance to HR, those people will have more opportunities.”

Hamill says he would “absolutely encourage” opportunities for learning new skills. “It doesn’t have to be formal. It can be through experience or projects or just raising your hand to help,” he says. Put a little bit more of yourself in particular areas and gain that experience. “It’s just being able to talk about it and show what you have learned.”

And even if something you try doesn’t work out perfectly or you make a mistake, you can still share that with a prospective employer. “There’s almost more learning when it doesn’t work out than when it does,” says Hamill. And employers will appreciate not just your triumphs but your missteps as well.

Nobody is living in a bubble that it’s a beautiful marketplace out there at the moment, so treating people with care and with honesty matters. ”
— Mark Hamill, CEO & Founder, The Naked Headhunter share twitter

Honesty and authenticity

Hamill says it’s imperative that businesses are honest and have the necessary conversations with their employees about what the picture is, no matter how bleak. “Nobody is living in a bubble that it’s a beautiful marketplace out there at the moment, so treating people with care and with honesty matters,” he says. “Think about whether there is anything that can be done in terms of job shares, split weeks, split roles, any ways to try to make it easier.”

Second wave likely

“There is predicted to be a much bigger second wave of redundancies, layoffs after the summer,” says Hamill. “In my opinion, it is going to get worse before it gets better in the job marketplace.”

But people are generally resilient, he says. Individuals need to look for those opportunities to become engaged in different ways. Hamill expects to see a rise in project-based, advisory-based consultancy work. He envisions more professional gig economy work in which organizations need people to digitize or transform or work on supply chain, just probably not full time. Instead, they could engage somebody two-to-three days a week for the next three-to-six months and gain that expertise, use that knowhow, get access to that knowledge and experience, he says. So, be flexible and willing to try things you’ve never done before, such as a job share or contract work.

Make yourself visible

Now is not the time to lay low, says Hamill. “As a professional, you need to be seen,” he says. “Your visibility to your marketplace is vital to your securing your next opportunities.” This can be done many ways, whether on LinkedIn or other social media. You want to access your network and your network’s network. Your ability to reach out and connect with people who know you, and people who know people who know you, and having them quickly understand what you can do will be significantly linked to your ability to find something engaging where you can have a little fun, add value and hopefully make some money.”

Being open is key

While the volume of roles in the market is significantly down, Hamill still sees potential revenue streams in consulting and advisory opportunities. “Most companies still don’t have an answer [for what’s next], but they have challenges, and tapping into people who can provide that expertise is more and more critical to their success as well,” he says. “So, there’s really an opportunity to create almost a win-win in a very, very difficult situation.”

Your willingness to try new things will be noticed. “People who can be engaged, who are motivated to learn on the job, who learn fast and have curiosity or a curious mindset, those are people you would want to surround yourself with as a leader,” says Hamill.

Choose wisely

While much of the news has focused on the fragility of the workplace, Hamill says these incredibly tough months will have made bonds and relationships even stronger at those organizations that handled the pandemic well. “How companies behave during challenging times is such a reflection on the leadership and the culture. It’s hard to get a truer reflection,” he says. So, talk to people and reach out to those organizations that shone and got it right. “When times are good, you can say whatever you like. When times are hard, that’s when the truth resonates or reflects the most.”