By Jason Fleischer
As we look back on the past few months and think about the future of our careers, it is clear that some things will change. COVID-19 delivered both challenges and a few silver linings when it comes to making choices related to our careers.
What motivates people to make a career change, for the most part, will remain the same though. Typically, we see professionals make career changes when they are unhappy with their job, team, compensation, benefits, or are looking for a better quality of life. These factors have been primary drivers in the past and will continue to be into the future. What has changed are the methods of interviewing and some outdated corporate policies and benefits. Work from home policies are an example. This shift in particular benefits both candidates and employers. What follows are a few other changes candidates will want to consider in the current COVID-19 environment and beyond.
Cast a Wider Net
Some people may be holding on to their current jobs for security and a steady income, but there has never been an easier time to take an interview. Before the pandemic, an interview meant a day off, calling in sick, or leaving early, possibly suiting up when your firm is casually dressed. There were many hurdles, just to get to that interview. As a result, candidates were likely forced to be extra selective -- possibly missing out on something great because they ran out of time, personal days, or energy. Virtual interviews, however, offer the opportunity for candidates to cast a wider net. They can take a call or video meeting from home. This scenario is a win-win for candidates and companies looking to fill positions. Recruiters are seeing candidates start and finish the entire process virtually, without visiting the office. I am not sure if the entire interview process will remain virtual forever, as there is still an appetite to hold final rounds in person, but the ability to advance the recruitment process via virtual interviews has never been easier. Also, a wider region is open for searching. A candidate who previously only focused on opportunities in Philadelphia, for example, may – if they are no longer required to physically be in the office five days per week – look at firms in central or northern New Jersey, New York City, Westchester, or Connecticut.
Employer Brand More Relevant than Ever
Candidates will now consider how potential employers handled COVID-19. What did they do for their people during the pandemic? This could be a real differentiator. Here are a few questions candidates could raise:
- Were employees allowed to work remotely at the onset, or was this drawn out?
- Were they given flexibility on the return to office-based working?
- Will remote working remain a permanent option?
The shift to formal flexible working schedules is happening, and will continue, so firms that return to 100% office-based work may become less desirable. There is no doubt some industries have certain limitations, but this will be a factor in attracting and retaining talent.
Many are realizing that remote working comes with benefits.
There is a change coming in travel for those in internal audit and advisory. Some large firms had required up to 80% international travel for internal audit in the past. For applicants, that travel commitment is too much. I spoke to the chief internal auditor of a Fortune 100 company who shared that the company is conducting audits virtually, using artificial intelligence, and still meeting its deadlines. This is a significant advance for the function, and suggests that while there still would be some travel moving forward, it may not ever return to the same level.
When it comes to job searches as the crisis settles, you should be less concerned with gaps in your résumé that may or may not have been driven by the impact of COVID-19. Most hiring managers, as was the case after the global financial crisis of 2008, understand the impact crises have and will be more forgiving. If you find yourself unemployed, view this time as an opportunity to consider a new path. Seek counsel from your industry body, mentor, peers, and recruiters.
If you are looking to move positions, the key things to consider remain, for the most part, the same:
- Reach out to people that you trust in the industry or a company.
- Build and maintain meaningful personal and professional relationships.
- Educate yourself about new career paths and employers: talk to a recruiter that specializes in your area.
- Know that an interview does not obligate you to take a job. It is an opportunity to learn more.
- Navigate your way through uncertainty by focusing on your goals.
Jason Fleischer is a partner with Abacus Group LLC in New York City. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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