by Sam at Management 3.0
The pandemic has forced many businesses to scale down, close their doors and lay off people. Many professionals in senior roles are finding themselves for the first time in years, searching for new opportunities, looking for new jobs, competing against younger professionals for positions and navigating a changing employment space. This can be daunting and often force people, who have had high-level positions, to question their abilities, their transferable skills and force them to relearn the job market.
Management 3.0 sat down with a former executive at several European medium sized companies who’s had 20 years experience leading teams in Europe, to talk about the challenges of reentering the job market after leaving her job due to cutbacks at the start of the pandemic. For privacy reasons, we have changed her name. Here is our exclusive interview with the former executive, Casey.
Q: Why did you leave your job at the start of the pandemic?
After 20 years of working in traditional corporate companies, I felt like I had 20 years ahead of me and I wanted to wake up passionate about my job. I felt like I wasn’t emotionally attached to what I was doing and I wanted to feel like I was making a difference and loving what I did. My company was downsizing because of the pandemic and so I took it as an opportunity to change. The word “crisis” in Greek means opportunity, and so I took this moment as a way to redirect my professional career.
Q: What did you learn during the last year and a half since leaving your job?
I got involved in a few freelance projects. I started a small personal business based on health and wellness, which is something I’m passionate about. In doing that I realized that I was capable of learning about a new industry, from new products, to how to build a business to how to sell and that gave me loads of positive energy. I was in unchartered land and I enjoyed it a lot and it made me realize that I was capable of what I put my mind to. But after that I realized that there were a lot of things about traditional corporate jobs that I actually liked, such as financial stability, teamwork, having a boss, being accountable to somebody (not just myself). So that made me start looking to reenter the traditional job market.
Q: What have the challenges been in doing so?
The job market has become extremely competitive and I think that the pandemic has made that even more so because a lot of people are looking for work right now and there are a lot of highly trained professionals and so you really need to stand out one way or another. Interviewing processes have become much more complex and all encompassing, it’s no longer the case that you have two or three interviews and you get the job. Many times these interviews include taking tests, preparing presentations and doing role play for mock situations that could arise. I feel like before, you’d have a few interviews, you’d speak to the head of the department, then HR and it was more of a conversational type of chat, less of an exam or a presentation that you’re being graded on. People now really want to see you in action.
It’s also very much based on connections. It’s more important than ever to think about the relationships you’ve built over the years, and be able to reach out to a larger network of contacts that may be able to help you get a foot in the door. In a more senior executive level position, with a high-end salary, companies really want to know who they’re hiring.
Q: What has been the hardest part for you reentering the job market?
It’s my own self-doubt about my capabilities. Having come from being a foreigner (North American professional working in a European environment), my ability to interact on a professional level with an international customer base was something that was seen as a real plus during these years when I worked in international development roles. I worked in these mid-sized companies where they didn’t really have anyone outside of the national market. But I feel like technology has advanced so much where you’re not just competing against people in your local market, but you’re competing against everyone in the world. Things have gone remote, things have gone digital and things have expanded. So my imposter syndrome stems from the fact that I feel like I never followed a specific methodology, or had particular training for the roles I was in, rather I managed to succeed by doing and learning and leveraging my personal strengths and character traits. Now that the job market has gotten so competitive a lot of people have that formal training and might have a leg up.
I see people in similar positions with different tools, formal strategies and I was in the same positions as them and had no specific tools or fancy strategies but I always had good contacts, and could lead the team and got results. I think I got to where I was previously because I knew the unique selling point of what our business brought to the client and the industry I was working in and I knew our products really well and could identify their pain points and how we could make their lives easier. I might not have the specific academic training but I have a lot of real life experience.
Q: What are you doing to overcome the imposter feeling and to give yourself an edge during the job hunt?
I’m going to dedicate myself to getting more knowledge such as start doing short online courses to help move my professional sea legs. Identify the industries that I’m most interested in and start following the top companies on LinkedIn as well as reading specific trade news sources. Then there’s the mental and emotional part, realizing that my own potential is unlimited and that so much has to do with your own mindset. I’m going to really work on having a growth mindset. That means looking at things as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. So even if I don’t have every qualification needed for a job, it’s reminding myself that I’ve had professional success previously and can use this as an opportunity to learn a new skill-set and remind myself that I’ve done it before and I can do it again.