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11 steps to finding a job in a recession

Women applying for office jobs in a recession
Women at work and applying for office jobs in a recession

Are you struggling to find work in a recession? Here’s 11 steps to finding a job in a recession.

Are you graduating high school, vocational study or university in the recession? This can be a really scary time to look for a job because you’re competing for fewer jobs with more people. If you’ve read our post on what a recession means for you, you’ll know that in a recession, there are more people looking for work who might have been let go from their jobs. Many entry level programs accept people who have graduated 5-10 years ago, which means that graduates fresh out of university are competing against people with more experience and skills.

A recession means that rejection is inevitable. Increased competition means that you’re unlikely to be the best candidate for every job. But it is possible to turn those rejections into a job offer.

I say this because I did it.

I graduated right after the Global Financial Crisis. I saw friends apply for many jobs and be rejected, while others stayed on for another degree because they couldn’t find a job. I saw people take jobs they didn’t necessarily want because they weren’t able to secure the job they had been training for. And me? I kept at it, I pivoted and moved states to secure a day that started days after I turned in my final assessment.

Here’s 11 steps to finding a job in a recession:

1. Know that people are still hiring

The first step to finding a job in a recession is recognising that people are still hiring. The most recent recession amid COVID-19 has seen people live and work with their family in lock down. To cope with this set-up, we used streaming services more often, bought gym equipment to stay fit and used zoom calls for the first time to connect with colleagues and friends. People may overall spend less money in a recession but they are still spending money and the businesses they’re giving money to will still need to hire staff to help run the business.

2. Find the companies that are hiring

If we know people are hiring, the next step is to identify people are spending their money and the specific companies that are hiring. If people are wanting to spend more money than normal on hand sanitizer for example, companies that make the product need to hire people to help get it onto the shelves. If people are ordering their groceries online rather than going to the shops, supermarkets need to hire people to deliver groceries. Target companies who are experiencing increased demand for their products and services right now and see what positions they have available.

3. Update your CV

Most of us update our CV when we’re applying for a job and then forget about it. Your CV is your calling card. It should outline your experience, your skills and your value to a business, with a clean layout that is easy for a potential employer to read. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to update your CV every six months and please make sure you also proof read it to avoid typos.

4. Customise your CV

Many companies who have a high number of applicants for their vacancies use filtering to cut through the CVs and find the most relevant applicants to interview. This means that the job description becomes more important because it contains many of the keywords that companies will use to filter through the CVs they receive. If you can, try and customise your CV so that it contains those keywords and clearly identifies how you have the experience, skills, and capabilities required to succeed in the role you’re applying for.

5. Make your cover letter personal

If I’m hiring someone, I want to know why they want to work me and my company, not why they want a job in general. Personalise your cover letter to tell me why you’re the right person to fill the role I’m hiring for, the experience you bring and the difference you could make to my company.

6. Practice interviewing

Interviewing is a skill and if you haven’t interviewed in a while, chances are that you’re rusty. Create a list of interview questions, sit down with a friend and get them to practice interviewing you. Practice with different people if you can and mix up the questions and ask for feedback on your responses to refine your approach over time.

7. Apply for specific jobs

It can be tempting to use a scattergun approach to scatter out your CV to every vacancy you can find. The issue is that companies know when you’ve done this. Instead, put your time into tailoring applications for specific jobs you actually want to do and tell the employer in your cover letter why you are the right person for their specific vacancy.

8. Work your network

As you move through your career, you’ll start to build up a network. This can be student friends you’ve studied with, colleagues you’ve worked alongside and bosses you’ve worked for. Your network can be a great source of ideas and opportunities when you tap into it by reaching out to ask for support. This could be a recommendation if they work a company you’re applying for, insight on their industry or an introduction to someone they know. The most important thing is to then pay it forward and offer similar support to people in your network, including mentoring people more junior than you who might not yet have an established network.

9. Be prepared for rejection

More people competing for a limited number of positions means that rejection is inevitable. Getting rejected is tough, particularly if you get rejected multiple times in row. Put a self-care plan in place and keep applying because you will get the right role in time.

10. Adopt a flexible approach

With less jobs available, you might have to be more flexible in the jobs you’re willing to consider. Many companies cut positions to survive, which means you’ll have to do more with less. You might need to consider a different position to your dream job in order to get started in your career such as taking a government job as a policy writer instead of being a journalist. The trick is to pick a position that will give you the skillset you would need for your dream job so that you can pivot in the future.

11. Consider retraining

If you are finding difficulty getting a job with the skills you have, a recession can present an opportunity to retrain. There are many famous examples of people who retrained or pivoted in their career. Ken Jeong was Dr Ken before he became a comedian and actor, Channing Tatum was a stripper before he stripped on screen as Magic Mike, Craig Robinson was a music teacher before he created music with Jake as the Pontiac Bandit in Brooklyn 99 and Hugh Jackman was a P.E. teacher before he danced up a storm on stage. Many governments also subsidise training for in-demand skills so take advantage of this time to retrain and update your skillset.

A recession can make it harder to find a job.

This is particularly true if you’re just graduating from high school or college and don’t have as much experience as other candidates. While you will likely experience a healthy amount of rejection, being strategic in your job search and taking the time to target specific companies with personalised applications can deliver more effective results. As someone who has done it, it is definitely possible to find a job in a recession. Stay with it.

Read more: 5 steps to prepare for a recession

Written by Kate Crowhurst

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