It is always a joy and a privilege to address young people who are just about to start a new chapter in their lives. The experience of my recent webinar at European University Cyprus was no exception. Entitled “Different is Better than Better”, it aimed to stress the significance of soft skills in the workplace and, although digital, the session was filled with the students’ drive and enthusiasm to embark on their professional journey after their university studies. For all their obvious excitement, however, I couldn't help but notice that they were also a little ‘off-balance’, obliged to look to a future in a world, which has been dramatically changed this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. This deeply resonated with me, reminding me of the increasing number of requests that I receive every day from professionals who wish to improve their communication and presentation skills in order to have greater chances of being hired.
- How do I make a new start in my career?
- How do I get noticed by employers?
- How do I stand out in the crowd of professionals with similar qualifications?
- How do I start my own business? What are the risks?
- Can you help me polish my CV?
Entering the future means starting afresh in some way. Whether you are a young graduate or a seasoned professional, this year – despite its challenges – is a great opportunity to assess and redefine your values, talents and skills. John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft, a ride-sharing company, was asked during an interview whether economic downturns are good times to start a business. Zimmer, who started his multi-billion-dollar company during the crisis of 2012, replied that a downturn is “a great time” for two reasons. First, he explained that, “The job market might not be as good, so there may be less risk to taking that risk and starting your own thing.” Secondly, he suggested that, during economic crises, “Things are changing, the world is changing, business is changing, people’s preferences and needs are changing, and those are all opportunities. So now I think it is a great time to be an entrepreneur.” Zimmer’s thoughts serve to show that rough times can be opportunities in disguise.
Below are four pieces of advice on how you can make this new beginning the first step towards lifelong fulfilment:
- Focus more on building relationships and less on crafting your CV.
Once you’ve thought about who you aspire to be, take action and use your network wisely. Networking is a powerful tool; Jobvite's 2019 Job Seeker Nation Survey reports that 50% of respondents heard about jobs from friends, while 37% said they also learned about jobs from professional networks. Your network will probably consist of people who can help you and guide you through this process. In this day and age, under the current circumstances, with fewer job openings, it is your relationships that will land you the new job more than your "polished" CV.
- Be creative with your CV.
When applying for a job, it is possible that your CV will be just one of several hundred arriving at the Human Resources department. Like you, all the other candidates will have highlighted their most impressive accomplishments, awards and skills. As my father once remarked, “I have never seen a bad CV.” So, how do you differentiate yourself from all those candidates who have the same CV or even a more impressive one than yours? One way of making your CV stand out is by using visuals such as pictures, illustrations or graphs but if you are applying somewhere that has a specific format of how a CV should look, you need to be creative with your wording. Be concise but, at the same time, try and make your CV more personal to make it more memorable. For example, instead of saying “University projects developed my team-working skills,” go into greater detail and describe what the projects were all about and how you contributed to them. As my friend Michalis Solomontos, a former Googler once told me, a CV won't get you the job but it might “lose you the job”.
- Brand yourself and showcase your value.
Now, more than ever, you need to brand yourself. You are not a product, using your CV as a label. You are a brand. Create an account on LinkedIn and add the transformation you are bringing to your profile header. For example, instead of saying you are an accountant, say: “I make the process of filing tax returns quick and stress-free”. Demonstrate the value of your brand through your character. Speak firmly, listen, learn as much as you can, and pay attention to those around you. Always under-promise and over-deliver.
- Demonstrate your value first.
Let this be the main way you differentiate yourself in the world of job seekers. You should be aiming to deliver value. Trust your judgement and give value to people when it is the right time or when they ask for your help, or even go a step further and give it when you see someone in need of your help. Give without expecting a short-term return-on-investment. The value you put out into the world will always find its way back to you in unexpected ways. Be consistent, be patient, be grateful.
Starting afresh is never easy. But you are never starting from zero.
If you are a young, motivated graduate, you start from a position of potential. If you are a seasoned professional, you start with experience. Being jobless doesn’t mean you’re worthless.
This could be the time when you redefine yourself and create a compelling brand and a bold new strategy for your life.