If you were looking for a job at the beginning of the year compared to today, you would be traversing a very different landscape. COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty in both the economy and employment market.

The decline in attractive job opportunities has resulted in candidates not having as many options as they would normally have. Consequently with more job seekers in the market, there were three times as many applicants for one job as compared to 2019. In some cases, employers have much higher expectations of candidates in the current climate, often actively looking for candidates who are willing to go above and beyond during the interview process. Candidates should show initiative and demonstrate how they can add value to the company and how they can fit themselves into the organisation’s culture.

Despite such circumstances, it is still possible to find a job after tweaking your expectations and drawing the line in areas where you would be willing to compromise.

how to adjust your expectations when applying for jobs

1. revise your career goals

When you are unemployed and actively searching for a job, it is tough to establish your career priorities beyond being able to receive your first salary with a new employer as quickly as possible. However, not having clear goals for yourself can inadvertently slow down your career. Some candidates accepted the offer because the salary matches their expectations, only to resign before the end of the probation period because they do not like the work that they were doing or could not integrate well into the organisational culture. This sets them back in their careers as they have to repeat the job search process all over again.

career plans and goals
career plans and goals

Beyond salary expectations, you will need to define for yourself what you’re looking for to be able to articulate your expectations and career goals to prospective employers and other people in your network. Rather than cast a wide net into the sea, you should be certain about the type of employer that you want to work for and the job that you want to do.

Focusing on developing personal clarity around what you are searching for is not the same as being fussy. Rather, it allows you to narrow your job search on areas where you are most likely to succeed.

2. consider short-term or freelance work

Depending on your personal financial situation, you may want to consider short-term or freelance roles to keep yourself financially stable while you wait for the right career opportunity. Although you may not have anticipated taking on short-term contract roles, the additional income can help tide you over during this period of uncertainty and buy you more time in your job search as you continue your pursuit for the perfect job.

Aside from the financial gain, opening yourself up to freelancing opportunities or participating in the gig economy allows you to expand your professional network. This will add relevant experience to your CV that will give you a much-needed competitive edge in the future. It shows prospective employers your ability to adapt to these challenging times by actively taking charge of your career and skills development. It is crucial that you work on short-term contract roles that can help you acquire transferable skills that you could apply in other jobs, such as conflict resolution, problem-solving and communication skills.

3. prepare for remote interviews and network online

In this age of digitalisation and remote working, it is vital that you get comfortable with online networking events and video interviews as it would drastically improve your chances of getting hired.

Familiarise yourself with the functions in popular video tools, such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts so that you don’t fumble when you need to toggle them on during the interview itself. Even though it might be a little awkward, it is still recommended to practice mock video interviews with your friends or family as they may uncover quirks that are not present during face-to-face interviews. Learn from these challenges and find solutions for a better video interview experience. For example, learning how social cues differ between offline and video conversations, such as knowing when to speak without interrupting, body language and choosing the best background for the interview.

Just because large conferences and physical seminars are not happening doesn’t mean that you should stop networking either. LinkedIn is a great social media platform to connect and interact with other professionals within your industry. You should ensure that you have a powerful online brand. Take the time to build your online presence and update your profile with relevant keywords so that you are more searchable on these platforms, making it easier for employers who are looking to hire to reach out to you.

4. prepare for slower hiring and onboarding processes

As employers adjust their hiring requirements, it is important that you temper your hiring expectations as well. With the surplus of candidates in the market, many employers are taking a longer time to find the perfect talent with the most well-rounded skill set as well as job, boss and culture fit. But the truth is, these unicorn candidates rarely exist.

candidate expectations in hiring process
candidate expectations in hiring process

However, their search for the perfect candidate could mean a slower recruitment process. Depending on the technicality and seniority of the role, some interviews may take up to six months or a year. Therefore, it is always good to have a few applications and interviews in the pipeline so you always have an opportunity to pursue.

With staggered and split teams as the default working arrangements, you may not be able to meet face to face with some of the colleagues that you’ll be working with during the onboarding process and when you start work. Make sure that you always take the initiative to introduce yourself in meetings, emails and video conferences so that people remember who you are and how to reach out to you for support.

5. consider upskilling yourself

Now is the perfect time to pinpoint your skills gaps and seek potential professional growth opportunities. The industry is constantly evolving, and new skills are always needed. There are various online assessment tools that can assist with identifying your own skills gaps such as Pymetrics, WebMentor Skills, Learning Tree, and Knowledge Smart. Depending on the nature of your role and career, you may want to assess your interpersonal skills, leadership skills and problem solving skills.

Once you are aware of where you lack in skills and are committed to make a change, there are plenty of online professional training courses available that do not require much initial investment. Schemes such as SkillsFuture and Professional Conversion Programme offer support to help the local workforce upskill and re-skill themselves.

Leveraging government schemes and programmes should help you feel more confident and make your CV more competitive. It is also an advantage to be aware of what are the skills and jobs of the future that businesses need. This shows prospective employers that you are proactive in developing yourself and willing to embrace change amidst uncertainty.

6. adjust salary expectations

It is critical that you adapt your salary expectations to the overall decrease in hiring budgets during this time. However, it largely depends on your areas of expertise. Some industries that have a severe talent shortage such as deep tech may offer a relatively attractive salary increment to those who switch employers. Professionals working in areas where talent demand is not as high or where there is a talent surplus may still receive a modest salary increment, depending on your skills and experience.

Nonetheless, always check on your skills development and career progression opportunities with your prospective employer as part of the job interview. If the employer is able to demonstrate that they are investing in you as a potential employee through upskilling programmes, on-the-job training or career mobility initiatives, you will have a much better opportunity to grow as an employee, which would open new doors in the future.

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