In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people are either working from home, or nervously in an office setting right now, or are already unemployed, and there is a collective anxiety that rolled in like a fog overnight. Many are wondering if they’ll have a job tomorrow, and worse, folks already unemployed are wondering if there is any hope in sight.
I won’t sugar coat this – it sucks.
This whole thing sucks. For some sectors, despite the government working toward relief efforts, this is devastating. Truly. For other sectors particularly those in tech or corporate life (which is where our focus is for this story), there is a recovery in the future.
It’s universally awful, but it’s not an impossible situation.
In fact, this could turn out to be a major advantage for you if approached properly.
Before I tell you the bad news, then the good news, and then offer advice, let me first assert that employment is a topic close to our hearts here at AG. Although you’re reading this on the pages of an entrepreneur news site, you may also know that for nearly a decade, we’ve operated the Austin Digital Jobs group on Facebook (and hosted quarterly recruiting mixers that average 450 attendees (which are obviously on pause right now)), but you might not know that we also launched the Remote Digital Jobs group on Facebook.
We’re in the trenches with job seekers, employers, career coaches and the like. Every day. Which means we’re having hundreds of conversations about how COVID-19 is impacting employers and job seekers.
So… let’s start with the bad news first.
It’s no secret that there is an air of uncertainty right now. We’re collectively holding our breath, prepared for the worst but hoping for the best. The universal virus we’re all infected with right now is anxiety – employer and employee alike.
Some employers are moving forward as normal because their industry is thriving in this time, others are hard hit and looking at their reserves and hitting pause on hiring.
Many companies have a hiring freeze in place right now, but they’re not public about that in any way, so as a job seeker, you’ll never know which are in this situation.
Others are following bad advice from venture capitalists and are considering blindly axing people. Some already have.
Layoffs are here. Not en masse yet, but if a company has no money, it can’t pay employees, and smaller companies are currently facing that reality.
But here is the good news. For YOU, anyways.
In this time where an entire workforce has been sent home to work, some folks are going to shine as they are reliable, communicative, and think creatively. Unfortunately, others are going to struggle and sink.
Sinkers open up critical spots on the team that need to be filled to keep operations moving. That could be a spot free up for you!
Further, employers are reconsidering their roster right now. They may be trimming some figurative fat.
For example, one small software development company in Austin told us they would make it through the storm if they made the hard decision to let go of two senior developers they had hired who had negotiated extremely high salaries. With those two salaries cut, two people have lost their jobs, but the company will now hire one senior developer and pay them an Austin salary, not a California salary they had originally paid to attract that tippity top talent.
That could be good news for you. And there are plenty of companies doing just this.
Additionally, companies are looking at their future hiring needs for “when this all ends,” and we’re being told that many companies are currently hiring for the summer, which sounds far away, but is about as long as the hiring process often takes anyhow.
While not a total win, we’re hearing news that implies companies don’t expect COVID-19 to wipe out their business, or hold them back indefinitely.
So should you even bother applying for jobs right now?
The answer is: Yes, absolutely, but you’re going to have to change your approach.
Job interviews are going virtual, so get ready. You’re going to have to test out all of your video platforms with Zoom being the most common, followed by Skype – don’t wait until you’ve landed an interview to test your tech. You’ll have to test your lighting and sound (and probably wear in-ear headphones with a standard mic). Do that today if you can, even if it’s just a friend you’re video chatting with as a test. Here are some quick tips.
You’re going to be tempted to apply to as many jobs as possible and play the numbers game.
That feels good because you’re seeking to control something in this time of uncertainty, but you’re working against yourself and missing opportunities. Plus, it’s lazy. Sorry, it’s true.
Take the time to groom your resume and cover letter. Send it to everyone you know and ask if they’ll pretend to be an employer and opine when they have time, that you’re looking for criticism, not praise.
If you have savings and can afford a professional resume writing service to help you, make that investment right now. If you have comfortable savings, hire a reputable career coach to speed up the process and work with you on your strengths and weaknesses.
Every application you submit should be refined for that specific employer. Before applying, read the job posting three times in a row. Then, read the company’s Career page, their About page, and see what they tweet. This will all tell you what’s important to them (plus, the keywords you’ll need to use to get past the applicant tracking system robots and into the hands of a humans are IN THE JOB LISTING, so use them). This will help you to tell your story in a way that answers their needs.
Take the time to get to know each company before introducing yourself, it’ll make an immediate difference. This is why you can’t really apply to 100 places in one day, it’s unrealistic and puts you at a disadvantage.
Aside from transitioning to video interviews and customizing every application for quality, these times call for some things I’m scared to ask you for, but this pandemic demands grit and patience.
And that’s so much easier said than done.
You’ll have to keep pressing forward, even when you don’t feel like it, and even when it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning. And you’ll have to really wrap your mind around the fact that employers aren’t moving as quickly as they were just a month ago. Response times are slower, so landing an interview takes more time, and post-interview decisions will take even longer.
And that doesn’t sound appealing when you’re worried about paying rent in a few days. It’s not appealing, and we are by no means minimizing that fact or your feelings about it. These are the cold realities of these COVID-19 times.
In these desperate times, your only choice is to take a deep breath and approach job hunting the right way, knowing that companies are shuffling the deck right now. It won’t be in fast motion, but there’s a chair for you about to open up, and you should be pushing your hardest to be the one to fill it.
From the depths of our hearts – know that we’re pulling for you.
Keep your company’s operations lean by following these proven strategies
(BUSINESS) Keeping your operations lean means more than saving money, it means accomplishing more in less time.
The past two years have been challenging, not just economically, but also politically and socially as well. While it would be nice to think that things are looking up, in reality, the problems never end. Taking a minimalist approach to your business, AKA keeping it lean, can help you weather the future to be more successful.
Here are some tips to help you trim the fat without putting profits above people.
Artificial intelligence frees up human resources. AI can manage many routine elements of your business, giving your team time to focus on important tasks that can’t be delegated to machines. This challenges your top performers to function at higher levels, which can only benefit your business.
Consider remote working
Whether you rent or own your property, it’s expensive to keep an office open. As we learned in the pandemic, many jobs can be done just as effectively from home as the workplace. Going remote can save you money, even if you help your team outfit their home office for safety and efficiency.
In today’s world, many are opting to completely shutter office doors, but you may be able to save money by using less space or renting out some of your office space.
Review your systems to find the fat
As your business grows (or downsizes), your systems need to change to fit how you work. Are there places where you can save money? If you’re ordering more, you may be able to ask vendors for discounts. Look for ways to bring down costs.
Talk to your team about where their workflow suffers and find solutions. An annual review through your budget with an eye on saving money can help you find those wasted dollars.
Find the balance
Operating lean doesn’t mean just saving money. It can also mean that you look at your time when deciding to pay for services. The point is to be as efficient as possible with your resources and systems, while maintaining customer service and safety. When you operate in a lean way, it sets your business up for success.
How to apply to be on a Board of Directors
(BUSINESS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.
We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.
Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:
1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.
As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.”
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).
The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.
Average age of successful startup founders is 45, but stop stereotyping
(BUSINESS) Our culture glorifies (yet condemns?) startup founders as rich 20-somethings in hoodies, but some are a totally different type.
There’s a common misconception that startups are riddled with semi-nerdy, 20-something white dudes who do nothing but sip Nitro Brews and walk around the open office showing off the hoodie they wore yesterday. It turns out that it’s extremely rare that startup offices resemble The Social Network.
However, the academic backdrop for the real social network story (AKA Harvard), produced statistics that will serve to put the aforementioned misconception to rest. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45. Say what?! A full-fledged adult?!
In fact, aside from the age category of 60 and over, ages 29 and younger were the smallest group of founders that are responsible for heading the highest-growth startups. I guess you can accomplish a lot when you’re not riding around the office on a scooter all day.
The study also found that older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. The probability of extreme startup success rises with age, at least until the late 50s. It was found that work experience plays an important role.
Many will argue, “Well, what about someone like Steve Jobs?” You could easily argue right back that it took Jobs until the age of 52 to create Apple’s most profitable product – the iPhone.
The study continues to answer questions like, why do Venture Capitalist investors bet on young founders? This goes back to the misconception at the start, and there’s a notion that youth is the key for successful entrepreneurship. Wrong.
There is also the idea that younger entrepreneurs are likely working with less financial options, so it may be common for them to take something from a VC at a lower price. As a result, they could be viewed as more of a bargain than older founders.
“The next step for researchers is to explore what exactly explains the advantage of middle-aged founders,” writes Pierre Azoulay, et al. “For example, is it due to greater access to financial resources, deeper social networks, or certain forms of experience? In the meantime, it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms.”
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