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Natalie Singer answers questions on recession-proofing your career

Posted By APSO, 06 June 2013
Updated: 06 June 2013

In an interview for Fair Lady, Natalie Singer, APSO Chief Operating Officer, provided some advice to employees who were looking to recession-proof their careers.

Q: It’s often said that WHAT you know isn’t as important as WHO you know. Can fostering connections on, say, twitter, or ‘networking’ contribute to making your career more resilient? And can you give any suggestions how people can begin to network?

Personal relationships are imperative in all aspects of our lives and your career is no different. Many people find new opportunities via their network and it’s always a good idea to ensure that if you are looking for a new challenge to let people know, after all, you never know who in their extended network may be looking for someone with your skills and experience.

Networking today happens on all levels whether in person, via clubs and associations you may belong to, or via social media. Of course, the key to good networking is to remember that "actions speak louder than words” and so doing what you can to help other people in your network is always a good place to start. Truly successful networking relies on you offering assistance to others instead of simply asking for assistance yourself. 

Depending on your skill set or interest, establishing an online presence via a blog may also be a good way to get noticed. Sharing your knowledge and experience with others via this kind of platform could generate interest from people or organisations looking for someone like you. Think about your social media profiles as a full-time advert of who you are and what you stand for. As a result, consider carefully what you share online – pictures of your drunken Friday night out or an online argument with someone may jeopardise your chances.  If your profile is "public” remember that anyone can search your name to find you. Increasingly companies and recruiters are using these kinds of searches to check out potential employees. 

Q:Can being friendly, upbeat and personable affect your likelihood of being retrenched?

Retrenchments are usually about more than the individuals involved and relate to the organisations restricting requirements. However, if there are multiple people working within a department and only some need to be retrenched other factors may come under consideration when management determines who to retrench. More than being personable, management will look at who is most productive and adds value to the organisation. 

Given that we spend the majority of our day at work, it makes sense to do what you can to promote a harmonious environment via good relationships with your colleagues and offering assistance to other people if your own work has been completed. 

Q: How important is it to be proactive, and in what ways can employees be proactive to encourage continued employment?

Being proactive is very important. This means that you should continually look at opportunities to improve your knowledge and skill and to gain more experience. This can be through offering to take on additional duties, doing some after-hours studying, even if it’s just online research/reading, or determining what you need to do to be considered for a promotion internally. People are naturally drawn to people who are positive, optimistic and proactive so focus on looking on the bright side and finding solutions rather than always finding problems.

Q: In what ways can we positively distinguish ourselves from our colleagues?

The most important thing is to ensure that you do whatever is expected of you, every time. Of course, the old cliché of "going the extra mile” also holds true. When doing your job, focus on doing it right first time and look at ways to improve; this could mean increased service to customers, cutting costs or determining a more effective way to get things done faster. Management will always pay attention to individuals who have good time management, meet their deadlines, produce quality work, are a team player and who are willing to get stuck in with whatever needs doing .

Q: How important is it to up-skill, & why?

The world is changing rapidly. This is especially true when it comes to technology. It is very important to ensure that you’re up-to-date with information and skills relevant to your job. For example, make it your mission to learn more about the computer packages you use every day. For example if you can only use basic Excel, why not spend some time learning how to take it further, like creating graphs and developing macros? Being up-to-date doesn’t only relate to practical skills.

Knowing what is happening in the world at large is important too. Make sure that you read the newspaper, or at least watch the news, every day. Pay attention to local and world events, especially those that could impact your industry. Subscribe to online newsletters or magazines for your industry/sector so that you can stay abreast of the latest developments. Your boss will definitely notice if you’re able to converse intelligently about business, even if you’re only a junior or in an administrative role.

Q: Can it be beneficial to offer to take a pay-cut?

If an organisation is struggling to stay afloat, they may be willing to consider a pay-cut rather than retrenchment. If the company is willing to go this route then it would be up to the individual to determine whether they feel remaining in the position for a lesser salary was better than accepting a retrenchment package and securing employment elsewhere. It may be best for the individual to do some research before making this decision as their skill set and experience would determine how likely it would be for them to secure alternate employment. Research could be conducted by looking at jobs advertised via online job portals or by contacting some industry-specific recruitment companies to ask for advice on their marketability.

Q: Is there any other advice you can offer?

I would like to give some advice to people who may be retrenched and who are looking for alternative employment. When looking for alternative employment there are a few things that you can do to improve your chances, including:

Quality CV

Your CV is your advertising platform and needs to be perfect. Ensure that you spell check and get a second pair of eyes to look over it as spelling mistakes, missing information or poor layout will create a poor impression of you. Remember to include only information relevant to your job and keep it as concise as possible. Ensure that you have multiple forms of contact information because if the potential employer/recruiter doesn’t get hold of you the first time, they’re not likely to keep trying if they have many other applicants to consider.

Nothing but the truth

Resist the temptation to lie or "expand” your CV. You will be found out. Consider how best to highlight your specific skills and experience, relevant to the job you’re applying for, so that a potential employer/recruiter can easily see why you’d be a good person to consider.

Be realistic

We all wish for a job that pays a lot and requires us to work a little. In tough economic times it may be necessary for you to consider a lesser salary than the one you earned before you were retrenched, particularly if you’d been with your previous company for a long time. Heed the advice of recruiters who understand the market. Remember too that it is in their interest to secure the best possible package as their commission is directly linked to your offer of employment.

Work with professional recruiters

Unfortunately there are scam artists out there who take advantage of desperate job seekers. Don’t fall prey to these scams. It is illegal in South Africa to charge applicants to register with an employment agency or to secure employment. Recruiters earn their money by charging a recruitment fee to the employer. If in doubt, rather choose to work with an APSO member agency that has been vetted against current legislative compliance requirements and who is held accountable to a Code of Ethics & Best Practice. For a comprehensive list of our members, from across South Africa, simply visit www.apso.co.za 

Tags:  attitude  career  CV  employers want  honesty  job search  recession  recruiter  remuneration  retrenchment  salary  skills 

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