For the four million people who work in British retail the past 12 months has, almost without exception, been extremely challenging. Whether you’ve been stretched to your limit working for an essential retailer or faced with the uncertainty of being furloughed, I would wager it’s not an experience many would wish to repeat.
But it’s those people that have lost their jobs during the pandemic that arguably deserve our greatest sympathy. From store and supply chain workers to senior executives, the demise of businesses such as Debenhams and Arcadia Group has negatively impacted thousands of people.
An enforced period of job seeking is difficult at the best of times, but people in this position now have the added challenge of relaunching their career following the greatest period of disruption to the retail sector in a generation.
So how should you set about the task?
My first advice is to make sure you have a plan. Think about where you would like to be in 12 months’ time and what needs to happen for you to achieve your goal. Don’t be afraid to look beyond your comfort zone. Do you have transferable skills that could add value in another sector or role?
If you have the financial means – perhaps via a redundancy package – now is the time to be investing in your personal and professional development. Give serious thought to getting some one-to-one executive coaching; invest in interview training; and practice the kind of psychometric testing that is increasingly expected as standard by prospective employers.
Consider taking on an interim assignment if the opportunity presents itself. It may not be attractive from a long-term financial planning perspective but it will help you remain sharp and shows future employers that you are both pragmatic and determined to stay engaged with the industry. You never know – an interim role can easily turn into a permanent opportunity if you make a strong impression.
Exploit your network. The worst thing you can do when you leave a role is turn off the lights. Maintain a strong online profile on social media and networking sites. Use the time to connect with old colleagues. You’d be surprised at how many job opportunities are still secured informally via in-house connections.
At the same time, make sure you are known to all the relevant head-hunters in your discipline, but make sure too that those head-hunters do not contact a company without talking to you first. Employers don’t want to receive the same sales pitch multiple times.
When you land an interview be sure to do your research. Read up on the company, visit their stores and research the person doing the interview. Do you have a mutual connection who can give you the inside track on what makes them tick?
Explore the background of a potential employer so you can judge whether their business model is fit for the future. The last thing you want is to join a business whose future is insecure and where job cuts are likely.
All of this advice equally applies to those people still in employment who have had time to reflect on their career during the pandemic and are seeking a fresh start.
The good news is that the jobs market is already showing signs of life once again. At AGP we’ve seen a notable increase in enquiries since shops reopened in April and I fully expect that momentum to continue to build steadily before we see an explosion of interest as we arrive at the Golden Quarter.
Opportunities will present themselves. It’s up to you to put yourself in the best position to seize them.