Happy new year – in spirit, if not yet in reality for many of us involved in the retail sector.
There’s no hiding how bleak 2020 was and early signs are that 2021 is shaping up to be equally challenging amid some grim Christmas trading figures and predictions for further job losses.
Yet it’s also important to focus on some positives. Yes, Christmas was bad, but not as bad as many had feared. Grocery sales continued to soar while online provided a lifeline for many retailers classed as ‘non-essential’.
Had the second wave of the virus peaked in December, things would have been even tougher for businesses, but as it is the greatest pain has been reserved for January.
Moreover, we have, in the shape of the vaccination programme, something tangible on which to pin our hopes for the recovery.
From a job market perspective, things are understandably subdued but businesses are still hiring and people are still looking for their next opportunity. Every year I receive responses to listings on 25 and 26 December, Christmas being the period when people make new resolutions regarding their career. Last year was no exception.
For those fortunate enough to still be employed, leaving the relative security of a job in the current climate is clearly a risky proposition. Given it can take at least six months to find a new senior position it’s important to know you could still pay the bills if you were unfortunate enough to be made redundant during the first 12 months. I would certainly suggest agreeing a notice period no shorter than you are currently on from day one.
More so than ever it is vital to pause and think carefully about your motivations for seeking a change. Is there a problem with a manager or colleague and if so can the situation be resolved? If you are finding the work unfulfilling or too demanding can you seek new responsibilities or delegate some of your work to team members?
Whether you are recently unemployed or planning your next career move it’s vital to keep thinking about your own self-development. In practice, that means giving serious consideration to executive coaching or online learning during a period when every advantage gained over rival job seekers will count double. We should all be thinking constantly (I personally recommend setting aside three hours a week) about where we want to be in six or 12 months’ time and proactively taking steps to achieve those goals.
If you are set on finding a new challenge, it is critically important to get under the skin of any organisation you are considering joining. Retail finances have come under huge pressure during the pandemic and more businesses will join the depressing roll call of failures in the months and years ahead.
Do your due diligence on a prospective employer – dig into their finances, understand their business model and whether they are fit to prosper in a post-Covid world, and consider the extent to which your skills and experiences meet their future requirements. The last thing you want is to join a business whose future is insecure and where job cuts or major strategic shifts are inevitable.
Although we should all exercise caution before making big decisions, for many people now will be the right time to take the next step in their career.
Retailers, meanwhile, still want to recruit the top talent as they look to build back better from Covid-19 or, for those well-positioned in the market, maintain their current momentum.
Whatever our aspirations for the year, I’m optimistic that 2021 will ultimately provide the opportunity for a fresh start.