Our roundtable with readers struggling in the pandemic employment market. With Sophia Petrides, Robin Rose and Andy Inman
I work in radiography recruitment. During the pandemic, the firm which I’ve worked at for ten years – and to whom I’ve been very loyal – has taken Covid-19 as a chance to renegotiate my package, cutting my commission from 20% to 15%. I like the company and want to stay there but feel they’ve taken advantage of me. It’s also a niche area. I’m unsure what to do. Kieran, 36, Fulham
Sophia: Kieran, as you know, Covid-19 has created a ripple effect in the economy. Both private healthcare and NHS are prioritising urgent cases due to the restrictions and this is having an unexpected knock-on effect for some specialist recruitment services. I suggest you have a very open discussion with your firm to get the full picture of the direction of their business. I would suggest a compromise where you ask them to review your package again with a view to restoring your original rate.
Robin: Cutting your commission at a time like this, at first glance, looks somewhat unfair. As commission is related to additional business, it appears strange that they should wish to reduce this element of your remuneration. Perhaps they feel you are earning too much related to others in the firm? I can appreciate that you feel your sector experience is niche, but your skills are more easily transferable than you think. You may or may not have exclusion clauses in your contract that limit your approaching rivals. However, your recruitment skills would be of value in any medical sector recruitment area and there’s no shortage of jobs in this sector now. After ten years it may be time to start looking anyway.
Andy: I agree with Sophia and Robin. If you decide to stay, make sure that you’re happy with the reasons for your decision and not just taking the easy option. Being a disgruntled and unhappy employee is not a good option for either side.
I was made redundant at the age of 40 during the first pandemic. Eventually I landed a job for a start-up tech company. It’s for less money than I’m used to earning, but the company is noble and looking to tackle climate change. However, I’ve now got through to the final round of a job for a bigger institution which will pay double. I feel it might be unfair on the first company to leave, but the money from the second company would be good, as I have a daughter. What would you advise? Sally, 40, Manchester
Andy: Sally, the reward we get from employment is not just the figure that we are paid at the end of each month: being fortunate enough to work in a role and company that resonates with your inner self is rare. That said, you have responsibilities to your family and it’s important that you’re able to fulfil yours their needs. If the extra remuneration is what drives you then see the selection process out to the end, if you’re offered the job think carefully where your priorities lie. Don’t worry about the start-up; I’m sure if you move on, they will employ someone else. If you decide that there is more to work than the pay, then you may already be in the right place.
Sophia: Andy’s right. You mentioned your current employer wants to tackle climate change. If this is very important for you, then perhaps consider staying in your new role and have an honest talk with your employer regarding your renumeration and your current earning trajectory with them. Working for start-ups can be a gamble but on the other hand, if they offer performance related bonuses or share options, success can mean great financial rewards for employees.
Robin: Sally, if you’re working for less than you are able to earn, you are in effect, making a charitable donation to a start-up. Maybe there is a better way you could support them while still maximising your earning potential. You may also have to negotiate a staggered start time with your new employers.
It used to be that I did well in interviews – me and my partner used to joke that interviews were my superpower. My first few interviews I got the job. But in 2020, that skill seems to have deserted me. I am told from feedback after interviews that I am too assertive and ambitious. I am new to rejection and finding it difficult. Do you have any advice? Dominic, 34, Leeds
Robin: Dominic, your experience is not unusual. Assertiveness and ambition is valued in times of growth but seen as a threat in times of austerity. Companies prefer certainty in these uncertain times. If you give a potential employer the impression that you’re likely to move on if they can’t promote you quickly enough, they’re unlikely to invest in your learning curve. Think about how you might respond to questions like, “Where do you see yourself in three years’ time?” 0r, “Why do you feel this role is right for you?” The fact that you are sufficiently self-aware to identify the problem suggests that it will not be too long before you remedy the situation and regain your superpower in interviews.
Sophia: I’d only add that prior to your next interview, I suggest you roleplay with a trusted friend or find a professional to work with you, like a career coach. We are not always aware how we are perceived by others, in particular during challenging times, where we have a need to survive!
2020 has been hard for me. I know every time I apply for a job that there are thousands of other applicants. But now I see that there might be a 90% effective vaccine, and I wonder whether I should just wait it out and hope the economy improves. My parents say this is a lazy approach, but my heart sinks every time I apply for a job, I know deep down I’m not going to get. Do you have any advice? Greta, 22, Guildford
Andy: Greta, this year has been a shocker for many, the news of a vaccine is a rare and very welcome glimmer of light on the distant horizon! During difficult times some will thrive and others will fall by the wayside. To be amongst the winners we need to put ourselves out there, take the rejections, learn, adapt and keep moving forward. Don’t take a job rejection personally: use it as an opportunity to learn, The Roman philosopher Seneca said “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation”.
Sophia: Greta, you are not alone! Even though the future is uncertain, you cannot give up. Keep persevering. It’s easy to lose hope after rejections, but the truth is there are always more jobs and there is no good reason why you shouldn’t get one of them eventually – unless you stop applying. Perhaps seek guidance from a professional CV advisor to support you.
Robin: Greta, you’re quite correct that sending off hundreds of applications is depressing – and for the most part a waste of time in the current situation. Your parents are also correct, it could well be a couple of years before the economy recovers sufficiently to alter the job/candidate ratio even with a proven successful vaccine.
There are jobs out there that need to be filled, however. They get filled by candidates who genuinely understand their skills and experience, know who would value them and know how to market themselves. Jobs get filled by people who know how to get in front of the right people and how to handle themselves in social and interview situations. Possibly you need to identify a mentor who can help you in these difficult times. Look for someone who knows the sector you are targeting and can possibly help you with your self-development and targeted job-hunting activity.