The impact of COVID-19 can be felt globally, across all industries and sectors. The long-term effects on the economy will potentially take many years to fade. So what is it like to graduate and job hunt during a financial crisis? And how can you overcome the challenges? We spoke to Premkumar Lakshminarayanan and Praveen Karadiguddi (both Full-Time MBA), who graduated during the recession in 2009, about their experiences and advice.
What are the most challenging aspects of job hunting during a recession/challenging economic situation?
Praveen: Patience and mental strength. Job hunting is draining but don’t be discouraged. COVID-19 will not last forever. This too shall pass. Take small steps every day and Be patient. Keep going. It's just a matter of time.
Prem: It is the mental aspects of the job hunt that will be the most challenging to overcome. Reflecting on my own experience of graduating during the 2009 crisis, I think it made me stronger as a person.
What is the best way to deal with these challenges?
Praveen: To be a successful job seeker in this climate, you have an opportunity to jump out of the box, uncover new possibilities and learn fast, be calm, patient and proactive.
Crisis creates new opportunities, so think outside the box. Use the entrepreneurial skills learnt during MBA (or your programme) to see if you can solve any new problem that the market is willing to pay for it.
During the last 2 years the UK market is facing significant challenges due to IR35, Brexit and now COVID-19 shutdown. In 2011 I co-founded Scrumconnect Consultancy which has grown to 130 consultants providing consultancy services to the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), Ministry of Justice and the Home Office etc. We recently worked with the DWP Digital team to deliver a service benefiting pensioners who are self-isolating or shielding during the coronavirus pandemic.
Crisis is always a chance to change and improve as it forces you to think unconventionally and master the paradigms. It applies not only to new products, technologies, and target groups but also to implementing new operating models and opening to new business collaborations.
Prem: Networking with peers and industry leaders will certainly help. Should a job prove difficult to come by, instead engage in freelance consulting assignments via freelancing websites, to keep yourself working on something interesting. This will give you new skills and open up new doors.
How can you make yourself stand out from the crowd?
Praveen: Sell/Market yourself well. Do simple things like:
- Write blogs on your site and LinkedIn (or Imperial!). You never know who is looking because your target audience are silently observing you before they provide you with opportunity.
- Optimize your LinkedIn profile
- Learn new skills - take free courses online
- Build your network and refresh your connections. Get to know your Imperial alumni community
- Preparation [includes] learning how to talk about yourself in a meaningful and powerful way
Prem: Having a diverse background certainly helps. In the absence of that, ability to showcase the growth mindset and demonstrating examples in one’s life where one has been able to handle an adverse environment and come out stronger will certainly help the case.
To be a successful job seeker in this climate, you have an opportunity to jump out of the box, uncover new possibilities and learn fast...
How would you approach job hunting – aim for your ideal job, or get your foot in the door first?
Praveen: There is no right or wrong answer here. The learning when I graduated in 2009 was waiting for the perfect/dream role and not even applying for the roles that were only meeting some of the criteria.
I always remind myself of this famous quote by Steve Jobs “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward”. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma.
With hindsight I would say take the role that comes your way and make it perfect to reach your goals. For example I picked up a Business Analyst role but using that I honed up my change management, stakeholder management and analytical skills etc which helped me when I set up my consultancy firm.
Prem: I took the first job that came my way and I don’t regret it. Talent, dedication and hard work are like a balloon submerged in water. No one can stop it from coming up eventually. If one applies themselves, you can shine through most jobs these days.
Why is networking so important and what are your tips?
Praveen: Work your network. My first job after MBA came from an old connection. I had connected with the person before my MBA and had told her about my plans etc. I reached out to her along with many others and ended up with my first job through networking.
Looking for work during a downturned economy requires a little extra effort. Simply scouring the want ads won't be enough, though it's a good start. Now is the time to expand your horizons and use your network.
Prem: London is an excellent place for networking. Although lockdown has limited these opportunities, one can certainly participate in meetups, conferences. LinkedIn Professional is a great tool too.
What was the most important learning point you took from your post-graduation experience?
Praveen: Recessions and COVID-19 situations are a high-pressure draining exercise, and to navigate successfully, individual's need to be flexible and ready to adjust. The difference I think is in preparation. Preparation in terms of how you apply, what you apply for and adjusting to the wind.
Prem: Whatever goes down, has to comeback up. So hang in there, upskill yourself, network crazily, pick up a new hobby, and stay focussed.
Praveen Karadiguddi is a serial entrepreneur, he lead and founded consultancies of around 140 people previously and is currently CEO and founder of Scrumconnect Consultancy with 130+ people. Scrumconnect Consultancy is providing services to key public services in the UK to Ministry of Justice, Department of Work and Pensions, the Home Office. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prem Lakshminarayanan is a freelance Agile Digital Transformation consultant, specialising in Cloud adoption. He has worked for multiple organisations including legal, media, retail and telco. Prem also advises Saas startups to scale and grow. Prem was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Scholarship for Innovation and Entrepreneurship during his time at Imperial.