Making a career move in a pandemic – good or bad idea?

As a headhunter, the most frequently asked questions I have been posed in the last few months are ‘how is the market?’, ‘are companies still hiring?’ and ‘are people actually moving?’.

In my role, I live and breathe these conversations, speaking with executives on this topic every day. I have asked myself many times, ‘Is now the right time to consider a move amongst the personal end economic challenges that this pandemic of a virus has imposed on us all during the last few months,  while so much uncertainty lies ahead?’

To answer these points, there is no doubt that the market has taken a significant hit and hiring new talent has not been a priority for most firms. Instead, their focus has been on how best to respond to the crisis, maintain clients and deliver on work already in progress as best they can.

As a result, the recruitment industry has seen revenues specifically on permanent hires down anywhere from 50%-80%, with a large percentage of pre-COVID-19 retained briefs either being placed on hold or cancelled. With that being said, it’s not all bad news, for there are industries where we have seen a rise in positions being briefed such as fintech, e-commerce, life sciences and healthcare. Digitisation is no longer a work in progress within these fields, but an immediate priority. Therefore, despite many obvious challenges, there are still opportunities.

Although we have seen less movement overall this year, executives are continuing to change roles during these times and companies who have the means to do so are still hiring business critical leadership roles. These hires will either be instrumental to their firm’s survival, or as in most cases, ensure that their firms can maximise business opportunities that will exist once COVID restrictions decrease and global markets re-boot.

Not all firms have the financial means to invest during a downturn or recession, however those that can are well-positioned to leverage a broad talent base on the market and push ahead past less fortunate competitors.  Investing early and smartly could favourably position these firms to successfully leverage the economic rebound.

With that being said, changing positions during tough times is not without risk and it is now as important as ever that you do your due diligence if you are looking to join a new firm and take on a new challenge. This means ensuring that the organisational strategy and leadership of the firm is robust and that the role you are accepting will be just as relevant and aligned to your skill set, goals and expectations in the new world post COVID-19 as it is now.

As a reaction to the pandemic and economic recession, those who started 2020 with a role and company change in mind may decide that the safest option is to stay put and ride the storm out with their current employer. Neither option is right or wrong, however it is worth using this opportunity as an inflection point of your career and what is most important for you personally. Remaining with your current firm may offer the stability that reduces risk in the short term, however could mean you missing an opportunity that will deliver medium to long-term opportunities and the career growth that you aspire to. Calculating the opportunity loss of staying versus the uncertainly and risk of moving is a worthwhile exercise.

Additionally, these Black Swan events can create opportunities that did not previously exist and bring fast changes in the market and environment that could not have been anticipated. Those keeping an open mind, whether they are actively seeking a change or not, may find that there are career openings arising that are worth considering.

In conclusion, there is a lot to evaluate and not one simple answer. Perhaps the best insight I can offer the executives I am speaking to is that I myself have decided to make a move during these uncertain times. Not just a move between firms, but also between continents as I execute on my own well thought out and researched career transition from New York to London. Despite not much being clear, I’m actively embracing the element of ambiguity that comes with any change and am poised and prepared for the new chapter and challenges ahead.

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