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Diary of a pro-bono Career Coach

Feb. 03, 2021, at 06:45 PM

Back in December 2020 I had just gone on garden leave ahead of starting my Career Coaching business and was staring into the ‘abyss’ of several weeks at home during a strict national lockdown with very little to do. So, I decided to put this time to better use by offering free career/job market advice to anyone in my immediate or wider network on Linkedin whose role had been impacted by Covid.

The response I got was heart-warming to say the least and a large number of people took me up on my offer at the end of December and early January. Below is a quantitative and qualitative breakdown of the conversations that took place.

In total I connected with 33 individuals by phone or by Zoom which I have broken down by Location, Function, Seniority and the relevant sub-sector of financial services.

Here are some of the common themes I encountered amongst the people I connected with and some of the ways in which I went about helping them:

There was a general over reliance on job boards and agencies/search firms as a way of landing the next role. I had to educate a number of job seekers on the realities of the modern job market and how important it is to be proactive and manage your own luck rather than just relying on others or the click of a button.

I found that some people didn’t know how to effectively leverage their networks in particular their core supporters, influencers and sponsors. Many people overlooked some people as they (rightly) assumed they wouldn’t have any jobs. However, the key thing for me to get across was the importance of updating these people on your status and to see if they have any other ideas, leads or people for you to contact. They can be your eyes and ears in the opportunity market.

One or two people had difficulty identifying their target market in terms of the organisations and the people they needed to build a bridge to and start networking with. I used my knowledge of the global Financial Services landscape to help them focus on a list of target firms and in some cases actually helped them populate their target list with names and contact details. 

There was a lack of appreciation of the power of Linkedin and how it can support your job search in more ways than one, which is hardly surprising as many people don’t use it on a regular basis like a recruiting professional does. I helped people understand how easy it is to connect and build networks and in some cases I drafted some example connection requests or inmails to help them on their way.

In a number of cases I was asked to review a CV and found there were some basic mistakes being made from poor layout and presentation to spelling and grammar! I stepped in to completely re-write a number of CVs, addressing these easily identifiable issues and ensuring that their key skills and experience were organised and presented in a more compelling manner.

A number of people I connected with lacked clarity or direction around what roles they wanted to go for and therefore lacked a suitable ‘elevator pitch’ to market themselves on paper, online and in person. I helped them crystallise their thinking about the types of roles they wanted to target and helped them draft a compelling one-liner to help support their networking, applications and interviews.

There were two individuals looking to relocate to the UK on a British National Overseas visa who lacked good insight into the UK financial services industry and job market. I was able to advise on the likelihood of them finding work and the type of roles and organisations that would make sense for them to target. I also provided guidance on local job boards and agencies that could best help someone with their backgrounds.

Last but not least, there was a general under-estimation of how organised you have to be when it comes to a job search. You need a plan and a strategy (and a spreadsheet) to execute more effectively. I was happy to provide a spreadsheet template that I had used myself a few years ago to organise and track my own work. 

In summary, I really enjoyed engaging and meeting with such a varied group of people with different issues to address, and whilst 45 mins per person wasn’t enough time to provide anything like a comprehensive career coaching experience/service – in most cases it was enough to make a difference. I am staying in touch with everyone to see how they’re tracking as the 2021 hiring market picks up.

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