When asked how 2019 was for me, it’s easy to say ‘fine’. Gloss over and move on. However now we’re a month and a bit into 2020, looking back, I actually think that last year wasn’t so fine after all.
From a recruitment perspective, August to November was the quietest period in terms of new business I have experienced in 23 years. I felt there was a general apathy, sitting on hands and widespread inaction. Rabbit in headlight stuff. Brexit uncertainty, low consumer confidence and a general election to worry about. Pretty frustrating. And then, on the 12th of December (general election day), business started to pick up. As if all our problems had been solved. A very weird experience indeed.
From a human interest perspective, I have never met so many senior retail professionals looking for another job as I did throughout 2019. The vast majority of these individuals were at varying levels of desperation, although some were actually still in a job. And, looking back, I am surprised how few were organised and had a clear plan to find employment. Depressing.
Map it out
So, that brings me nicely to all those of you who are in jobs and careers right now, who are not just floating along but have a clear plan for your career. It is a good idea to have your career mapped out and know at any given time what your next move might look like. That way, any decision you make can, and should be, aligned to your short and medium career objective.
However, other than aiming to outperform your peers and standing out for the outstanding contribution you make to your company, what else can you do? Great performance should get you noticed within your business, but it is likely that your next opportunity will come externally. So how do you let everyone else know that you’re a high performer, great team player and generally a good egg?
And here comes the dreaded n-word. Whether you like it or not, those with good networking skills and as a result, those with a good network, climb the slippery pole quicker than those who wait to be noticed. And agility has nothing to do with it.
If you hope to make the next step up in a couple of years, start networking now. Stay in touch with all the people you used to work with, see who they can introduce you to (and reciprocate, of course) and make sure that you are remembered for all the right things, update them on career progress and successes and once you’re ready, let them know you are open to opportunities.
What else? Even though LinkedIn has become a proliferation of un-useful information, it is still the number one professional network in your sector, so make sure you are a regular contributor, be that with original articles and posts, re-posting articles you have found useful or of interest, or commenting on content that is applicable to your sector. Join a handful of LinkedIn industry groups and do the same – you have a higher chance of being noticed by relevant decision makers here.
Also, all industry sectors have their own weekly publication, be that Retail Week, Drapers Record or the like. Most post their articles digitally.To get noticed, comment on them – with a bit of luck your comment will be included in the printed version.
Finally, if you can, volunteer to be a speaker at industry events. Tell the audience to leave you their business card, so that you can email your presentation to them – hey presto, a whole new addition to your network.
Reap the rewards
Of course, all of this takes time and discipline. That said, there are a number of individuals I know in the retail industry, who are known to be great networkers and have never had to worry whether they may receive approaches for new job opportunities.
Morale of the story? Dedicate a set number of hours each month to develop your network, make it part of your routine. The long term benefits are untold.
Let me know if I can help.