Ask the Career Advisor : COVID-19 and Your Job Search

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Employing the right approach enables AI Apprentices to hack the job search process in these uncertain times

Lately, there have been quite a few queries by the AI apprentices on how they can succeed in their job search, given that they will be graduating into a recession of unprecedented scale caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a valid concern. As the virus infection rates surpass 10 million cases worldwide, and with countries such as the US and Brazil in the throes of an infection wave while others like China and Australia reimpose lockdowns in their cities again in anticipation of a second wave of infections, the world’s economies, like cars that were caught in the flash floods in Singapore in June, are finding it difficult to restart again.

Businesses and companies in Singapore have not been spared, with those in the outward-oriented sectors the worst hit. Amid warnings of a spike in business cessations in the coming months and much of the world entering a recession that is expected to last at least 2 years, it is definitely not the best time to be searching for a job. Having left your roles to embark on this 9-month programme, you might have some doubts on how you can rejoin the industry when you graduate. The good news – there are reasons to be optimistic despite the gloom, and there are also creative, new methods that one can adopt to work around different challenges posed both by COVID-19, as well as the drying up of job opportunities due to it.

Confidence is Key

Firstly, it is important to always have a positive outlook, and to look at the situation as a glass half-full. Even when the unemployment rate is expected to rise to 3.6% (according to DBS Group Research [1]), we can see that the converse is true – 96.4% of Singapore residents will remain employed. Even if we accounted for underemployment and the long term unemployed, which has averaged less than 1% in the last few years [2], the figure would still stand at above 90%! It is also good to know that however discouraging the employment situation looks, there will always be sectors which are hiring (for example, the demand for food delivery services, telemedicine and e-commerce have all gone up due to the COVID-19 situation), as well as jobs that are in demand due to changes in how we do business and the advent of new technology.

Just what are some of these jobs? LinkedIn, the world’s most popular and largest professional networking and career development platform recently published its 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, which listed the top 15 jobs in various countries. The top job on the list for Singapore is :

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It also lists Data Scientist, DeveOps Engineer and Data Engineer at numbers 5, 6 and 7, respectively. These are roles AI Engineers would also have the skills for. That’s the first piece of good news.

We can also validate this with actual hiring that has actually taken place recently. Let’s look at the hiring trends from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph data:

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Job titles that were most hired for in March 2020

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Job titles that were most hired for in April 2020

Even in the thick of the Circuit Breaker, more than 5.5% of all hires were for Software Engineers, a role that most of AI Engineers would not be entirely out of depth with. Finally, the proof is in the pudding : close to 80% of the AI Apprentices who graduated in June 2020 secured a role even before graduation!

With this confidence, it is still important not to rest on your laurels. What can you do to further increase your chances of securing that ideal role?

Research, Review and Update

You can start by looking through LinkedIn, job boards and career portals to research the skills and experiences needed for the roles you have in mind. Make a list of those, and think deeply about your past experiences – do you have those experiences? Or if not, do you have similar experiences and transferable skills? Would you have these experiences after the programme? Thereafter, you should thoroughly review and update your resume and your LinkedIn profile, to reflect these experiences and skills.

Network, Network, Network

Of course, one should not neglect networking, even during this period. Why should we do that, you may ask.

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That is because, like icebergs, much of the jobs actually available are hidden. It is estimated that as much as 75% of all open roles at any one time are hidden. These jobs may be outsourced to specialist recruiters retained by the company, are newly created or vacated roles which have yet to be advertised, or are open only to referrals by company employees. The only way to reach these hidden jobs, is to make yourself known to as many people as possible, and the best way to do that is to network.

Gone are the times people attend conferences, workshops and meetings to network in person. With COVID-19 lingering in our midst, networking is now done online. Get warm again with your existing network – interact with your LinkedIn contacts by liking or commenting on their posts, or even better, drop them a note to say “hi”. Make new connections by adding ex-colleagues, business associates, or even people whom you have met at informal settings before. Most people are more receptive to you joining their professional network on LinkedIn if they have met or interacted with you in person.

Increase your visibility and network on Linkedin by writing articles (on topics related to your work or professional interests), or join community groups available on the platform. Outside of LinkedIn, there are also in-person and virtual groups or communities you can join (some good groups with a variety of professions and interests include Lean In and Meetups).

One thing to note though, is to never approach networking with a specific ROI that must be reaped within a certain timeframe. Doing so will cause you to come across as disingenuous and insincere, a trait that you do not want your professional network to associate you with. That lady you chatted with at that conference, or that vendor you spoke with at last year’s project meeting may remember you for a new role in their company, or not – it does not matter. Your goal is to meet as many people as possible, share your professional experiences, and be positively remembered.

Parting Advice

Searching for and snagging your ideal role requires effort, but it doesn’t have to be onerous. If you need advice, you should always speak to a trusted mentor or a career development professional. Fortunately for the apprentices in AISG, both are readily available.


References

[1] Unemployment rate may widen to 3.6% by end-2020: analyst

[2] Data.gov.sg

Author

  • Linus Mok is Head of Learning and Career Management at AI Singapore. He has, in his eclectic 16 year career, flown the friendly skies, taught Physical Education and also created learning roadmaps for a scientific organisation. Outside of work, he is a mentor to students and young adults keen to join the HR profession. For a chat on your career, coffee or for collaborative opportunities, he can be reached at linusmok@aisingapore.org.

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