SPECIAL: the WoW LIVE EVENT - PART I

On October 9th the WoW shifted gears and went LIVE together with the panelists who took part of the first Season. During the live we addressed questions and topic coming from the participants: what's the current job market looking like, how to reset your job search strategy in these challenging times, how to stay WoWed! In this Special Session I was joined by Sunita Malhotra, Mona Amin, Karin Wierinck, Irina Bouras and Andreea Coman.

00:02 Paola Granati: Hello everyone. Welcome to this very special episode of The World of Work podcast. It is actually the recording of a live session that we had on October 9th, Friday, October 9th, where we were joined by about 28-30 participants in a Zoom call. And when I say we, it was myself, Paola Granati together with the five panelists who took part of the session together with me, that's Irina Bouras, Mona Amin, Andreea Coman, Sunita Malhotra, and Karin Wierinck. And we covered three main topics in about an hour and a half. 
00:39 PG: And the first one was, once again, let's look into the numbers, the trends, the facts. What's the job market looking like at the moment? It's not as difficult as it seems. And we will hear about that. And then the second part is, Well, given this context, given these numbers, given the situation, what is it that we may need to do differently in terms of our job search strategy, but also more importantly, what do we need to do to reset some of the expectations that we have. 
01:08 PG: And that does include as well, the time that it's gonna take to find that next new job. And then thirdly, of course, how to keep fueling ourselves and our energies? So we make sure we stay resilient, we stay positive, we stay focused, and we stay confident. That not withstanding the potential nos, not withstanding the potential rejections, we still stay focused, move on and continue in our job search. So we kick it off with the external view together with Irina Bouras who helps us understand what are the numbers looking like? 
01:45 PG: Irina, tell us a little bit about what's the market out there? What is it like? 
01:49 Irina Bouras: Thank you for the introduction here, Paola. Obviously, representing the recruitment field, I can provide you with some data and a little bit of an overview of what's been happening in the last couple of months, actually. Because first and foremost, as I mentioned in my introduction, I'm very much specialized within the life science sector. So as part of a recruitment agency, we do cover a lot of roles on behalf of our clients within this spectrum. The reality of things is that in the last couple of months, in the last six months, to be exact, from March onwards, the volume of hiring has definitely decreased. And we've seen an impact from that side as well, because there's definitely not that same rhythm in terms of hiring and particularly within the life sciences, we've noticed that some of the projects and some of the positions that we were hiring for beforehand, have either been halted or just put on the bench for the moment. 
03:00 IB: However, in terms of what is expected from Q4, I have to say that the hiring plans will definitely strengthen towards the end of the year this year, in all EMEA countries, actually. To be exact, 24 out of 26 countries. When instead, in comparison to last year, I would say it's still not as high a volume, but it will definitely increase in comparison to what we've seen so far during this year. So your efforts will surely be appreciated during this period towards end of the year when we will see a lot of improvement in this area. 
03:41 IB: Regarding the overall view in industry and locations, geographies as well, I have to say, there have been noticed a few improvements in terms of particular countries. And the strongest labor markets are anticipated in Greece and Poland towards the end of this year. However, the weakest will be the UK and Croatia, to be exact. In fact, the Polish labor market seems to have bounced back, expecting an increase in the hiring pace in Q4 across all industries. And at the exact extreme opposite, we find the UK where employers continue to struggle with the hiring volumes actually, and there's still a market slump in seven out of nine industries covering telecommunications, also transport, finance and manufacturing. So things are still not recovering as fast as we would expect. However, there are also markets like Germany where the growth is pretty steady. So we don't necessarily see a huge increase, we also don't see a huge decrease. Things have been moving quite steadily. There is still an impact in the manufacturing industry that Germany has been struggling with in the last couple of years, not necessarily corona related, but this is definitely not expected to change right now. 
05:14 IB: If we move it along in the life science industry, actually, I still have to say, we are part of a very resilient industry. Around 55% of companies have said that they haven't decreased their volume of hiring, but 45% have. So things have stayed quite normal in 55% of companies as ManpowerGroup has actually surveyed. And we are very positive that this is not going to change. 
05:45 IB: In fact, it's going to increase towards the end of this year. So I do believe that this industry is still one that you need to keep an eye on. There's definitely an impact and a positive increase in CDMOs, for example, particularly related to manufacturing, biologics and gene therapies. Also, the medical technology industry has seen a good increase. And it's not necessarily a surprise, but the consumable sector has seen a huge increase on the back of the coronavirus crisis, actually. 
06:24 IB: But apart from the traditional industries, I would say there are a lot of other skill sets that are emerging as new skill sets in this spectrum. And I would definitely think that Mona has some things to share with us from the corporate side of things, apart from what we see, as a middleman, bridging the corporate to the job seekers. Mona, I will leave it to you. 
06:50 Mona Amin: Thank you so much for giving that big broad overview, that was really nice, especially hearing from what's happening in different geographies, different countries. From where we are sitting, the way we see it is that the sectors which are hiring pretty much revolve around essential work, science, technology. So if you just broadly split it into three, all the essential work which means food retail, online retail, medical, hospital sector, this is still hiring, but maybe not to the pace that they were in before, because they're not even letting people go so or people are not leaving as well very easily so the movement has reduced but it's still pretty much ongoing and you do see people who are needed in this sector. 
07:39 MA: There is also activity that's happening in the startup NGO sector, startup sector, care sector, and consulting. I think Sunita you went through that in our call yesterday that consulting is hiring as well and these are the requirements or the skills that are needed on a need basis in different organizations. So whether it's consulting, whether it's a start-up where there's a lot of movement happening, there are startups that are letting go of people but there are startups that are very actively hiring as well, it's mixed. So again, pretty much resonating towards these sectors but when we say these sectors are hiring, it doesn't mean that every job in these industries are up. And I give you example where I work, I work in the pharmaceutical sector, and there is not much activity around sales and marketing, and that's for a very good reason because that's affected tremendously because of COVID. 
08:43 MA: There is however a lot of need when it comes to functions that are critical to business whether it's regulatory, whether its quality, compliance, finance, these skill sets are there to stay. They will stay for a long time. And so you do see that when there are open positions in critical functions or fields, these are absolutely getting filled in or these are going out in the market but when it comes to sales, marketing, product specialism, there's a little bit of cautiousness. 
09:19 MA: We're not holding off on recruitment but there is caution to say, "Do we really need it now? Can we watch out for a few months? Do we really see how things are evolving? How these roles will evolve as well" because these are not the classic roles that will stay as is. These roles are going to evolve as well. And so there's a little bit of caution to say, "Let's hold on and let's wait to see a little bit more of what's going to happen before we start hiring in these sectors", but again, if it is critical, even within these roles, the hiring is on. 
09:55 PG: Mona, actually link to what you were also saying, quite a few of you in the survey were asking questions about working arrangements, what are the new type of working arrangements, employment arrangements, you know, part-time, flexible work time, working from home, etcetera. I think Mona and team, we're also seeing a trend, more and more companies are exploring different alternative options of employment opportunities that we are seeing an increase more and more of this flexibility, not only in terms of where you're working, but actually how many hours you're dedicated to which type of jobs because there is a realization out there that flexibility is going to be the name of the game when it comes to finding employment. 
10:37 PG: So I don't know who would want to chip in on that, and maybe Andreea, I do know you have some numbers before we pivot perhaps into as well, Karin's view on, these are the numbers, this is what the market is telling us, but let's see what the real-life experience is as well as we are navigating and looking for new opportunities, maybe Andreea, you would like to chip in a little bit on that conversation before we hand it over to Karin. 
11:05 Andreea Coman: Of course. You mean particularly on the vacancy that are recruiting?
11:11 PG: For example, yes, you can share with us a little bit the numbers that you've researched. 
11:16 AC: Of course, of course, but I will first start like I go back to the March month when everything started basically, where personally I have seen that numbers of hiring on permanent role decrease and contractor roles increase, at that time. We have also observed that the duration of contractor roles that were previously budgeted for have been shorted from 12 months to six months, for example, but due to the pandemic situation, as Mona mentioned previously, we have seen a high demand for roles within quality, compliance and regulatory affairs. Since September, however, because some sales role are already are on the market as well, and there is still a focus on hiring employees for permanent position rather than contractor roles due to the nature of job and also because companies are looking for talent who can commit for a longer period of time to try it. 
12:35 AC: Then let me give you... Let me share with you some roles that are hiring fully or within this period, such for example, statistician and mathematician, we have a tendency to say that there will be within the coming years a 30% growth in the field. Genetic consultants as well, 27% growth, operational research analysts, we will have 27% growth. Medical and health service managers as well, I think around 18% growth. Computer and information research scientist, 16% growth within the coming year. We will also be hiring within epidemiologists, sorry for the pronunciation... 
13:40 AC: We have seen 400 more jobs. Biomedical engineers as well, 700 more jobs. Microbiologist, more than 1000 jobs, chemical technician as well, more than 1000 jobs. Biochemist, and biophysicist around 2000 jobs, biological technician, more than 5000, medical scientists more than 10,000, medical and clinical laboratory technologist and technician, more than 35,000, which is wow. So we can clearly see that within those sectors that I have mentioned, there will be some job within the coming year. 
14:34 PG: So we're seeing that this trend of the STEMs, the famous STEMs, right under the scientific area of math, chemistry, the sciences, etcetera. I think there's still room for the humanities, by the way, for those who are still interested in, whether it's in HR or other fields, including commercial and marketing. I do know we have a very diverse group of participants, ranging from marketing to finance, to HR, and I think, as we were saying before, that's gonna... 'Cause you all have your experience if you're in the market at the moment, and you know as well what it's like and all of these numbers, may sound a bit distant to you. 
15:15 PG: Let's see what the reality is from your own personal experience, and in this I really want to ask Karin to chime in, as a senior HR executive who's also on the market, who knows how to navigate when it comes to looking for new opportunities and her own professional development. And I think, Karin, I'm sure people would really appreciate getting your personal experience with this somehow bumpy job market that we're faced with. 
15:57 Karin Wierinck: So I would maybe start by saying, Paola, that... Of course it's not a one- size fits all scenario, right? We could hear that in some cases, there's still growth, maybe to a lesser degree, but still growth, so depending upon the country, the sector, the job, the skill set, the answer will be a different one. For me, being in HR, and then particularly focusing on Life Sciences, that's where my experience is coming from, so it's that segment of the neighbor markets, that crossover, if you like. So, what have I... And this is anecdotal information that maybe competes some of what we have already heard. We've started by saying that, as I already mentioned, I entered into the job market actively in May. At that moment in time, I had made a very expansive list of search firms with my targeted geographies, with an emphasis on Life Sciences and on HR. And I've started reaching out to them, and it was very easy. So you pick up the phone or you send an email and you have an appointment that same week, so then you know that things are super slow, right? Because this is not business as usual. 
17:20 KW: If then I move forward a couple of months, then I could see and experience myself that in June, some jobs, maybe they were not the jobs that were for me per se, but some jobs started to materialize. Then July, August kind of went into a dip a little bit, mid-July went into a dip. And now it seems to be coming back to the June level. However, only as late as last Monday, I spoke to a search firm, UK-based... So to confirm in a way, the story of UK is one of the countries that is struggling, where they were saying that they have opened up a contract branch, because their regular permanent branch is not doing well enough. And the consultant was saying that for them, they hear from companies that, "We're in budget load, we're going to delay hiring and we're going to ride the waves of 2020 and then we'll see what '21 brings." Another search firm in Switzerland, actually a global search firm, I should say, because the person I spoke to was Switzerland-based, but global search firm, commented on the fact that they have done significant layoffs because business is not at the level that it was pre-COVID. So, end of February timeframe. 
18:57 KW: And then yet another one commented on the fact that they have asked their consultants to take a significant pay cut. So, why do I tell you all of this, right? So, I do think that we have to count on... It's not at a level that it was in February, and I'm always a believer in plan for the worst and hope for the best, and also, I would say know your markets, right? What is the market that you are in? And then calibrate your expectations and your approach relative to that targeted market and that targeted job market. So what does that mean? If you're not in Poland or in Greece, but if you're in the UK or in Croatia, as you were saying, Irina, then I would definitely count on things taking longer, because then if it would normally be six months, then maybe it's gonna be nine, 50% more than what would be the normal time to land a job. 
20:07 KW: I think you'll also need to count on the fact that if there are fewer opportunities and we all hear about people that have lost jobs and that have entered the market, there will be more candidates, so competition is gonna be quite stiff to a degree. And that means that, okay, how can you prepare and how can you stand out? And, show a different side, so that you know, you're attracting attention to you. 
20:34 KW: I would also say that if you were maybe working in hospitality and you're in HR, then for sure you could look at other sectors, right? Maybe there are other sectors that are doing well and that are transferable and you know, very easy or even adjacent in a way. Like for me, yes pharma biotech, adjacent medical devices, services to life sciences, they're adjacent sectors. You can also look at that. I would look at jobs and transferable skills, and I would for sure also think about pay, right. And like as I mentioned, one of the search firms has asked for this pay sacrifice. This is not a single occurrence, so my advice or my suggestion would be when asked about pay, I would always say, look, I would expect fair and competitive pay that is relevant for this particular market, and this particular segment, but I would also determine for myself... What's my minimum baseline? And what will I not go beyond, so that you are clear in a way on what that may be. And maybe something entirely different because all of this is about thinking what your expectations with that specific market that you are pursuing, in a way. 
22:09 KW: I think in the spirit of preparation and competition, I think it's also good that if you're in an active job search situation and you're not working on the job, that you use the time to invest in yourself, right? Whatever that means, I'm like... For me specifically, this means basically three things, it means that I have a coach and I'm working on, you know, some very specific things that are close to my heart. I've signed up for an aspiring group HR director course that runs over six months, that gives me insight into what's new, but also allows me to expand my network and meet new people and different people, and then I also reserve a chunk of time every day to really look at quite diverse topics, right. And diverse topics, either by virtue of podcasts, there are so many on offer. Our Zoom event is an example in a way. But I choose them quite broadly and quite diversely in order to also expand my horizon, and maybe get some new inspiration and use this time productively. So my tips, if you like, sync up your expectations to the labor market and invest in yourself. That would be it from the job-seekers perspective if you like. 
23:43 PG: Thank you, thank you for sharing that perspective, and I think also the key learnings of also what you're saying and the thinking you've had to go through is to say, given this external situation, which is pretty extraordinary, and we don't know when it's going to get any better or any different... We need to reset, as you were saying, our expectations in terms of the roles, in terms of even the compensation, and also use this time to invest in ourselves and to kind of help us maybe even not only invest in ourselves but also do a little bit of soul-searching in terms of what is it as well that we may be looking for, are we still following the same path that we always have been following, are there different paths that we can look into, are there different strategies, jobs search strategies that we can look into. 
24:34 PG: And Sunita, I'd really like your views on that as well in terms of giving this context. And Karin has helped us bridge very nicely between here are the facts and here's my experience with it, and here's what I'm doing with it, and maybe we can zoom back out a little bit in terms of some brush broad strokes, approaches in terms of the job strategy and in the meantime I will be putting out another poll because I want to hear from you out there if you are searching for a job, we did prepare it. Sunita, if you'll excuse me, but while you speak, I'm happy to launch this poll to get a sense of how long at least people have been looking for new opportunities out there before we go into the job strategy poll. Go ahead Sunita, sorry. 
25:25 Sunita Malhotra: No problem. Thank you for that, Karin. I think it all was so wonderful to have a practical experience, right, and Karin, being in the job market now, who better than her to share her strategy. So a couple of things you said Karin that really struck me, and one was "Invest in yourself", and I would just reiterate that. Right, and the second is "re-calibrate your expectations". COVID is tough, right, and every conversation, unfortunately, we have these days, we talk about COVID, but COVID actually has a positive side to it, however hard it may be for many of us, I'm sure, you know, have been touched by it, and me personally also with some members of the family. But it is the perfect moment to step back, it's the moment to find the silver lining in the cloud. And when you said "Invest in yourself", Karin, it struck me to say, what can you do when you step back? You figure out who you are. 
26:18 SM: I know we all know who we are, but I'm still figuring out. I'm 54, so it's a perfect moment to maybe recalibrate who am I, what do I actually want, and what am I offering to this market? I think Irina and Andreea as experts have shared a bit of the market, I'm sure all of you have your own knowledge. But who am I? What do I want and what do I offer the market? Now, I'm a very practical person for the ones who know me already, so I'm gonna be, not broad strokes, probably very practical, Paola if you allow me. The job search strategy, there are many, many, many ways to do this, but I have a very simple approach to it because I think sometimes simplicity solves things, right? Three steps. Prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare. That's the first step. Second is target. I'm a marketing person, I'm sorry, I have to say it. And the third is network, network, network, network right? So prepare, target and network, and I'm briefly just gonna give you a couple of strategies and maybe one or two examples of what can be done. 
27:18 PG: And we will leave it at that for now, as I wanna make sure we respect the maximum of the 30 minutes for every episode of "The World of Work" podcast. An hour and a half of audio is a little bit too much, I would say, for all of us. So make sure you stay tuned in and you follow the second part of this very special live event that we recorded on October ninth, and where we addressed these three important areas. 
27:45 PG: What's the job market telling us, what do we need to do differently in our job search and then lastly, what are some things we need to do to make sure we keep our energy levels up. So make sure you tune in to the continuation of this live event. Sunita will go a little bit more into detail into her practical strategies. For every three bullet points she's got another three bullet points and then another three, so make sure you're ready to take notes. [laughter] Looking forward to it. Goodnight, and until the next time, take good care. 

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