Episode 7 FAQs – How Employable Am I?


In this special FAQs episode (22 mins), Katie Rosser & Graham Seldon answer your questions about finding work and advancing your career in the COVID-19 economy.

They discuss:

  • Should I stay in my current role due to COVID-19, even though I feel ready to move on?
  • How easy is it to find a senior role in the current job market?
  • I was made redundant during maternity leave, will it affect my prospects of securing a new role?
  • How do I progress my career in a larger firm if my experience is in a smaller firm?


Katie Rosser: [00:00:03] Hello and welcome to the Seldon Rosser podcast, where we and our guests discuss how to build a flourishing career and marketing, business development & communications in professional services, I’m Katie Rosser and I’m Graham Seldon and we are Seldon Rosser.


Graham Seldon: [00:00:24] With the current covid-19 pandemic disrupting the employment market, there is understandably a lot of uncertainty about people’s career plans and their opportunities to get a new job. In this Q&A, we discuss the frequently asked questions we are getting in the hope that we can offer some clarity and advice to those who want to know ‘how employable am I?’.


Graham Seldon: [00:00:47] Katie, here’s our first question. I’ve stayed at my current firm despite no longer being challenged as they offered me great flexibility. Given covid-19, will it be easier for me to find my next step up in the industry at another firm with all the flexibility requirements I currently have?


Katie Rosser: [00:01:07] Well, the short answer to this is, yes! That’s going to be one of the most exciting positives coming out of the covid-19 experience. We’re getting a real strong consensus from both CMOs and H.R. directors that we’re speaking to, that they understand that offering flexibility and agile working will no longer be a way to differentiate. If a firm has already done that in the past, it will be something that is expected and is commonplace. There are very, very rare examples that we’re hearing of people that are not expecting their workforce to change. And we’re putting people forward for roles even now on the basis of even when covid-19 work style ends, this person wants to be at home 50 percent of the time. So the short answer is yes. And the reason I think that’s exciting is particularly for women who have multiple children and therefore have flexible requirements, often they stay put between children, they don’t know, should I move while I’m family planning? It can be quite an awkward thing to navigate. And they’re fearful of letting go of the safe environment that allows them to be flexible. Well, that barrier is gone. And so I think that we will see people no longer stay in places where they’re stagnating for as long. And that has to be a good thing.


Graham Seldon: [00:02:29] It’s a really good thing. And I think also clients now are really open, like you said, to receiving a shortlist of candidates, of people who want permanent full time and people who want a degree of flexibility. In all the roles that we’ve recruited throughout this last six months during covid that has never been pushed back on anybody wanting a degree of flexibility.


Katie Rosser: [00:02:52] And people are actually getting more flexible with their flexibility! One of the HRDs said I’m really pushing back on putting a policy around this because that stops the flexibility. And I think that has to be true that candidates realize as well. So if you’re being very rigid about what your flexibility looks like, then that’s actually more difficult than if you’re happy to just you know, I’m flexible, you’re flexible, we’ll figure it out.


Katie Rosser: [00:03:18] Moving on to our next question, we get asked this by senior candidates a lot. So somebody that’s got more than 20 years experience and just lost their job, how likely is it that they will find a role at their level in this market? And how long will it take Graham?


Graham Seldon: [00:03:39] Look, I think we have to be really honest about this in terms of how long will it take? It could take a long time. It could take a long time to get the exact next step job or the next career position that you planned for. And that said, there are opportunities out there if you’re prepared to be flexible and rethink your career a little bit. What do I mean by rethinking your career? So I’ve seen many examples over the last decade of people at senior level who are between jobs, either taking a contract for a role that may be slightly more junior than they were doing before, but because it’s focused on a particular skill set that they have and they’ve been the right candidate for that job and it’s been a good job for them to get. Or, I’ve seen people go into consulting, set up consulting practices again if they’ve got a particular skill that the market needs. Or project based roles. I think that it’s about just rethinking what your next job might look like in this particular period of time. Although a this is relevant regardless of covid-19. Senior people, there are less opportunities for people at that level. Know the most of the hierarchy of the firms that we work for is a pyramid structure. Fewer at the top than there are the bosses. And so I think it comes to really just understanding what it is that you’re offering. Be really, really open and flexible, take advice from people like ourselves and and just be open to what comes your way.


Katie Rosser: [00:05:11] And I think letting go of the fact that a career has to be linear. And sometimes that’s hardest for those that have been in other industries before moving into here – ex-lawyers who have moved into BD, for example. And sometimes it’s not about status.


Graham Seldon: [00:05:30] I think if covid has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t plan. And I think it’s also taught us those traditional roles and the traditional hierarchy is about change. And the positive things about covid-19 is that if you were a senior business development manager or director of a firm and say in Brisbane and you could never move from Brisbane, it used to be that you would say, well, you know what, opportunities are there in Brisbane? Now, you can legitimately say what opportunities are there full stop? Because a lot of firms, as we said before, are offering flexibility. But they’re also becoming a bit location agnostic. If people are working from home for the majority of the working life, then there is no reason why you can’t be a senior person for a firm that has more people working in Sydney and Melbourne than it does in Brisbane. But it’s happy to have you there because you’re still logging on the hours, still doing your stuff. So I think it’s just about  being open and flexible and again, not having that linear approach that they may have had last year.


Katie Rosser: [00:06:31] Another question that we get asked by women in particular, but it relates to parents is, you know, I was made redundant whilst on parental leave and I’ve had a year off work. How will this affect my chances of getting a job?


Graham Seldon: [00:06:45] I don’t think it will affect their chances. I think there’s a misconception that people think that if they’ve been on mat/pat leave and therefore they’ve had a year off, that they’re somehow out of the market. Well, my question back to you is, are you out of the market? Did you not learn anything in that 12 months? If you can demonstrate that you’ve kept your skills up to date, that you’re still sort of interested in what’s happening in the market, then I think that you’ve got just as much chance of securing the next job as somebody who’s in a job at the moment. And we’ve never had a situation where somebody has been on the short list and they’ve been on mat leave for 12 months, has been discriminated against because they’ve been on leave. At the end of the day, if you’re on the short list, it’s because you can do the job and then your chance of getting the job is how you perform interview.


Katie Rosser: [00:07:35] And staying connected with what’s going on in the industry, as well as what’s going on in your business and in your team. To be clear, that’s not something that has to take a lot of time because there might be people going, well, how do I do that whilst I’m actually looking after a child? It’s more a mindset, it  doesn’t take much time. It’s about being connected and escalating that in the two or three months before you want to go back to work as well.


Graham Seldon: [00:07:57] And I think some firms now are very good at making sure that people who are on maternity leave or paternity leave are still engaged in the business. So, you know, you’re often encouraged to still join in on the social side. I mean, now that’s even better than ever because you that used to be that you couldn’t you couldn’t turn up to social if you have a little baby, but now you just log onto the Zoom and all fine.


Graham Seldon: [00:08:20] So, again, I actually I think that whole connection thing that you just mentioned is really, really relevant now because it’s so much easier to stay connected. The rest of your team is probably working from home anyway, so they probably don’t even realize you’ve been off work.


Katie Rosser: [00:08:36] Absolutely right. And look, you know, often people have taken a year off work for reasons that aren’t children as well, you know. People have gone traveling around the world for a year. These days, people don’t see that as a negative either.


Graham Seldon: [00:08:50] Or caring for parents.


Katie Rosser: [00:08:52] Oh, yes, absolutely. Take three or four years off – harder to show you’ve kept up one year, not a barrier.


Graham Seldon: [00:09:00] Yeah, I agree.


Graham Seldon: [00:09:01] Here’s one about keeping busy during a period of unemployment. I’ve been made redundant and I’m considering both engaging in further study and some volunteer work. To what degree will these things assist me in getting my next role? Katie, what do you think about that?


Katie Rosser: [00:09:17] I do think when you’ve had a significant time off between roles (and I’m going to just quantify that as over three months), then people who are interviewing you will ask and will want to see that you’ve done something constructive with your time. And so if you’re able to demonstrate that you have studied, if you have done volunteering work, you know, some people have even just project managed a big property project. You know, they’re going to want to know what you’ve done. So it helps in that regard. Further study is something I would always support and say is a fantastic idea, but it is very time intensive and it is very costly, depending on what course that you choose.


Katie Rosser: [00:09:56] So my personal view is that you’ve got to really want to do it anyway, and you have to be passionate about developing yourself and what you’re going to learn and be happy to make that financial and time commitment. If you are, fantastic. I don’t think is ever going to be the be all and end all between getting the next job unless you’re completely changing careers. I’ve never, ever seen somebody get a job or get on an interview list because they have or haven’t done further study. That said, it will add value and it will be one of the myriad of positives and negatives about your candidacy. If you are going to do further study. I would say speak to various mentors and previous bosses about what’s going to add the most value and do your due diligence so that you’re happy with your choice.


Katie Rosser: [00:10:42] And I think the volunteering work means something that you and I have both passionately done as part of our careers. And if there is something that really engages you, there’s no better time to be involved in those things. Again, how is that going to help you get the next job? You know, it’s going to be chance. If it does, it might be a connect with your next boss. It might be the network that you’ve made through that volunteering work or through that further study. I think the network you make is where we’ve had more examples of people actually seeing a new career opportunity.


Graham Seldon: [00:11:14] Oh definitely, yeah. I mean, we’ve seen people get jobs because they’ve met people on courses.


Katie Rosser: [00:11:21] Absolutely. And when you’re going into something like volunteering or just a simple networking event or study, you know, you can’t go into each of those interactions going ‘this was only worthwhile if I can output from this that is immediate, you know. You’ve got an opportunity, something may come of it, and you don’t always know where the opportunities will come from, which is why it’s good to be open and good to expand your network and expand your mind and your mindset through these different opportunities when you’re potentially a a moment of reflection and career crossroads as well.


Graham Seldon: [00:11:58] And on a similar theme, we sometimes get asked questions, like this one. I’ve spent the past three or four years in a smaller boutique firm, and I’m concerned that my skills and experience have not kept up with where the market’s going. How do I test this? What should I do?


Katie Rosser: [00:12:16] Look, while my first response might sound a bit self-serving. It really is the truth. I mean, the first thing you can do is call us, find out about what roles exist in the market, what other structures look like and what your peers are doing. This has been a common theme over the last four or five years, as we have seen a lot of the most sophisticated firms and businesses move into more sophisticated role types and structures. You work with some real dedicated sales methodologies, client and sector. I think it’s really important to say that there is still a career path for people that choose to stay in smaller boutique firms, and that’s where they specialize. That’s their niche. It isn’t necessarily automatically a bad thing. It’s only important if you actually have an ambition and want to come into these bigger firms and these more sophisticated teams. So I think that’s important because there are people that have great career paths in that boutique area. I think if you do want to make a move into something that’s more sophisticated, then, you know, we can can counsel you on the types of things you might be able to ask to do or influence into your remit at your firm. And then sometimes you might be two or three jobs away or maybe hopefully just two jobs away from the role that you really want.


Katie Rosser: [00:13:38] It might not be the next one. There might need to be some strategy about what role can I get next, which will help me develop the skills and the gaps that we’ve helped you identify. And you can do your due diligence, talking your own network as well. And just from doing some reading about the hot topics that people are talking about and what they’re doing on LinkedIn.


Katie Rosser: [00:13:57] A lot of the development that we see and hear about from CMOs isn’t just on the technical side, it is on the soft skills side as well. And I think that’s relevant wherever you are. And anybody can develop and choose to develop in those areas, whatever that level, whoever their employer. And those are the facilitation and the coaching. And they’re taking more of a leadership stance, you know, bringing strategy to part of your role, whether it’s anticipated or not. And I guess for more on that topic, we’ve recently published an article on the job functions and skill sets CMOs are telling us are the future. It’s a good place to start and give us a call!


Graham Seldon: [00:14:38] It’s also, I think if you’re in a boutique firm, then often boutique firms specialize in a particular thing. So, for instance, if you’re in a firm that specializes in employment law, then it may well be that you can leverage your employment knowledge, your employment sector knowledge to go to a bigger firm and maybe take a role where employment is part of the practice group that you’re looking after. But you’re being put into a more sophisticated environment but you’re bringing with you, the knowledge that those people want. So I think there are opportunities. It’s just about understanding where you are in terms of the market and what you need to do.


Katie Rosser: [00:15:16] Yeah, absolutely. And on that point there, Graham, is about playing to strengths isn’t it? It’s very hard to change everything at once. You know, have people come to us and they want to change location (COVID permitting) change location, change sector, change role, and all of these things at the same time. That’s very rarely possible.


Katie Rosser: [00:15:37] Yeah, there has to be something that you’re bringing that’s very strong as well as what you’re receiving, mentorship and growth.


Katie Rosser: [00:15:43] And so I suppose on this point of starting to think about moving into another role (and this is very relevant right now – a lot of people are asking due to covid-19). They’re saying things like ‘just after five years with the same firm, I’d plan to change jobs in 2020. I’m no longer challenged. Should I stay put? Is it crazy to move?


Graham Seldon: [00:16:07] I don’t think it’s crazy to move. I mean, I think you have to be open to opportunities. I would say to you, if you had ambition for 2020, you shouldn’t let that ambition stop. I mean, absolutely, there is not as many opportunities as there were. And I think that you need to do your due diligence on what that next option is going to be. But here’s the thing. Any firm hiring right now has done its business case. It’s a business critical role. It’s a role that has been rubber stamped all the way to the top. And therefore, it’s a secure role to go into. And I think that you need to understand that it may well be that that role that’s available on the market may actually be more secure than the one you’re sitting in. So you know do due diligence.


Graham Seldon: [00:16:50] I also think that it’s an opportunity for you to think a bit more broadly about what is it when you say you’re not challenged, what is it that would challenge you? If you’re looking to be challenged, then moving jobs? Doing it is surely challenging. And so  I think it’s about, you know, don’t just shut up shop and say, this is it. Nothing’s going to happen to me this year. I would say if you’re not in a hurry to move, then that’s fantastic. If you don’t have to move, that’s fantastic. But be open to opportunities. Talk to us, find out what’s out there. We’ll let you know. We’ll answer your questions. If it’s the right thing, it’s the right thing.


Katie Rosser: [00:17:30] I reflect back on a conversation I had with somebody that we’ve just placed back in March who said to me, ‘Oh gosh, everything else in my life is at a standstill, thank goodness, my career doesn’t have to stop as well’. And I thought that was a good quote.


Graham Seldon: [00:17:46] And also the thing is, is that there is no doubt that there are a lot of people who think this and therefore they won’t they won’t look for a job this year, which means that the competition is less, you know, and when I look at some of the shortlists we’ve been putting together, they’re have been some fantastic shows. But they’ve also been places where people who may not have made that shortlist have made it now because there are not that many people in the market, a particular area, or a particular job. So I would say, give it your best shot.


Katie Rosser: [00:18:14] You’re absolutely right. And finally, we are talking to people around the globe who are thinking about when and if they want to return to the AsiaPac market. So will their experience overseas be a help or a hindrance to them? Will it be attractive when they apply for jobs?


Graham Seldon: [00:18:36] I don’t think it’s ever a hindrance unless they’ve spent the last five years working in Bali as a spa attendant. If you’ve been working for a global professional services firm or professional services firm somewhere else in the world, then it’s more about your experience being valid than they’ve actually done it. If you’re returning to Australia from Asia, for instance, then that experience may well be useful. If there’s a firm in Australia hiring for an AsiaPac role, we just place somebody in AsiaPac role from Sydney whose responsibility is looking after the whole of South-East Asia and China, but doing it from a Sydney location. So if you’re returning to Australia and you’ve got Asia experience, then yes, that’s a valid and you’ll get way more points than maybe a candidate in Australia has not got that experience if the job requires it.


Graham Seldon: [00:19:25] But I think if you’re in a role that’s a sector focused role or a practice focused role, then that’s portable. We had somebody who returned to Australia from New York who was doing banking and finance and we got her a role in banking and finance, you know. It was it was portable. And same for client focused roles. If you’re managing accounts, managing clients in London, then coming to Australia and applying for a client focused role means that you’ve got valid experience. I just think you have to be very mindful that it’s not about where you did it. It’s about what you did. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes we get candidates who think that because they’ve worked in London or because they’ve worked in New York, that’s somehow going to impress the market. It’s no more impressive than if you did a great job in Sydney or Melbourne, to be honest.


Katie Rosser: [00:20:14] And it’s interesting that point on Asia, just to come back to that, because historically, when people have asked us for AsiaPac roles in Australia, well, not many exist. A lot of those Asia roles are done out of Asia. But given this message, which we’re starting to see turn into a reality that we can be a bit more location agnostic with roles. You know, there’s a definitely a good argument we’ll see an increase, even if only slight, in AsiaPac roles in Australia, which makes people returning from the Asia market more attractive because they’re bringing something that not many people in Australia have. What about London? Interestingly, is London experience of particular interest to, say, Australian clients? I get asked that a lot when people consider it.


Graham Seldon: [00:21:00] I think it goes back to my original point about what did you do? If it was a sector focused role, and you can demonstrate that you’ve had more experience in the sector than anybody on the ground, then then yes, I mean, we saw somebody recently with TMT experience, great experience, coming from London who had more experience than anybody on the ground in Australia. So, I think that’s when it’s relevant. I don’t think working in a global city is as relevant.


Graham Seldon: [00:21:26] What I think is important is being able to demonstrate if you were in a role that was in a new market role. So often if you look at some of these roles that we’ve placed in Asia in the last five years and Southeast Asia roles, for instance, they’re seen as being BD roles that are exploring new markets since more pioneering business development. And that’s relevant experience wherever you go. And if you come back to Australia and you’ve got that experience, then yes, you’ve got experience, you could start the startup of you could help a business launch in the practice area or a new sector plan or whatever, because you’ve been in the startup role before. So I think that’s portable. But I honestly don’t think that anybody really cares that you worked New York, just the fact that it was New York. It’s not that important.


Katie Rosser: [00:22:14] So I hope these answers have been useful to everyone listening. And look, if you are someone who is experiencing a little bit of a career upset at the moment, we would really encourage you to listen to our episodes called Careering. In these episodes, we interview people who’ve navigated their careers through a crisis (so a detour), and they’ve got it back on track. So there should be some tips and inspiration in there to inspire a bit of confidence.


Katie Rosser: [00:22:40] Lovely talking to you, Graham.


Katie Rosser: [00:22:41] And you as well. Keep those questions coming.

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