It’s a tough time in the jobs market, as firms shed staff or freeze recruitment to cut costs.
The UK has fallen into recession and recently suffered the largest drop in employment in a decade .
How do I start looking for a new job?
To maximise your chances, one strategy is to create an appealing online profile so that recruiters and companies will approach you, while you also actively apply for jobs.
Consider your core skills, rather than hunting for a specific job title, suggests Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management .
For example, if you work in retail customer service, this could translate to other people-facing roles such as sales.
She suggests searching for these core skills online, to see which jobs come up, while also listing them on your professional profiles.
Recruiters often search for people based on a list of desired skills, so this will make you more visible.
How can I find out which jobs are available?
Many companies list jobs on their own website or on recruitment sites.
You can also sign up with a general or specialist recruitment agency.
If you want to work for a particular company, check if they hire directly or through a recruiter.
And if you want a specific job, be proactive and contact someone doing that role to discover how they got there.
Professional networks can also be useful. These could be LinkedIn or Facebook groups, or industry organisations, where jobs and events are posted and advice is available.
Some industries and employers have even set up virtual networking events and job fairs .
How can I stand out from other applicants?
With thousands of people applying for some roles, your personal network should be your first port of call, Corinne suggests.
Friends, family and acquaintances will collectively know hundreds of people, and some should know of businesses which are hiring.
Many employers like a personal recommendation and you may hear about roles before they are advertised.
When compiling your CV, emphasise your skills which a prospective employer wants, rather than listing things you have already done.
List past achievements clearly. For example, you finished a recent project on time and within budget, or brought in new clients.
Asking someone else to read your application helps spot any spelling or grammatical errors that could mean your CV goes straight in the bin.
Show enthusiasm and give reasons why you want to work for this employer specifically.
Tailor your CV and cover letter for each application, which is time-consuming but more likely to result in a job, suggests Amy Golding, head of technology recruitment firm Opus Talent Solutions.
She adds: ”If you don’t hear back within three days, call them – because that makes it harder for them to ignore you!”
What help is out there?
Meanwhile, many universities and other institutions are currently offering free training courses.
For example, the University of York offers free short courses in fields such as cognitive psychology, the University of Oxford has a free course on economic development, and the Open University offers many free courses too.
Gaining new skills could help you move into a new sector and shows employers you’ve been productive during lockdown.
Which sectors are hiring?
In early September the volume of online job adverts posted was at half the 2019 average.
Some sectors have recovered more strongly than others. Health and social care vacancies are up to 84% of 2019 levels, data suggests, while funding has begun for hundreds of nurse apprenticeships in England.
Job-seekers should be ”strategic” and target sectors experiencing job shortages as well as those that are growing, says Gerwyn Davies, analyst at human resources body the CIPD.
The shortage occupation list – used to offer work visas to people moving to the UK – quickly shows where workers are needed, and includes fields like engineering, web programming and graphic design.
Now could be a good time to join the public sector, he suggests, with initiatives like the national retraining scheme helping people move into areas like social work, teaching and healthcare.
Tech recruiter Amy suggests applying to companies which are fully digital, regardless of the role you want, as the pandemic has accelerated the shift to online working.
These could be online retail companies like Amazon, which is recruiting for 7,000 UK jobs – or tech companies working in education or healthcare.
By Eleanor Lawrie