A Job Search Season Like No Other

Six months ago the job market for C-suite executive administrators in higher ed and the nonprofit sector was barely alive.

On the big go-to job sites, such as higheredjobs.com, the daily alerts slowed to a trickle. Listings for senior administrative positions were ominously quiet as the cuts, lay-offs and, more importantly, budgets of all shapes and sizes were slashed. Searches that had been underway in the first quarter of 2020 were put on indefinite pause.

Some were just flat-out canceled.

The higher education and nonprofit sectors have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, nonprofits shed more than 50,000 jobs in December. The Chronicle of Higher Ed called the 650,00 jobs lost at colleges and universities “a brutal tally.”

“Let’s not mince words and just call 2020 what it was,” says Inside Higher Ed. “It was a year from hell.”

So why would anyone be thinking of plunging into the job search fray?

Do I detect a faint pulse? Search consultants, whose job it is to keep their ear to the ground, point to a growing, but cautious, sense of optimism. Will things come roaring back? Will we return to the hiring heydays of yesteryear?

The jury’s still out. And yes, it will be tough.

But one thing’s for sure: if and when the hiring market comes back to life, the opportunities for greater professional advancement and reinvention will be significant.

I’ve talked to many colleagues in recent weeks who are beginning to ask themselves, “what’s next?”

We’ve all had a lot of time to think and the ennui is palpable.

Is this what I want to do now? Is this where I want to be? Is it time to throw my hat in the ring for the presidential searches I’ve been eyeing or the VP position that languished and sat unfilled for months?

Maybe, just maybe, we’re beginning to rebound

According to LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index, “women, in particular, are expanding their net for finding new jobs.” This data shows that upwards of 80% of the women surveyed were now willing to change course, to “pivot,” to reassess their own experience and credentials in a whole new light, even in the face of a tough economy.

In my work with people who are looking for new, more senior, expanded professional opportunities, the first thing we do is throw the cards into the air. We ditch the old ways of thinking, mining instead for greater, more universal meaning, a broader application of capabilities and competencies.

Old assumptions dissolve.

Unexpected language then makes its way into a compelling cover letter, a personal brand narrative, even a moribund CV.

Yes. COVID 19 has permanently changed the nature of work and the ways we go after it. With so many unemployed, competition will be the hallmark of the job search in 2021.

But with change, as they say, comes opportunity.

You just have to be ready, willing, and prepared to look for it.

The watchwords of this year?

Reassess. Reinvent. Rebound.