How career inertia has become a side effect of the pandemic for many employees

Pandemic fatigue is making people hesitant about changing job

In a remote interview, the more you look like you are sitting across the table, the better. Photograph: iStock

In a remote interview, the more you look like you are sitting across the table, the better. Photograph: iStock

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The last thing on a lot of people’s minds right now is changing job. The lockdown has been stressful and exhausting, and the energy and enthusiasm required to psyche oneself up to apply for a new role is missing.

This is particularly noticeable among employees with families who are now torn between getting back into the thick of things or being at home more when their kids come in from school. Younger people who expect to change jobs every year or two and are comfortable being interviewed online are still career hopping, but in the current climate it appears the older you are, the lower the appetite for change.

Those who are moving are doing so for specific reasons such as retaining their option to work from home because their employer has begun flagging a return to the office.

“People’s focus has been on getting their current job done and, in the majority of cases, they are working more rather than fewer hours, and inertia in relation to their careers has set in,” says Tom Hennessy of Alive business coaching.

The second trend Hennessy has noticed is a significant change in how people are looking at their career path into the future.

“In a way, Covid-19 has changed what’s important and what seems to be very important right now is time,” he adds. “So, rather than wanting a bigger job or a salary increase, more value is being placed on having time to spend with family and friends or on hobbies or exercise.

“Of course, this change in mindset brings its own challenges for employers. One of the biggest will be reigniting employee mojo and encouraging people to consider promotions and new leadership roles.”

Hennessy says that, pre-Covid, there was always a buzz around internal promotions in particular and people fed off that energy. “That’s not happening now,” he says. “If someone is going for an interview, they plug into Zoom or Teams and do what they have to do for the length of the call and that’s kind of it. There’s no small talk before and no post-interview chat.

“People are definitely missing the lack of warmth, personal engagement and subtle feedback you get from a face-to-face interview. It also helps to give you a sense of the organisation and its culture, and it’s very hard to replicate that online.” 

Remote interviewing

Kate Lawler specialises in coaching people to succeed in competency-based interviews. Her experience is that remote interviewing and remote working are putting people off changing job.

“I get the sense that a lot of people are content to stick with what they know for now and will only think about changing when they’re more certain about how the world is going to look,” she says.

“Being interviewed online is not particularly easy for a lot of people because they feel they’re talking to themselves. On top of this if they’re successful, they’re asking themselves when am I going to meet my new boss or colleagues and how easy will it be to work with people I’ve never met?”

Lawler believes organisations offering continued remote working or a shorter working week are more likely to retain staff and grab the interest of potential job changers. And for those who can summon up sufficient enthusiasm to send off a CV, Lawler has written a book to help. It’s called Your Experience & Expertise Matter and it’s a guide to doing well in competency-based interviews.

Asked why people fail to nail a position having progressed so far through the selection process, Lawler says, “After 20 years of sitting on interview panels, I’d say it’s because they see the interview as the final hurdle, not as a stepping stone. Their thought process is that they ‘have to get through this interview’ rather than being focused on ‘why I want this job’.

“Often, people see a job advertised or they’re expected to go for a promotion at work and they really don’t look beyond the title whereas they should be thinking themselves into the role. If someone is going for a job within the public service, for example, it would be wise to think about the challenges facing Ireland Inc and where the department they’re applying to fits into that and how they could contribute to meeting its challenges in the role they’re applying for.”

Show your skills

Another reason for interview failure is that candidates underplay their hand. “They often overlook aspects of their day-to-day work as nothing more than a task to be performed without attributing any skill or know-how to it because they assume everybody knows they complete these tasks daily,” Lawler adds. “The simple fact is that you must assume nothing. If you do not tell the interview panel what you did, they will not know that you know and that is what they are interested in – what you know.”

With so many job interviews now being conducted online, Lawler has some sage advice for candidates.

“Keep your workspace clutter free,” she says. “If you show up for the interview surrounded by notes, it’s a distraction and if you’ve done your preparation, you don’t need to scramble about for a written answer. Remember to look at the camera and keep the background professional looking. Dress formally and try to avoid using a headset. The more you look like you are sitting across the table, the better.”

Your Experience & Expertise Matter is available from Dubray books and Amazon

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