Time out between one job and the next gives your brain a chance to rest, but resist the temptation to just laze around.
Perhaps you are about to finish working your notice and the start date for your new job is yet some time away. Or you were so fed up you’ve quit your old job before securing a new one. What should you do with all that free time? We’ve asked some accountancy recruiters for their top tips.
Get a head start
If you have another job waiting in the wings, prepare for those vital first few weeks in a new role. “Build on the research you’d done on the company before your first interview, and consider what will be required of you,” says Kate Allen, managing director at recruitment firm Allen Associates.
Some jobs may have a short honeymoon period when you’re learning the ropes, but most employers will expect you to hit the ground running. Plan ahead for any challenges you are likely to face and (yes, you’ve guessed it!) to make a great first impression. “You may have already asked questions in your interview, but turn up on your first day armed with some more,” says Lee Owen, senior business director at Hays Accountancy & Finance.
Catch up with personal admin
A break between jobs is the perfect time to organise your personal life.
Schedule appointments, run errands, review your finances, declutter and organise your home. “You’ll feel much more mentally prepared having got these ticked off your list before the time comes to start work again,” Owen says.
Recharge with a purpose
Spending time on yourself may feel like an indulgence if you haven’t done it for a while. But think about this: some time-out activities can be beneficial to your career.
Training to win at a sport or learning a new skill shows tenacity, which is very appealing to employers. “Tenacious employees can be relied upon to get the job done, and will do it efficiently,” says Collette Huckle, regional director at REED Accountancy.
You’ve always wanted to trek across the Australian outback? Do it. Huckle says: “Travel is often attractive to employers – it demonstrates valuable skills including responsibility, problem solving and budget control. It also reassures them that you’ve got the travel bug out of your system and will be fully committed to work.’
Plot the path
If you’ve left your job and are yet to apply for a new one, reflect on your professional goals. What do you want to achieve and by when? What kind of job will help you get there? “Write down up to five things you’d like to gain – such as a better work-life balance, flexibility or faster progression – and evaluate your options against these criteria,” Huckle says.
Claire Leigh, managing director of Brampton Recruitment, points out that having the time to carefully evaluate what you want is a rare luxury these days. “Also, it’s easy to just follow a once-set career path, especially if you’ve been working within one company or sector for a while. Use the break to research other roles you may have always been interested in and create a five-year plan.”
Revitalise your CV
“Many people’s CVs have not had a full overhaul for several years,” Leigh says. Even if you periodically add dates, roles and responsibilities, some of this information may not be relevant to the roles you now intend to apply for.
“This could give a poor picture of who you are and what you’ve achieved, so it’s best to have a fresh look at your CV and give it a complete rewrite,” says Leigh.
Put yourself out there
Leigh says that the downtime between jobs is the perfect time to register with agencies, as it can be difficult to meet consultants when you are in work.
Register with multiple jobs boards, too. You don’t want that dream job to pass you by, do you? “Many job advert websites and some agencies now offer an alerts feature, which means a job can come to you,” says Leigh. Do this even if you are not looking for a new role at the moment. “Receiving a regular e-mail with relevant jobs allows you to passively research the market for jobs that come up regularly.”
Of course, not every job is advertised. Leigh recommends that you research the company you’d like to work for and send in a speculative CV. “Always follow this up with a phone call – it shows dedication and can begin a conversation.”
Make yourself search engine friendly
If you haven’t done this already, create a professional profile on LinkedIn. Most professional recruiters now use LinkedIn as their primary online resource for finding and vetting job candidates. “Ensure your profile is active and up-to-date, and that it contains relevant keywords – you need to be easy to find,” says Huckle.
She points out that recruiters use Boolean searching to find candidates who meet their specific criteria. A Boolean search allows them to combine keywords with modifiers such as AND, NOT and OR to produce more relevant results. For example, a Boolean search could be “AAT” AND “Sage”. This would limit their search results to only those profiles containing the two keywords.
Network, network, network!
“Use social media to show an interest in work-related news: tweet about industry trends, follow and comment on relevant LinkedIn posts by industry influencers,” Huckle says.
Don’t avoid face-to-face networking events, even if you these fill you with dread. Meeting people offline can be very effective – if you go prepared. Owen says: “Researching recent industry news and trends will help you initiate conversations. Besides, attendees at business events tend to be there due to a shared interest, and that makes striking up a conversation easier.”
Current skills shortage in accounting and finance has been widely reported. In fact, Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 Guide shows that a lack of suitable talent is a top recruitment challenge for over three quarters of finance employers.
“If you want your next job to be a step up in your career, consider the skills that your future employer may be looking for and use the downtime to acquire them,” says Allen.
Iwona Tokc-Wilde is a business journalist.