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The Brexit effect: What does it mean for your career?

Founder of Career Codex Simon Gray looks at the impact of Brexit on the careers for finance leaders and advises on how to approach the issue.

23rd Jan 2020
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The UK has faced its fair share of uncertainty in recent years. The financial crisis of 2008 and, more recently, the ongoing saga that is Brexit has caused a headache not just for politicians, but everyone in the general populous. Brexit has caused an enormous amount of uncertainty, political and otherwise, and has been held responsible for a whole host of issues.

As an advisor to senior executives looking to transition in the executive job market, it’s often been cited as the reason for a perceived lack of job opportunities. If businesses face uncertainty, they are less likely to hire right now and more inclined to push hiring decisions further down the track, so the story goes.

But is this the real story or an imagined reality in response to a scenario we find ourselves in that very few really understand? 

A lesson in timing

2008 taught me an important lesson. Two weeks before the financial crisis hit, I took the decision along with two colleagues to leave a safe and secure job and start my own recruitment company. 

Having handed in resignation letters, we were serving notice and were now committed to a course of action impacted by a situation that even the experts failed to predict. Just when we needed a buoyant job market in order to secure new clients, the market took its toys and went home. ‘Recruitment freeze’ was all we heard. The future looked bleak. 

No one was hiring, so we had no client base. And if we backtracked to find employment, we faced the same issue. Lack of demand meant recruitment companies weren’t hiring either. 

Over ten years on, the company we started is still going strong. I’ve since moved onto other things, but the growth and success of the business is a constant reminder of the importance of internal beliefs over external circumstances.

Situational circumstances

What I learnt at the hands of the financial crisis now shapes the advice I give my clients in response to Brexit. External circumstances are situational. Watch too much of the news or listen to the woes of others who are struggling to take the next step on the career ladder and it’s easy to be influenced.

In the job market, doing what everyone else is doing and expecting to be the one to stand out and get hired is a low-probability strategy for success. What the majority do is obsess over their CV and react to opportunities advertised on job boards or positioned by recruitment companies. They get in the queue with everyone else and they wait. If they don’t hear back quickly enough or fail to get a response at all it’s easy to look to external circumstances to provide the explanation. 

The Brexit effect, or any other effect, becomes the reason for their lack of progress. Their approach to the job market is never questioned or challenged, and down on their luck, they give up their search.

The external climate

External circumstances will always exist. We have no control over them, so focusing on them is a waste of energy and effort. The focus must be on what you can control. You can’t control the job market, but you can control your own perception and how you choose to act.

If everyone else perceives Brexit as a barrier to career advancement, isn’t this the perfect time for you to get on the pitch while others choose to sit in the stands?

The 'hidden market'

Organisations will always be in the business of seeking out new talent, and in times of uncertainty new talent could be just what they need. There will be organisations in your sector, specialism and region where you could be adding value right now. They may not be advertising and may not have engaged the services of a recruitment company but hiring decisions will be a topic of discussion around the boardroom table.

This is the ‘hidden (job) market’, which always exists, but very few know how to access. Combine an understanding of this and how employers make hiring decisions, with different beliefs about you and your ability to control your future, and any Brexit effect fades into insignificance.

Nobody knows what Brexit really means, how long it will last and the impact it will ultimately have on the UK economy. It’s out of our individual control. What Brexit means for your individual career comes down to you. What you believe, how you think and the action you choose to take.

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