Careers advice: What's next for the UK job market?

25 August 2022

Over the course of 2022, UK employment news has frequently emphasised the growth in vacancies and shortage of high-quality candidates in a highly active job market. However, given the recent significant falls in consumer confidence as reported in research by numerous bodies, what lies ahead for the UK job market?

Caroline Egan, Alumni Careers Manager, writes that she is starting to hear reports that prospective employers, faced with higher input costs such as energy and wage bills, and an uncertain business environment once more, are showing signs of becoming more tentative in their hiring practices.

In this blog, Caroline discusses the state of current hiring practices in the UK and how you can best position yourself.

Current UK job market: new graduates

As we welcome our latest graduates to the alumni community, it’s important to look separately at the market for new graduates. The High Fliers annual report 2022 emphasised that as the outlook for Covid-19 has improved substantially, employers’ published graduate recruitment targets were more upbeat and suggested that graduate vacancies were likely to increase further in 2022.

The latest assessment of graduate recruitment at the UK’s leading employers shows that there has been a very significant rise in the number of graduates vacancies on offer in 2022, as many employers look to recruit additional graduates to make up for their lower intakes in 2020 and 2021, most notably at the top accounting and professional services firms and public sector employers. Employers in all 15 industries and business sectors featured in the research expect to increase their graduate recruitment year-on-year and as a whole, they expect to increase graduate vacancies by 15.7 per cent, the highest annual rise for more than 15 years. You can find an excellent round up of the latest research on the graduate job market from Prospects Luminate here.

Current UK job market: established hires

According to new data this August from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), UK employer confidence dropped quickly in Q2, but labour shortages (due to challenges such as the ‘Great Resignation’ and changing demographics in the labour market) mean that businesses still need to hire. In April-June 2022, employer confidence in making hiring and investment decisions for their own business hit net -13 (the same level as in April-June 2020, at the height of the pandemic). Meanwhile, business confidence in the economy fell by 40 percentage points from January-March 2022 to net -50.

Despite this, labour shortages mean that many firms are still trying to hire new staff. The hiring outlook stayed positive, although it slowed slightly from Q1 of this year. In the short term, hiring intentions for permanent staff decreased by 5 percentage points to net +23, while demand for temporary workers fell by 4 points to net +12.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, said:

“This new report clearly shows the effect of rising inflation and labour shortages on businesses across the country. The economy has slowed significantly from the post-lockdown bounce and the next few months look much tougher. While firms are still looking to bring on new staff, this is really a reflection of how difficult businesses have found it to hire so far this year.”

Positioning yourself to take advantage of the current job market

  • Network, network, network!

Try to allocate a large percentage of your free time to looking for a new job. Reach out to your network and people on LinkedIn. Ask them to have a virtual cup of coffee or lunch out ‘in real life’. Seek out information interviews to gather an understanding of what is happening in your field. The more people you get in touch with, your chances of getting a lead for a job substantially increase.

  • Step outside of your comfort zone

As well as writing thought leadership content for LinkedIn, it may be time to join Instagram and YouTube and show off your skills. Social media is no longer for influencers and young teens:  older millennials, generation X and baby boomers have adopted these to follow businesses in which they’re interested. You can post content highlighting your skills and attributes, showcasing your in-depth knowledge of your profession which could catch the attention of potential hiring managers. You can then share short-form videos on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You'll get noticed and be perceived as a bold trendsetter who is willing to take chances to achieve your goal of either gaining a new job or rising within your organisation.

  • Rise where you are

Purposefully volunteer for assignments that will give you high visibility with senior executives. Build allies with key stakeholders within your company. Work on your mindset, as you need to be mentally strong during tough times. Get a good night’s sleep, eat well, exercise and socialise, as it will keep you in a good place while you are balancing your current role with finding something new.

  • Work on creating a positive self-narrative to job seeking

When a job search becomes prolonged or feels overwhelming, it is easy to become despondent, irritable and angry. Although you may feel this way, you can’t let people pick up on it. Hiring managers and interviewers desire ‘winners’ who are positive, confident and charismatic. Work on putting aside any negative thoughts and focus on being as positive as you can, and focus on the value you can add to the new organisation.

  • Upskilling

There are a large number of short, online courses available at websites such as Coursera or Futurelearn. You could sign up to learn in-demand skills, often for free, and at the end of the programme, usually for a small fee, you’ll receive a certificate, badge or accreditation. You can share these on your CV and LinkedIn profile. These extra achievements demonstrate that you are career-motivated, driven and willing to take the time and energy to succeed.

  • Don’t be too aggressive

You deserve to get paid what you’re worth and maybe even a little above it. Keep in mind that as market forces change, so should you. When there's a tight job market and companies are having a hard time finding suitable candidates, you are more able to push for everything you want - a significantly higher salary, stock options, extra annual leave, great benefits, hybrid working etc. In leaner times, temper your expectations. You don't want to push too hard on your requirements and demands, as there will be plenty of other applicants competing for the same job that you want.

In conclusion, whilst it appears as though the UK may be at the start of a new economic cycle which may adversely impact the job market, there is still much you can do to grow your career.

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