With economists forecasting a global economic contraction of disastrous proportions, many jobs will be at risk in the coming months. Despite the efforts of governments to provide support and economic stimulus packages, companies in certain sectors are already shedding jobs. Within aviation, for example, British Airways plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs — close to 30% of its total workforce.
For finance professionals, this gloomy outlook can have a paralysing effect — derailing future plans and scuppering ambitions for at least the next six to 12 months. In some scenarios, extended lockdowns and severely dampened business activity could lead to retrenchment. For those who are feeling vulnerable and at the precipice of a job loss, it is critical to develop a strategy and embrace a proactive approach.
Here are some immediate steps to begin taking (within the confines of various COVID-19 restrictions).
Create an action plan. According to Stephen Hyland, ACMA, CGMA, regulatory project manager at HSBC, Ireland, the first step is to mobilise and develop an action plan. This must include carefully reviewing and updating your CV and updating your profile on LinkedIn and any other professional social media platforms.
“A review of the market or sector you work in will also give you a good indication of what roles and salaries exist at present, as well as which companies or recruitment agencies are active in that space,” he said. “These actions are the foundations for securing a new role.”
Build a dynamic personal brand. “A personal brand goes a long way … when you have built a trusted personal brand for yourself, you can practically start or sell anything,” explained Michelle Janse van Rensburg, managing director at Nimacc Intelligence, an accounting technology firm based in South Africa. “It is ultimately the brand that sells. We have long surpassed the days of accountants only seeing their clients once a year or the finance team being locked in an office. You need a brand that sells itself and effectively creates a higher perceived value.”
Assess the landscape. “If the sector you work in is particularly impacted (airline or aircraft leasing, for example), you must recognise that opportunities in that field will be limited,” Hyland said. “It is therefore imperative you have the awareness to track how your skillset can transfer to other sectors that will be less impacted by the pandemic.”
He advised that if professionals have difficulty visualising how their skillset can be transferred to other sectors, it is helpful to reach out to career and business coaches for assistance.
“In addition, look to anticipate emerging trends in the workplace as a result of the pandemic (for example, more reliance on remote working tools and systems) and read widely to identify industries and sectors where opportunities will arise,” he said.
Master new digital tools and accounting software. According to Janse van Rensburg, it is critical to bring something different to the table than an accounting and financial skillset. Use this time to explore and understand the new systems, software, and technology that will be impacting financial management work in the next several years. Where possible, identify areas to specialise and deepen your knowledge of the relevant tools.
“If your speciality is manufacturing, for example, ensure that you know what cloud-based systems and tools are out there in terms of efficiencies, affordability, automations, and cost of implementation,” she explained. “In any finance role, you need to be able to have a voice and a valid opinion on different areas of the business, as everything affects the bottom line.”
Structure your time. The pandemic has forced many finance professionals to work remotely — and this newfound isolation can exacerbate feelings of helplessness and negativity as retrenchment looms large. As a result, it is imperative to create a daily structure and to allocate time to certain tasks.
“This will be more challenging for those who lose their jobs, but it is still vital to build structure into your day,” said Hyland. “Dedicating time to a job search or taking online classes should be incorporated into your daily schedule, along with regular breaks, exercise, and virtual social time with friends and family.”
Creating a structure and sticking to a daily routine, Hyland noted, will also help in cultivating a positive attitude.
“Remaining positive and calm in the face of such extraordinary times is crucial,” he explained. “Such an attitude will not only pay dividends in the event of a job loss, but will also allow you to be supportive and present in your home environment.”
— Jessica Hubbard is a freelance writer based in South Africa. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.