Video: Recruiter lays out reality facing talent in pandemic world

What to do if you've lost your job (or scared of losing it), negotiating pay cuts, and what Trump's impending visa-halt means for global talent.

More than 22 million Americans have officially lost their jobs since COVID-19 began its assault on the country in March.

The advertising and marketing industry has seen its fair share. 

Recent news about high-level lay-offs has cemented the reality that no one is safe as this pandemic continues to tear through the world. But there is one saving grace: The knowledge that things will get better. 

"I’m not going to paint a rosier picture, I think it will get tougher and we will see some exceptional talent be on the market through no fault of their own," said Claire Telling, CEO of talent acquisition firm Grace Blue.

"I have no doubt a lot of these people will get jobs again. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. That’s what’s getting me through this."

The top recruiter spoke with Campaign US to share advice about what we can expect to see in the world of talent going forward, what we should do if we’ve lost our job (or are scared of losing it), our rights when it comes to negotiating pay cuts, outplacement services, where the safest place to be is right now, how CEOs are handling something never seen before, and what Donald Trump's impending visa plan mean for global talent. 

Paint a picture of advertising’s talent landscape right now

It’s interesting that there has been a noticeable timeline. So five weeks ago, everybody went into shock and awe. The first phase we saw was all of our clients trying to care for their people, lock down the offices and find ways to get technology to people -- it was all about the logistics. In the first three weeks we saw a lot of hiring freezes. 

Now the financial reality has hit: We saw some pretty big lay-offs last week and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it. There’s got to be more to come. I’m not going to paint a rosier picture, I think it will get tougher and we will see some exceptional talent be on the market through no fault of their own. It will be unlike anything we have seen. 

I’m not sure what the bounceback looks like because everyone is so dependent on finances at this time. How and when we get out of a recession is down to scientists and the government -- when are we going to get testing and when are we going to get back to the streets safely and be okay to travel?

President Trump said this week he would implement a temporary halt on work visas for 60 days -- what impact could this have on adland’s global talent pool?

Since this new administration’s been in power, we’ve heard anecdotally that visa’s take a longer time to process. So we have been living with this slow down for a while. I don’t think a lot will be spending on visa renewal and relocation, but that’s just part of the overall cost-cutting measures they have to factor in right now.

With this new order, look, it hasn’t been signed yet -- I think all it will do is potentially slow things down. I hope it’s just voter bait, but it is scary if you’re on the other side waiting for a visa. I have heard through friends who are in the middle of getting green cards that they’re not going to get cut off. 

Are CEOs using this time to accelerate plans to clean house that may have already been on the table before COVID-19? 

Quite frankly, any CEO who’s telling you that they’re not going to use their time to do housekeeping is probably not being honest. There will be the general belt-tightening that some may have been planning for a while. It’s driven by numbers. Even though consumption of media is up, the spend just isn’t there, so we’re in this really weird moment. Because that revenue’s not coming in, some of the best will get affected. I have no doubt a lot of these people will get jobs again. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

Where’s the safest place to be right now? Are any companies immune? 

I don’t think any business has immunity, but there will be areas of that business which are much stronger. You have to look at which industries are going to do well throughout this pandemic and come out ahead; healthcare, obviously robust, then look at the big platforms like Google and Amazon.

Six months from now, how we’re living as people is that we’re still going to be online, we’re probably not going to be in the same offices, we’re going to be reliant on healthcare, we’re going to be shopping at essential stores like a CVS or Home Depot. If you’re agile and can function well within a digital world then you may do well. 

Are agencies facing a client-roulette situation whereby those who service suffering sectors like tourism and QSR don’t stand as much chance of survival over those partnered with essential business? 

No, I don’t think it’s that black and white. A lot of agencies are just trying to protect their people and shuffle them around. Your whole agency may be more at risk if you only service tourism, for example, but I haven’t heard yet of companies picking people off by accounts. 

How are agencies and brands dealing with this pandemic differently? 

The majority of our brand-side searches have continued. The only thing I will say is that, in the last week or two, the start date has been moved back as they get concerned about how they would onboard someone by June. These are also really mission-critical roles because brands need brilliant creators and storytellers more than ever. 

On the agency side, I can’t say that it’s coming back, but we are having more conversations as they’re settling into this. A lot are looking at this as an opportunity to bring in talent they never thought would be available because they would have otherwise stayed at this agency for the rest of their career. At the same time, there will be more agency reductions, so it’s not like we’re going to see a massive upswing in hires. They're planning six months from now and asking, ‘who do I want by my side when we rebuild from this?’. 

What’s the value in companies using outplacement services? 

We’ve always done this -- when companies unfortunately have to make redundancies, they’ll hire us to talk to their people when they’re let go so they have a good place to land. When all of this hit, like a lot of brands, we felt helpless. We knew a lot of redundancies would be coming and we wanted to find a way to help, so for small companies we’re doing this for free. We help people understand their strengths that will guide them to their next role post-COID, we guide them on their CVs, they’re social media footprint -- their personal narrative, so they’re on their way to finding the next job. 

What’s going on inside the heads of those you’ve dealt with who’ve been laid off? 

Look, if you lose your job, it sucks. It’s happened to me. You do feel shock, it doesn’t feel fair even if you understand the reality that it is just your company not being able to keep you on. Then there’s worry about where you are financially. And there’s no end date, so many are sitting in limbo and that’s definitely scary. Also, people are coming to peace with it. Maybe they’ve got a package and they’re using this time to think about whether or not they were really happy in their job. If you do feel depression, that’s completely normal, and so is getting proper help for it. Don’t hide from it -- get help if it feels bad. This will be over.

Should and can workers be negotiating company-enforced pay cuts? 

You can always ask. From what I’m seeing everyone’s trying to be as fair as possible with pay cuts, not cherry-picking people and saying ‘you get 20 percent, you get five percent.’ Can you ask? Yes. Will you get more money? Probably not. That’s the reality. The cut you are taking will allow your company to not take more redundancies. I think a lot of CEOs are being transparent about their finances more than ever. 

What advice do you have for people who have been laid off or are scared about losing their job? 

If you’re scared about your job, it’s completely normal. We can’t say ‘go about your business day-to-day,’ all I can say is keep bringing your best self to work where you can with your great attitude and try to grin and bear it. You may get laid off. You can either sit in fear about it or try to keep your sanity in check and your own moral up. Take care of yourself and don’t let the fear creep in too much. 

For those who have been laid off; reach out and get help. Let people know. There are going to be so many good people in the same boat as you -- you’re not alone. If you think about your CV and it says ‘unemployed from April until whenever’ no one will be judging you because everybody will be going through this. Everyone will be processing this differently so do what feels right for you. 

On a more random, upbeat note, what are you listening to and what are you watching to stay sane?

Obviously I’ve seen The Tiger King. I’m watching Better Call Saul, even though I’m late to the game with that. 

I am completely regressing back into my old 90s self, so I’m listening to a lot of hip-hop and what I listened to in the club days -- I just need something fun, because that kind of music just gets me up off my couch. 

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