In light of the recent Budget announcement and latest developments in Brexit negotiations I thought it was time for a little bit of perspective…
Recruitment market sensitivity
For the uninitiated, the recruitment industry is heavily impacted by market sentiment and is somewhat myopic and reactive at times; a petri dish for short-termism. The industry is highly sensitive to fluctuations in economic, political and social stability; anything that influences confidence levels. With our fortunes thus linked to the economy, which has limited forward visibility, recruitment businesses often act as a good barometer for underlying confidence in the economy.
Being so sentiment driven, liquidity in recruitment market terms, can change rapidly, whether clients looking to recruit or candidates looking for a new role. As confidence erodes demand for interim and permanent hires fluctuates accordingly with many clients looking to interim support and permanent candidates being more reluctant to move roles, fearing uncertainty and job insecurity.
Given this context, following the recent GDP forecasts from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget announcement, you could be mistaken for thinking that most recruiters at present would be somewhat negative over the prospects for increased market liquidity in to 2018 and beyond. But many reasons exist to remain positive.
Mr Hammond’s recent Budget statement has hardly alleviated current concerns about Brexit and the economy. If anything, they have helped to exacerbate current levels of uncertainty and forced many businesses to reassess short-term, and now medium to long term, planning. With budget deficits likely to run beyond 2030 the Great Recession of 2007-9 is still making its presence felt.
Successive GDP downgrades and an ever-increasing divorce bill from the EU, married together with wider global political uncertainty, driven by the madness of a North Korean despot and the leader of the Western world’s egotistic twitter ramblings, and the recipe for negativity seems rather robust!
But haven’t we heard it all before? Haven’t we heard talk of downgrades and worrying times? Of tightening belts and dark days to come?
But here we are. In a growing UK economy, albeit just not at the forecast rate. The naysayers and doom-mongers amongst us would have us believe that our economy is on the brink, at the precipice of decline and yet Mr. Hammond simply forecast ‘slower growth’, not terminal decline or recession. Given the economists inability to accurately forecast interest rates month-by-month, how much faith should we have in these reports anyway?!
It is this we need to focus on in times of seemingly bleak prospects, tabloid sensationalism and insta-celebrity. Working in an industry notoriously sensitive to economic bad news it is at times likes these we need perspective, positivity, productivity and proactivity.
As such, focusing on the facts at times like these is essential. Employment is the highest levels since 1975, demand for permanent employees reaching record levels placing pressure on the supply of talent which in turn should impact nominal wage levels. Interim recruitment needs continue to grow with clients utiising specialist skill sets to deliver change and transformation, plug skill gaps and drive growth and cost savings. If the economy is set to grow at a slower rate than previously believed surely that presents us all with an opportunity to capitalise on our competitions complacency and weaknesses? To diversify and stress-test our business models and to focus on market share growth and differentiation? Surely this is the time for proactivity?
Epictetus – control of yourself
I sat with a senior candidate this week and said to him, “we can control very few things about your job search; what perception someone has of you when they read your CV; who gets to read your CV; and when they get to read it. The rest is in the lap of the Gods so try not to worry about it”.
The point I was reaching for is that we should focus on the things we can control and be proactive in our pursuit of this control, not reactive to market whims and vagaries. Put more simply, we need to drive the job market and careers ourselves not wait for it to come to us irrespective of exogenous market factors.
I haven’t always been so Epictetian in my views and outlook. In fact, it was a book I read in the deepest darkest days of the post-recession recovery that gave me respite from the sentiment-impacting negativities and hyperbole of the business pages. A book called Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
Marcus Aurelius, aside from being a Roman Emperor and one of the great Stoic philosophers in his own right, was a leading proponent of Epictetus’s teachings. Epictetus, one of the godfathers of stoic philosophy, whose teachings and beliefs help form part of modern Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
You can learn a lot from history.
In essence, Epictetus teaches us that all external events are beyond our control and that we should accept whatever happens to us with calmness and objectivity. We alone are responsible for our own actions and how we react to these external events. Epictetus thus distinguished between the prohairetic and aprohairetic; the things we can control and the things outside our power.
In essence, try not to worry about the latter and focus your mind on the former.
So, it is at times like these, amidst a tumultuous sea of political and economic uncertainty I try to remain objective and calm. I try to advise clients and job seekers, both, to do likewise; to look inside at those things they can control and focus their energies in a positive way. To be guided as much by reason than by emotion.
Mindset alone cannot right the wrongs of a wobbly UK economy and a clouded political horizon, but one thing is for sure, it won't do any harm to stay positive!
For more mystical guidance and career advice rooted in the beliefs of antiquity why not give the philosophers of modern finance recruitment a call on 0151 345 9040.