2023 career challenges: The bottom of the market and what comes next

We’ve hit the bottom of the UK market.

I’m always talking to people… clients hiring, clients I want to hire for and candidates looking, some today, some for the future. I talk to people from big brands, scale-ups, line managers, HR, talent managers, contractors, perm, all sorts… This post is based on everything I am hearing at the Coal Face and everything I am seeing through The Change Partners.

The past few months have been quite profound as I’ve spoken to a lot more people who are available immediately, highly qualified, and who have been made redundant this year. Companies of all sizes and all sectors are re-shaping.

Some people have been looking since the spring, others more recently, and in some cases since the beginning of the year, and that is tough. Most of these people have a 15-25-year career (they are all high-quality individuals), and the theme is that they are all worried. Lack of interviews and a lack of visibility.

My point is that for many of these people, 2023 has presented the biggest career challenge of their lifetime.. they just can’t find work. In many cases, they are not even hearing back on applications now. First  interviews aren’t coming through.

My experience and my gut tell me we have reached the bottom.

So what’s been happening at the senior end of the job market:

Companies are:

1.) Rationaling teams and removing layers at the top, typically any role above 100k will be reviewed, and where multiple “heads of” and “directors” exist, leadership roles are being consolidated. Sometimes the threshold is lower.
2.) Promoting from within. This is good for middle and senior middle management, looking for a step up.
3.) Reducing budgets. Where the role may have paid £120-150k 12 months ago, they may now have a budget cap of up to 125k. Sign-on bonuses are highly unlikely in this environment.
4.) Re-scoping or binning projects: this means less demand for permanent leadership and reduced demand for day-rate interim specialists.
5.) Moving headcount to lower-cost locations
6.) Saving cash and waiting for good news.

The only good news to this post is that I don’t think it will get worse. I predict a gradual improvement as we move into Q1 2024. If you are finding things tough at the moment be prepared for slow or no improvement into mid-January, but by the end of January, I think we will see more senior opportunities coming through. By March I think we will be on an upward trajectory, but it won’t be a return to the demand we experienced between spring 2021 and spring 2022. Improvement will be gradual.

To anyone struggling, please get in touch if you want to talk through the market, options, advice or any other job searching-related matter.

Talk to your family and your network, often the people you expect the least from often give the most. Be prepared to ask.

Everyone no matter how brilliant, will have faced risk, redundancy, and eventually opportunity. Stay positive!

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