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The Three Approaches to Recovery

By May 15, 2020No Comments

Like having unprotected sex with a chlamydic super model, it was with mixed emotions that I found myself riding into work yesterday morning. Not “mixed” because I’m yet to organise my sock draw, but more so from the time it took to traverse the 20 kilometers across Auckland. Those who have visited this fine city will know that “traffic” and “Auckland” go together like Tango & Cash. So when a journey which typically takes 40 minutes only takes 20, you know that something ain’t right. And unlike the advice given to me by my financial advisor, I have found Auckland traffic to be the number one predictor of economic performance. Simply put, if traffic is free flowing, cash into my business is not. I have learnt to enjoy these trips however, as they typically represent the best part of what will turn out to be a very slow day. By yesterday’s showing, Level 2 was not the mini-boom I was hoping for. On arrival, town was quiet, the pub was empty and seated us easily, and most of our clients were still at home sorting out their sock drawers. Lucky bastards. Although I know I should be patient, and that Level 2 “really” starts when the kiddywinkles trudge back to School, but I fear that unless we approach this return with the right mindset, then we are going to make a shitty situation even….shittier.

People on Instagram and middle-aged fat women who wear amber jewellery talk a lot about mindset. Middle-aged men in suits call it “market confidence”. However you want to view this situation, what’s happened has happened, and the thing that will decide how well we bounce back will be the approach that we collectively take. Having spent the last seven weeks having hundreds of meandering and largely pointless¬† conversations with candidates and clients alike, there seems to be three mindsets that people are readily adopting.

People adopting the first approach are taking a leaf out of the ol’ Jamaican Pharoah’s playbook, spending most of their time in “de Nile” (it’s ok, they get better). An approach popular with many of my candidates is to not recognise the global pandemic and ensuing recession. Ducking the biggest Elephant of all time, they call me saying things like: “Yeah Sean, I’ve been an agency recruiter for 3 years now, but I’ve been thinking about going internal for about 18 months. I just feel the time is right for me”. There will be absolutely no reference to Coronavirus. No mention that they’ve been made redundant. Yet typically and tellingly, this call will be on a Sunday afternoon. In an attempt to mask their understandable desperation, they adopt a fake, “takie-it-or-leave-it”, laissez-faire approach to their job hunt. No one is fooled. Some recruitment agency owners adopt this approach also. Driven by the braggadocio hammered into them by Hays in 1990s, they cannot admit that times will be tough in the ensuing months. These are the guys who will buy a new car next week, just to prove a point to Murray next door. This is the approach of Mike Hosking and Simon Bridges when they complain that the government has done too much. Ironically, despite the bravado, this group is driven by a heady mixture of pride and fear.

The second approach, and one that attacks from the other end of the pitch, is one of absolutely catastrophe and panic. People who adopt this mindset have already given up and accepted their fate. Sadly, what they don’t understand is that in many cases, their fate has not yet been decided. Their negativity will be their undoing however. And if we’re not careful, it’ll be the undoing of us all. To buy into this is to hunker down at home. Eating bread and water and heating your home with burning holiday brochures. Staring out into a post-apocalyptic wasteland and waiting for the End of Days. People with this mindset will never kickstart an economy. If you place these people into senior corporate roles, these are the guys pulling the plug on all recruitment for the next 8 years. They are every junior recruiters’ worst nightmare on a BD call. They are doom-mongers and should be avoided at all cost. When candidates fall into this mindset, they start to seriously undervalue themselves. A friend of mine recently asked my advice about taking a commission-only job with a firm that looks to me more like a dodgy scam than a recruitment firm. I warned him to stay well away, but last I heard, he was accepting the job. Any job (even one that doesn’t pay you any money) is better than nothing right? Right?? No my friend. We are not there quite yet. This is the approach of Mike Hosking and Simon Bridges when they complain that the government has done too much little.

The third approach sits somewhere slap-bang between these two. And as someone who has never been a fan of half-measures and moderation, it pains me to admit that this is the approach that will save us all. In order to get us out of this hole, when buying a lunch or a nice bottle of wine, when holidaying (domestically), or when deciding whether to hire someone this year, we need to adopt the “devil-may-care” intent of approach one. The lack of funds in our pocket today caused by this expense will have a karmic return into our own wallets in the future. It is the only way to get things going again. However, we can’t just sit there and pretend it’s business as usual. There is less money in the pot, and that money will move slower between pots. We will have less, financially at least. We can all park the pride for a moment and admit that things haven’t quite worked out as we would have hoped for. It’s OK to be just surviving right now. Things are tough but that’s OK. Both businesses and individuals have the tricky balancing act of both tightening their belts whilst also splashing the cash. Whatever your political leanings, at least yesterday’s budget sounded like an attempt to achieve this middle-ground. Whether the lifetime of debt will be worth what the Labour government achieves remains to be seen. Love her or hate her, PM Jacinda Ardern said “We have to go into this period knowing it will be tough, but that there is hope and possibility”. Hopefully we can all agree on that.

Keep washing those hands.