By Reya Mehrotra
Arun Mittal, an employee of OYO Rooms, was laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, as the online hotel booking platform downsized its team. Disheartened, as anyone in his position would be, he questioned his decisions so far and the future that holds for him.
However, Mittal did not let time decide his worth. He soon posted on his LinkedIn profile, saying: “Unemployed. Not where I expected to be 8+ years into my career but I’m facing this reality along with millions of other people. It has taken me over a month to process but sharing now since I know a lot of us are in the same boat… Now I’m officially on the job hunt during the worst possible time but hey, this is life!’
Mittal’s post got more than 16,000 likes and two dozen replies praising his willpower and suggesting him possible job leads. A few days later, he wrote another post, “Thank you everyone for your support. Pleased to inform you all that I have joined WhiteHat Jr as a Director in B2C Sales.”
That is the power of social media. Mittal’s case defines a very significant trend during the pandemic when layoffs had become commonplace. As many struggled financially with jobs being lost and salaries being cut, social media came to their rescue in getting small-time paid assignments and even well-paid jobs like the one in the case of Mittal.
According to the latest LinkedIn Labour Market Update data, the average time for fresh graduates to find a new job increased by 43% (from 2 to 2.8 months) in 2020 compared to pre-Covid times in 2019. But while the conversion time increased, so did remote opportunities. For job seekers, this became a golden opportunity. Not only LinkedIn, several other social networking platforms like Facebook and Instagram also helped both the employers and the employees to connect with each other over potential job offers.
As compared to 2020, 2021 proved to be a better year for the job market as layoffs reduced and companies struggled their way back even as the fear of a third wave of the deadly coronavirus loomed large. According to the The Monster Employment Index, a broad and comprehensive analysis of online job posting activity conducted by Monster India for June 2021, metropolitan cities such as Bangalore (50%), Pune (28%), Hyderabad (22%), Chennai (22%), Mumbai (7%), and Delhi (4%) show considerable uptick in demand for talent across sectors compared to last year (June 2021 vs June 2020). The index also states a year-on-year spike in online demand for professionals in software, hardware, telecom (35%) functions on the account of digitisation while job postings for entry-level professionals witnessed a significant growth of 6% month-on-month.
In the time of virtual hiring and desperate need of employment, developing newer and lucrative tools for hiring and helping people connect became the motto of social media giants. LinkedIn, which is primarily meant for professionals to connect, was not the only platform aiding employment opportunities. Video conferencing apps like Zoom and Google Meet observed high traction in the number of users as they further upgraded themselves to remain in the new competitive market. Other social media apps and employment-oriented online services updated themselves with added features to bridge the widened social gap.
Who would have thought that the short-format video app TikTok, which boasts of young users making videos for fun, would pull a serious face during the pandemic? But it did.
In July last year, TikTok announced ‘TikTok Resumes’, a pilot programme to expand it as a channel for job discovery and recruitment. Kayla Dixon, marketing manager at TikTok, says, “TikTok Resumes is a natural extension of our TikTok College Ambassadors programme, where we previously employed hundreds of college students as on-campus brand representatives. Like many, college students were impacted by the pandemic and have displayed a resilience and unwavering optimism that’s truly been inspiring. We’re excited to help students and job seekers everywhere unleash their creativity.”
The news of the video resumes spread fast as the brand tried to attract youngsters into the job market with an innovative idea. But this is not a new concept. Back in 2017, to attract young employees to apply, McDonald’s had introduced a similar video resume on Snapchat wherein a candidate was required to send a 10-second video using a uniform filter from the app and had attracted thousands of applications. In July last year, another employment website Indeed announced free video interviewing options to all jobs posted on their site. They said that this would allow employers to hire 20% faster than in-person interviews.
In fact, quite recently, actor Rakul Preet Singh, along with her brother Aman Preet Singh, launched StarringYou, an app to help people find opportunities and access to Bollywood. This would be a first-of-a-kind solution for talent hiring in the Indian film industry.
As for Facebook, several groups on the platform that cater to job seekers in several fields remained hyperactive with postings about freelance roles and small-time paid assignments. Instagram remained busy with several small businesses, freelance pages and profiles sprouting throughout the pandemic. In fact, social media has become the easiest earning tool with options to promote business, find jobs and even make money.
In September last year, Twitter announced the arrival of Spaces wherein anyone can be the host of a discussion and earn by setting prices and the audience size for the experiences they create.
Twitter’s Spaces model is just a micro example of how the use of social media is enabling one to earn. The YouTube model has been attracting creators even more so for the past two years to get monetised through their content. According to YouTube’s recent data, more than 4,000 Indian YouTube channels have over a million subscribers, which is a 50% year-on-year increase as of June 2021. The company also shares that the number of YouTube channels making `1,00,000 or more in revenue is up over 60%, year over year. This includes a strong list of channels owned by Indian women like Dance with Alisha, Payal Gaming, Suhani Shah, Kashika Sisodia and more.
LinkedIn, the go-to platform for jobseekers, observed active networking when it came to searching for jobs, especially by those laid off. Bhairavi Jhaveri, LinkedIn career expert and India communications lead, shares that they came up with prominent features to help people find jobs like the Open-To Work feature to indicate that you’re open to work and to make yourself more discoverable by hiring managers, Career Explorer tool to uncover careers you could transition into, LinkedIn Stories to help members feel more connected as a way to start lightweight conversations related to your work-life and Virtual Events.
Mumbai-based screenwriter and novelist Virag Dhulia, 41, found a lucrative assignment on Facebook last year.
“I had left my IT job few years ago to pursue my passion of writing. When the pandemic came, all my projects hit a roadblock. But I was constantly looking out for assignments through FB groups for freelance writers and landed a good assignment wherein I had to translate novels in Hindi for a podcast for an RJ. Most of my freelance assignments are found through Facebook groups,” he shares.
For employers hiring virtually too, social media became the go-to place to find candidates quickly. One post was all it took to attract hundreds of comments. Abhinav Arora, co-founder and CMO, Scenes by Avalon, a Bengaluru-based startup that connects like-minded people, shares that they had put out a Twitter post in 2020 to hire someone in a full-time video editing role and one of their followers who had been laid off responded with a link to one of his works. Once he was interviewed, he got the job.
“The pandemic has brought forward parts of social media that were potent but never fully used. The biggest boon being the birth of online communities. The Avalon Meta Virtual Campus (community for digital enthusiasts) was a perfect example of this. People were meeting likeminded folks online, networking and posting for jobs,” he adds.
Rohith Reji, co-founder and chief building officer (CBO) of fintech institution Neokred, shares that they had come across a candidate while they were looking for a leader who could take charge of technology development in their firm.
“Social media was the only way an interaction could take place, especially in the pandemic. This embarked us on the mission to find the right set of people and making sure we reach a very large set of audience. Hence, we had social media to be our influence and distributor,” Reji says. They hired the candidate for the role who had commented on their post on LinkedIn after due process.
The vulnerable lot
However, the statistics might not be the same for all. When 26-year-old Mumbai-based social media marketer and book reviewer Vidhya Thakkar left her job in August 2020 after she contracted Covid-19, she found freelance projects to the rescue. Since then, she has got at least 50-55 book review projects and a few digital marketing projects, all paid, thanks to Instagram, in which she has more than 19,000 followers. “I don’t plan to join a job anytime soon as I have been getting good projects through social media,” she says.
While landing small-time paid assignments and freelance jobs through social media is an easy task, for women and freshers, the pandemic has laid bare the ugly truth of job security. In June last year, LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index, based on the survey responses of 1,891 professionals from May 8 to June 4, found that after the second wave of coronavirus earlier last year, Indian professionals—particularly Gen Z and working women—were increasingly getting vulnerable to the economic uncertainty in today’s evolving job market. The dip in confidence reflected strongly across professionals from creative industries such as entertainment, design, and media and communications, who expressed being uncertain about the future of their employers.
As for working women, the individual confidence index (ICI) scores of female professionals fell from +57 in March 2021 to +49 in early June 2021—a 4x decline compared to working men (+58 in March to +56 in June). Hence, findings show that India’s working women are twice more likely to be worried about the availability of jobs, their professional network, and time devoted to job seeking, than working men today.
Even as the future is uncertain for now, the dawn of the new decade is exposing the power of the digital media to its fullest potential and the coming years will only be witness to newer avenues opening as the economy heals and the job market opens with an impending risk of a third wave of the novel coronavirus.