Chapter Two: Is now the right time to make your move for a new job or career change?

If you are hoping to start a new career, now may be the right time. This is because the U.S. unemployment rate is at its lowest since the early 2000s.

A low jobless rate is indicative of a tight labor market. It means fewer people are available for work and the chances of landing a new job may be greater than in the past. Also, a steady economic environment enhances the demand for goods and services which results in the need for increased hiring. Because of these factors, employers in some fields like construction and manufacturing are wringing their hands.

Talented and valued employees might be in the drivers’ seat since employers don’t want to lose them or allow competitors to poach them away. These conditions may also serve to empower those who are looking to change jobs or trade up their current positions.

It is important to note that there are many considerations that make up jobless data points. The percentage alone does not tell the whole story. For example, while the overall nationwide unemployment rate is low, the jobless rate for adult blacks is still the highest among all measured groups.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in July 2018 edged down to 3.9 percent. Joblessness among blacks was 6.6 percent followed by Hispanics (4.5 percent), adult women (3.7 percent), and Asians (3.1 percent).

These percentages exclude those persons who have given up their search and those who are considered the “long-term unemployed”. These individuals have been jobless for 27 weeks or more. Despite the numbers, interested individuals should prepare to present themselves competitively to attract the attention of prospective employers.

Get Ready for the Hunt

While the tight job market may be good news for those looking to jump ship, any move should be carefully thought out. Of course, one of the first steps that job seekers should do is dust off their resumes. Whether uploaded, emailed, FedExed, or snail-mailed, the resume remains the traditional calling card that communicates who you are and what you have done.

Your resume should be professional and easy to read. Updates to this important document should include the use of bullet points rather than wordy blocks of text. You should list your accomplishments rather than rehashing past job responsibilities.

Don’t forget your social media profiles. Platforms like LinkedIn are crucial conveyors of your professional story. You should carefully review your profile, make updates and check spellings.

Replace your photograph, if the current image is more than a few years old. Don’t stop there. If you are a user or consumer of other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., critically evaluate posts and ask, “Would you hire you?” Believe it or not, recruiters are scouring these platforms as part of their research. Some will tell you that many prospective candidates have been screened out due to posts on social media.

Your Work Should Speak for You

The truth is that your job search should begin long before you send out the first resume. Consider every person you meet as a potential employer. You should recognize that every person who you encounter has the potential to put in a good word for you. They can possibly hire you. Because of this reason, you should strive to always put your best foot forward.

This reminds me of Judy. Every week for an entire year, she would greet a regular banking customer with her usual professional and compassionate demeanor. This was important since excellent customer service was a hallmark of her company. She would process the customer’s transactions flawlessly and efficiently, and her attitude was always the same.

One day during the second year, the customer complimented the quality of her service, and noted her interactions with other customers as well. To Judy’s surprise, the customer began to share information about a new position at his company and offered her the job on the spot.

In Judy’s case, she was not aware that she was being observed as a potential employee, nor was she in the market for a new opportunity. Upon meeting her immediate supervisor, she found that the new job doubled her salary and moved her into the management track. She accepted the offer and has since received two promotions. Her example illustrates the importance of always performing with excellence and professionalism.

Expand Your Network

Equally important, it matters where you show up. Do your after-work happy hours occur at the same spot with the same people? Do you participate in company events? Do you voluntarily attend industry mixers and education workshops?

Keep in mind that networking events do not have to be unique to your industry. You should strive to stretch your network and conversely, broaden your contacts. I once was invited to a networking event for information technology technicians. While I was certain that I could not speak their language, I went anyway. To my surprise, I enjoyed myself, met some interesting people, nibbled on good food, and was referred by a contact to a company that later became my client.

Don’t dismiss the importance of volunteering with charitable organizations and causes. These opportunities will expose you to new contacts and enable you to learn new skills that may be useful in current and future roles. In addition, working closely with other professionals provides a birds-eye view of different work styles and beliefs. This also provides information that could be useful in your job search.

Tap Your Network

For all who have been waiting on economic conditions to improve before making a move, now is the time to become more intentional about stretching your wings.

Certainly, you might begin by expressing your interest in career growth with your current employer. Do not wait for the obligatory performance review period. In fact, you should initiate periodic check-ins with your supervisor to find out if your performance is meeting expectations and where improvements can be made. Changes that you successfully make prior to the review period strengthen your case for a raise or promotion.

You might also discreetly begin to share your interest in new challenges with trusted friends and key contacts. These individuals might know about unannounced or unfolding opportunities. Their recommendations could influence whether your name is placed in a prospective candidate pool.

Make the Right Choice

Although trends suggest new opportunities may be on the horizon, going for a new job because it pays more or offers a bigger title should not be the only motivating factors. Certainly, if your growth potential has been exhausted at your current employer or you want to have more challenge or professional impact, changing jobs should be among your priorities. But don’t jump at the first bite.

In a hunter’s market, you can afford to find the job that is right for you. Begin by making a list of the companies where you would like to work. Find out about the company’s values and whether they align with your own. Is there growth potential? Is professional development encouraged and supported? Do current employees consider their work as jobs or careers?

If given a chance to meet with a recruiter or hiring manager, be professional and direct. Ask probing questions that address your ability to be successful in the position. You have every right to ask about the company’s culture, your future colleagues, challenges, promotional opportunities, and the reason the last person left the position for which the company is hiring. While the manager might not be able to disclose some information, you may be able to draw some inference based on what is shared.

Remember, just as the company is looking to hire someone to perform a task or execute a project, you are also sizing up the potential employer to determine if the job is right for you. This approach will keep you from appearing too eager or desperate for a job. Your thoughtful questions and concise communication about your abilities and accomplishments will help you shine.

Create Your Own

Rather than seeking to be hired by an existing company or organization, the time may be ripe to consider whether starting a business is a more optimal choice.

Skills and expertise acquired and refined while working in large and small organizations can be parlayed into independent or consulting work.  This may be an attractive option for those who are prepared to withstand the rigors of going into business. Choosing to become an entrepreneur has its rewards, however, success is not an easy feat.

Despite a job seeker’s market, you must still do your part. One of my trusted mentors is known for saying, “Cream always rises to the top.”

Happy hunting!

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