Four “Must Knows” for Professionals Amidst Mild Improvement in US Economy

Four “Must Knows” for Professionals Amidst Mild Improvement in US Economy

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by Chris Barton, President & Founder

Over the last 18 months there have been signs, although mild, that the US economy is finally in a period of recovery after the prolonged recession.  In just the last week the Chief Executives of major US corporations like CSX and Coke have offered optimistic views of the business climate as it relates to macroeconomic indicators.  The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is down from its recessionary high of 10% in October 2009 to 8.2% in March 2012.  We have been asked recently what all the good news means for those who are still unemployed or professionals who think that now might be the time to look for the next best thing.

Must Know #1 – Your Competition Has Skyrocketed

During the recession those that remained employed were hesitant to start a job search for fear of being detected as disloyal or uncommitted.  Further, this group of professionals felt fortunate to have kept their jobs during such a tumultuous time.  Now, all bets are off. Companies tighten their belts during lean times and everyone is expected to do more with less.  Generally, this means lower (if any) raises, the elimination of bonus compensation and sometimes drastic measures like furloughs or salary reductions.  When the economy improves, even slightly, the war for talent heats up and professionals that have been beaten up by their employers are ready to walk out the door for a better offer.  This phenomenon has been called “talent migration”. Your career search skills and professional brand must now be sharper than ever.

Must Know #2 – As the Economy Improves Corporate Change Will Not Subside

When the economy gets rough businesses make cuts and those expense reductions almost always involve people and jobs. Millions of jobs have been lost during the recession and for various reasons some will never come back. Many are hoping that the worst is over.  Unfortunately, the waves of change will not subside as the economy recovers. The waters of professional life are likely to become ever more turbulent. Businesses are sitting on huge cash stock piles and are ready to pounce on key partnerships and potential growth opportunities once things heat back up. The next true challenge for professionals will be the confluence of executive impatience, investor expectations and lots of pent up money on balance sheets.  Specifically, merger and acquisition activity will accelerate. Where there are takeovers job losses will follow.  It pays to be a student of your business and to expect change as a constant in your career.

Must Know #3 – Work Styles and Methods Have Shifted

One thing is for sure, businesses and their leaders have learned to do more with less – fewer people, fewer resources, lower compensation, delayed projects and the like.  Survival mode has required sacrifices. As a result managers have learned to get things done without always making the decision to bring new full-time employees on board.  Flexibility is still a priority and hiring managers have learned new tricks.  Specifically, the number of contingent, contract and temporary employment situations has been on the rise.  Be prepared for long interview processes that turn into “non-traditional” employment offers. If you receive an offer with a probationary “kick the tires” period of temporary employment, you should not be surprised. Expect businesses to continue leveraging staffing firms and other outsourced strategies to meet their needs.

Must Know #4 – Business Confidence Suffers from Political & Economic Uncertainty

Election year politics and wavering economic signals are not a good sign for prospects of a rapid increase in hiring activity.  Recent reports on CEO confidence and surveys of small business leaders reveal that no one is in a hurry to get back to pre-recession employment levels until there is some level of calm in Washington, DC and the economy.  Executives are paid to take risks to grow their businesses to better serve customers, please investors and to make more money.  However, these same leaders do not like to get behind the wheel wearing a blindfold.  It is true that things have been looking up slightly but, don’t bet the ranch that we’ll see a 5% unemployment rate anytime in the near future.  Place a very high level of importance on researching the companies on your target list.  You’ll need to be able to clearly articulate your value to organizations that will still be very tight with their hiring processes.


Barton Career Advisors, LLC is a relationship based outplacement and career coaching firm offering premier career transition services to corporations and individuals throughout the US and Canada. The company which is headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware offers flexible outplacement for businesses and career coaching and resume construction for individual clients. The company supports its one to one approach with its innovative career transition portal, CoachOnetoOne™. Through Speaker Services the company works with corporations, professional associations, conferences and non-profits to provide training and key-note presentations on career related topics. Barton Career Advisors employs a need-based business model, BCA One-to-One, which is driven by experience and client outcomes.