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.
President of Wilmington Based Barton Career Advisors Nominated for Delaware Valley HR Consultant of the Year
At the most very basic level of our human, professional DNA is the concept that we must continually seek to better ourselves by evaluating “opportunities” within the context of our current situation. In other words, we look at where we are and say, “Maybe it would be better if I were doing something else, someplace else.” While it is very much true that identifying inflection points within our career is vital to long term success, change for the sake of change can have devastating effects on our professional and personal well being.
We have the privilege of interacting with many, many professionals each and every week. Some of these talented people have been thrust into change through a recent reduction in force or have been asked to take a significant step back within their current organizations. Professionals in this situation must indeed seek change, mostly because it has been activated by an external force. Others that I meet take action out of a desire to continually evolve, staying ahead of the wave and thus fastidiously managing their uniqueness as a solution to business challenges. Interestingly enough there is a category of professional change “seeking” that I find to be harmful – changing direction because we are bored or uninformed. Sometimes that little devil on our shoulder convinces us, “It’ll be better if you could only have a little more control. No one around here knows what’s going on! My boss really aggravates me. I just need a change.” Is anyone familiar with this inner-monologue?
Well, the grass is not always greener. So let’s talk about how to validate our professional feelings about required change. There are always the simple pros and cons of staying or going but there is more! If you are contemplating career change, then you owe to yourself to engage in a thorough due diligence process. After all, our professional well being ranks right up there with family, health and finances in terms of priorities. Does it not?
Start with your professional assets — strengths and values. Make an honest inventory (a simple list) of these attributes and “must haves” if you are going to make a move. Ask yourself some key questions. What type of experiences in life do I find to be satisfying? What things do I just not like to do? What are my natural abilities? What is it that I truly find dissatisfying or unsettling about my current situation?
Okay. Now, make a list of organizations where you believe your requirements may be met, no more than ten, and evaluate each and every one against your criteria. Oh I forgot, put your current company and role on the list. Evaluate that one too! The idea here is simple but powerful. Take a step back, evaluate that “grass is greener” feeling objectively, and take control of the most valuable real estate in the world—the six inches between the left and right ears.