After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

There's the good news, then there's the truth

When asked where the current job market stands, I might venture this description: Just a few miles south of Bad News, and a little way north of Cataclysmic.  But that may be sugarcoating it.

With an unemployment rate hanging near 9+% and many economists predicting a long, slow jobs recovery, it is easy to get discouraged.  My own personal universe of family, friends and colleagues includes stories of failed businesses, long-term unemployment, lost homes, entry level college grads who have been unable to get a foothold on their future, and advanced-level employees who have been forced to take significant slides down the career ladder. 

But seldom is heard a discouraging word from this headhunter, at least without some good news to offset it.  Yes, there is some good news out there too.

Reports detailing the revenues of publicly traded executive recruitment firms are showing a twenty-percent increase in these firms’ revenues over the last year.   These revenues provide an excellent indicator of the job market.  A rapid increase, though not reflected in today’s employment figures, indicates that companies are hiring for select positions.

And while it is certainly a small test sample of a much larger population, my own firm’s activity has seen a solid increase in the recent months.  Companies are beginning to position themselves for the much awaited turnaround.  Unfortunately, some of these searches have been to replace poorly performing incumbents, but any change represents an opportunity for someone to solve a problem.  One person’s performance issues may result in an opening for a more qualified, energetic individual.

Additionally, the enthusiastic response to my phone calls indicates that potential candidates seem more receptive to the idea of changing companies, replacing the attitude that safety lies in staying put.  Whenever there is a pent-up demand for change, it is good for the activity level in the employment market.

The key for all job seekers today is to keep your mental activity level up.  It may come to pass that you have to think outside the friendly confines of an industry in which you have worked for ten-plus years.  If that is the case, do it.  Open your mind.  Research other industries that parallel your former industry.  If you can manage people in a steel mill, you can probably manage people in a distribution center. 

If you have the resources, consider retooling your skills.  A friend from my daughter’s swim team era jumped from the hi-tech world of telecom and retrained himself for the medical field.  He now spends his days assisting a doctor with hip replacements.  A radical change for sure, but he is happy and he is employed. 

If you are “on the beach” as I sometimes describe a full-time job search that has lasted a while, it may be a great time to consider an entrepreneurial venture you have always wanted to try.   What’s to lose if you have already lost your regular paycheck?  Be ready to work and worry like never before, but if you get your venture going, there is no better feeling.

If you choose to stay the course, positions are available, but you must work every angle known to man or woman in the course of your search.  Be open to a change in locale, if necessary.  Make yourself available on every social network, have coffee with people you have known for years or days, be not shy about telling people you are seeking a new job and explaining your area of expertise.  As Zig Ziglar said, “Shy salesmen have skinny kids.”

Below are just a few success stories that I know.  I would love to hear some from you.

·         A friend of mine near 60 years old who had experienced severe job downgrading due to the acquisition of his company used personal networking to find a new position that was a perfect fit for his talents and his background. 
·         A 50-ish friend in the marketing field had experienced his second layoff in a period of a few years.  He aggressively attacked the job market and was able to find employment this summer.
·         A friend and stay-at-home mom was able to train herself in office skills and find an administrative position after an extended period out of the workforce.
·         In my own practice, companies that have been relatively dormant in hiring for the last few years seem to be showing some willingness to hire.

All is not doom and gloom.  Opportunities are there for the taking or the making.  So let’s kick off those pink slippers and march proudly into the challenging job market determined to beat the odds.

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