Saturday, November 15, 2008

Staying in the Game

Steve Hernandez and I facilitated a transition workshop last week for a group of people that has just been laid off from a Bay Area company. In addition to the typical questions about resumes, cover letters, and networking, they were also expressing concerns about the state of the economy and how that will impact their ability to get re-employed.

I think by now everyone realizes that we are in a troubled economy and all signs are that the job market will get worse before it gets better. Though this may be discouraging or even depressing to many, and can dampen one’s sense of optimism about the future, I’d like to offer another point of view. The job market, whether robust and expanding or moribund and contracting, is always in dynamic motion. In other words, even in the worst of times, there are always opportunities to find work.

Because these opportunities are harder to see and access and the competition is more intense, there are several things you can do now to improve your odds of finding work. The first is getting clear about your skill set and recognizing how those skills are applicable in your own field and also in at least one alternative field. If you aren’t sure where your skills might transfer, I’d suggest you begin researching now to find that answer. In addition, and perhaps, most importantly, you must be able to articulate the value your skills can add for a potential employer.

In a tight job market, people who have connections have a real advantage. Even then, their odds don’t improve much unless they are willing and able to tap into that network and leverage those contacts into employment opportunities. Networking is always a good practice and during these times, it is especially critical, not only to open doors, but also to minimize having to compete for opportunities that are posted on the various job sites.

Finally, and perhaps the most important, is the need to be patient. A job or career transition is challenging in the best of times, but as we look ahead to the job market in 2009, patience may be your most valuable ally. Recognize those things over which you have control (making those calls everyday, staying hopeful, etc.) and let go of those over which you do not (the state of the job market, people who don’t return your inquiries, etc.) and keep moving. Remember, it may take longer than you’d like, but if you stay in the game, you will have a successful transition.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Job Market Update

The doom and gloom on the street and in the news with unstable capital markets has all employers looking at their hiring practices more carefully. The slow down started about 10 to 12 months ago with a gradual decreased in new job starts. Over the past month we have seen a sharp decrease in new jobs (roughly 30% drop from a year ago) as everyone is concerned about the recession. A year ago there were multiple opportunities (3 to 4 interviews in a week) to active candidates, today the same candidate may have one interview. There are exceptions to all of this but in general tougher times are here.

We see critical hires being made along with replacements to key positions that have been recently vacated. Only a few companies are growing and adding head count. Most are sitting back and waiting for a more predictable economy that will reduce the risk of over hiring and spending.

As 2008 comes to a close we predict a significant decline in newly created jobs between now through the end of the year. We do not see any significant growth in the early part of 2009 unless the following takes place.

1. Better than expected holiday season and better than expected Q4 corporate earnings resulting in more confidence that the worst may be over.
2. With better than expected results in Q4 a change in the volatility in the capital markets will need to take place if it hasn't already.
3. Companies who have been able to stay profitable will need to have the confidence that business will continue to do well and the investment in human capital will not result in layoffs 6 to 9 months down the road.

Companies will be conservative, there will not be great demand for talent all at one time but a slow and steady increase of jobs should take place from the February/March time frame if all goes well.

If you are looking for change now, you better work hard at it, once Thanksgiving is here there will likely be very few new jobs available through the end of January. If you are looking for career growth please be patient, your ideal job may present itself but if it doesn't in the near term you will likely see more options at the end of Q1 next year.

For the hiring managers or employers thinking that there is a flood of candidates on the market with ideal profiles think again. Employed candidates are cautious and only willing to change if the job really helps their career growth and move to a company that appears to be in very good financial condition. Candidates who may be part of a reduction in work force may be motivated but may not have all the skills you require. There is nothing wrong with developing people if they have the talent and satisfy most of the technical requirements for your opening. You could be better off bringing in a motivated person who will be up to speed before your ideal candidate becomes available.

Happy Hunting!

Bryon McDougall

Sunday, November 2, 2008


In sports, the most successful athletes and teams are usually the ones who can effectively make adjustments. The player who has multiple facets to their game, the one who can successfully adapt their performance to exploit the environment they are operating in, usually prevails over their opponent. I think the same can be said for business, and job search.

Clearly things have changed in the job market over the last three months. And chances are they will continue to change in the coming months. For those who find themselves in job search or career change mode during this time, having the ability to adapt to market conditions will be critical for their success.

Because our marketplace is changing, what job search parameters that worked for you in the past, may not necessarily work this time. In previous blog entries we’ve talked about adjustments relating to job search methodology and approach. Another key element to consider is changing your own expectations.

One usually enters the job market with a basic set of parameters of what they are looking for when it comes to role, industry, salary, growth opportunity, location, etc. When the perfect storm hits, all of these things may come together. When that happens, obviously one should seize that opportunity. That perfect storm is more likely to happen in a robust job market. However, right now we’re looking at modest job growth over the next year, thus that perfect storm is less likely to hit. Or, it certainly may take a lot longer than it did a year ago. Plus, now unlike the last two years, their may also be more individuals in transition competing in the market for that perfect job you want.

Given these circumstances, on way to give yourself a more competitive advantage, and shorten your job search is to adjust your own expectations. You may want to reconsider the parameters of what is the “the perfect job.” Perhaps what you choose to pursue now, in the short run, could be the job that is most perfect considering current market conditions.

I’m not suggesting that one settles for any form of employment. But if the job is close to the mark, not perfect, but good enough, it may in fact be the best you can do for yourself right now. And by relaxing some of your requirements for role, salary, industry, and location, you may be giving yourself an edge over your competitors who are turning down reasonable opportunities, because they are holding out for that perfect job. Unfortunately for them, they may be holding out for a while.

--Steve Hernandez

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