Happy New Year!
And what a good year it is going to be! How can it not be, following 2014, the best we’ve had in the US job market in 15 years? Not to mention that, good as 2014 was, the second half trended even stronger than the first, and the middle two quarters didn’t slump like they did in ’12 and ’13. There’s no need for all the details. I did that in last week’s column, so if you haven’t recycled it yet, go get it.
The point is: We’re on a roll, but what are you going to do about it? My most strongly emphasized theme this past year has been about changing the narrative. In other words, the job market improvement is a given and the ills – all those things you could blame, like massive job losses, persistent and long-term unemployment levels, and a stagnant economy – are gone or nearly dead. So not only are there none of these reasons for not finding the job you want, there are no more excuses. And the narrative changes.
In a job market that’s gone from 6½ unemployed candidates for every job opening down to a 2:1 ratio, that’s akin to going from a mob scene to a fair fight. And that’s exactly where the narrative changes and where you can make concrete plans to go into the fight to win it. It is, indeed, a fair fight, and it’s entirely within your control to come out on top. Instead of talking about all the things that prevented you from landing a job or advancing your career, we’re now going to talk about all the ways in which you are going to succeed.
“I think it is an immutable law in business,” declared Harold Geneen, president and CEO of ITT from 1959 to 1977, when it was the world’s largest conglomerate, “that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises – but only performance is reality.” So I’m sure Mr. Geneen would agree with the three major initiatives I’m herewith suggesting.
1. Be a “Career A.P.E.” The acronym – A.P.E. – stands for Assess-Plan-Execute, and that means taking an honest, hard look at the market and what it is demanding, and yourself and what you offer. The difference is “the skills gap.” Close that gap, and one or more of more than 4.8 million open jobs – jobs that employers would fill if the candidate with the right skills showed up – can be yours. That’s the assessment part. Then comes the planning stage, in which you lay down a concrete plan to acquire the necessary skills, followed by the execution of the plan.
Yes, by the way, there really are 4.8 million unfilled jobs, and with 9.1 million people unemployed, you’d figure those jobs would fill quickly. Not so. Employers have gotten picky – and rightfully so. As a result it’s your challenge to show up qualified, but in a fair fight, you have no reason not to.
2. Understand a key rule of the new game. The rules of the game have changed so dramatically in the last seven years that the game itself has changed, and the most critical change is that now, the job does not necessarily go to the candidate who knows most about the job, but rather to the one who knows most about how to get hired. In other words, career skills are as important as – or more important than – job skills. If you think this situation affects you to any degree whatsoever, go out and do something about it. Developing and improving career skills will make you more competitive in landing the position in which you can use your job skills.
And finally …
3. Keep all five tools in perfect condition. When a craftsman begins a job, he makes sure (a) he has all the tools he needs and (b) they’re all in perfect working order. Your five tools are your resume, your interviewing strategies and skills (with the emphasis on strategies), your job search strategies, your career planning (both short- and long-term), and your career networking. Those are the job seekers five tools, and now that we’re in a fair fight, you need to have all these tools, and they need to be in perfect shape. Good enough is not good enough. So first, make sure your resume is an absolute, drop-dead A+ document. It is, before all, the way the world sees you before it meets you. Second, once that resume makes your phone ring, if you go into the interview without a clear strategy, your game probably ends right there. Strategies outweigh skills every time. Third, how are you conducting your job search? Too many people are running a 2015 job search with pre-2008 strategies (or pre-1988, sorry to say). Let’s change that immediately. Fourth, what’s your career plan? It’s OK if you have to change your plan; it’s just not OK not to have one. And finally, just what does your network look like and how are you using and nurturing it? This, it turns out, is elusive to many people who think networking simply means asking others for jobs or leads.
So be an A.P.E., get with the rule, and sharpen your tools.
Here’s to a great 2015!
Career Coach Eli Amdur conducts workshops and one-on-one coaching in Job Search, Career Planning, Resumes, and Interviewing. Reach him at email@example.com or 201-357-5844. Please visit www.amdurcoaching.com and “like” him at www.facebook.com/AmdurCoaching.