It’s Monday morning. How do you feel about getting out of bed to go to work?
With luck, you are among the 51% of U.S. workers who are satisfied with their jobs. This figure, reported last fall by the Conference Board, a business-research group, represents the highest level of job satisfaction since 2005. If you are among the remaining 49% of Americans, however, whose feelings range from a lack of passion to dread about starting a new week at work, it’s time to consider a change in your life.
Maybe some event has happened, like an illness in the family or a merger at work, that has turned your normal upside down. Maybe you feel under-appreciated by your boss. Maybe you feel that you are doing a good job with what’s within your control, but things outside of your control are preventing you from feeling successful.
Or maybe you just have a gnawing sensation that you want to do something different with your life.
Any of these situations should trigger you to re-balance your life so that you can approach your work with new energy.
Even if you’re satisfied, don’t wait until things go south at work to figure out how to improve your career prospects. It’s hard to understand why things are going wrong when you’re reacting to a bad situation. NOW is always the right time to think about your career strategically.
Before making any professional move, you need to figure out where you want to go. That’s harder than it sounds because there are many underlying factors to consider. For most people, work and every other aspect of life are closely tied together. It’s crucial, therefore, to find balance in your life.
The key to finding balance is, first, ascertaining what your non-negotiable goals are; these will be your beacon as you chart the course of your career.
Start by reflecting on what is right and wrong about your life – not just your work life, but every aspect of your life. What makes you happy and unhappy? How do you define a successful life for yourself? What do you most value?
There are no wrong answers to these questions as long as you are being honest with yourself.
Next, ask yourself what obstacles you face in achieving your goals. What will it take to overcome them? Warning: You may need to dig deep for that answer and you may not like what you discover (because sometimes the biggest obstacle you face is you). But if your goals are valuable enough to you, the pursuit of them is worth the challenge.
If this first step sounds more like life coaching than career advice, you aren’t wrong. “Life coaching is a foundational process because I can’t help people with their careers if they don’t have that foundation,” says Dan Resendes, Chief Consulting Officer at career management firm, The Barrett Group.
Resendes touts the merits of The Barrett Group’s well-developed Clarity methodology, which calls on clients to rank their overall happiness, on a scale of 1-10, in four categories: financial independence, business success, family and relationships, and health and fitness.
“We ask our clients to set short- and long-term goals to get the highest score possible in all four areas. This process gives people clarity on how to see what is right and wrong about their lives and helps them make informed decisions. It gives them a roadmap.”
Create a Roadmap for Your Career
Once you have clarity about where you want to go, you can plan your path to get there. Know your core competencies – where are you an expert? This includes both hard skills (e.g. specifically learned skills) and soft skills (e.g. naturally acquired skills, such as ability to communicate or work in a team setting). You should also know your weaknesses. Are there gaps between your skillset and those in demand in your target career? If so, figure out how to acquire them.
Whenever possible, ramp up your skills. Read books, join professional groups, take courses, attend conferences and talk to people who do what you want to do. In the fast-paced business world of today you will lose your competitive edge if you don’t make upskilling a regular focus of your career strategy.
The value of networking cannot be overstated when it comes to career changes.
Most new jobs are landed when people leverage their social capital, according to Resendes. “Of our clients, 75% land a job through social networks – and many of those are unpublished jobs,” he said. No wonder then that The Barrett Group urges all clients to kickstart a career change by reconnecting with friends, family and business acquaintances.
That doesn’t mean floating your resume around or asking people for jobs. It means focusing on nurturing relationships – spending time to catch up and strengthen social connections. At some point the conversation may come back to you – your work and aspirations – and could yield some benefits. It may not happen immediately, but at some point in the future your friend may talk to someone about a topic related to you and will think of you.
If you are very serious about making a career change, you should consider working with a professional career coach. A coach can reframe things differently, help drive and navigate the process, and hold you accountable, like a trainer.
A coach can be more objective and ask hard questions that you won’t ask yourself. She can help you think outside your comfort zone and stretch your perspective. Once you do, you may stretch more than you ever thought you could – and change more than you ever thought you would.
Of course, a coach can also be invaluable in offering best practices when it comes to resume and cover letter preparation, interviewing, and job offer negotiations among other things.
What to Expect from Getting Unstuck
Be prepared for some discomfort as you travel your new career path. There will be highs and lows and the process may be fast or slow – it all depends on your circumstances and how much time and effort you put into it.
Indeed, you should be prepared to spend at least three hours per week working on your career plan. Treat your career with the same importance you do your work and your family by scheduling time on your calendar to work on it.
For many, time management will be a bear, especially during the self-reflection part of the process. Not only is it hard to make time to ask yourself uncomfortable questions, but also there is no immediate gratification.
Still, the biggest obstacle to achieving success is spending 100% of your time taking care of your family and job. Sure, it seems honorable, but if you aren’t committed to working on your career, nothing will change.
Professionals that commit themselves to the journey they have charted for themselves are always the first to land new opportunities. And those that continue to focus on their careers in a strategic, not reactionary, way will continue to discover new opportunities going forward.
“The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, the country has seen eight years of job growth and the market is a job seeker’s dream. So, why is it so challenging to find a job?”
Sound familiar? The answer to the question might be different for you than it is for someone else: Maybe it’s your age; maybe robots are consuming the jobs in your field; or maybe it’s simply that the method for job hunting has dramatically changed since the last time you did it. Despite the seemingly rosy employment picture these days, the search for the perfect job can sometimes seem like a quest for the Holy Grail – you search near and far, for months on end, only to end up wondering whether it actually exists.
Whatever the reason, don’t despair!
And take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone.
Part of the difficulty is that you’re facing more competition. Thanks to technology, recruiters can now cast a wider net than ever before to find candidates with the right skill set.
What’s more, there are more people in the market because a job seeker’s market entices more workers to re-enter it to look for a better option.
A report published in 2017 by nonprofit Mental Health America and the FAAS Foundation found that, of 17,000 U.S. workers surveyed across 19 industries, 71% were “thinking about, or actively looking for new job opportunities.”
It may also be that occupations in your field or industry are in decline.
Many technology-based industries, for example, have gone bust in the wake of recent technological changes. The Data Recovery Services industry, which developed in response to a demand for salvaging data from damaged hard drives, now numbers one of the top 10 dying industries in North American due to the emergence of cloud computing and storage, according to IbisWorld.
Also on the list is the Wired Telecommunications Carriers industry, which has been sidelined by the emergence of wireless cellphones and smart phones. If your career was forged in a declining industry, you need to think about how to transfer your skills to a different one.
If you’re over 50, the insidious effects of ageism are an unfortunate reality. According to a recent AARP survey, 61% of respondents reported seeing or experiencing age discrimination on the job.
An age bias risks diminishing your career prospects or lengthening the time it takes you to find a new position.
These challenges might seem like “barriers to entry” to prospective jobs, but none of them is insurmountable.
There are steps you can take to increase your value to employers and develop a competitive edge to ensure that it is you who stands out from the crowd.
The Many Benefits of Networking
For many reasons, a successful job search begins with networking. Most jobs are filled through networking. Job board postings usually happen only after someone has been earmarked for that position. Professional connections, however, enable you to learn about potential opportunities before they become available.
Get out of the house, attend networking events and professional conferences, especially those where you will meet professionals that can refer you to influential people inside your target company.
If you do learn about a great opportunity on your own, do not send a cover letter and resume until you figure out an “in” at the company. The first thing you should ALWAYS do, according to Dan Resendes, Chief Consulting Officer of the Barrett Group, it to consider whether you have social capital that connects you to that company, and whether that person would advocate to the company on your behalf.
Leveraging social connections is the most effective way to get your foot in the door.
Sometimes a social connection is reason enough for a company to create an opportunity. Employers understand that current employees, who know the company culture and mission, are uniquely qualified to identify excellent candidates.
So, they are more receptive to employee references. With a good enough pitch, you might convince a hiring manager that hiring you will solve a problem he didn’t know he had!
Keep Your Skills Current
Whether its industry-specific professional development, knowing the latest digital productivity tools used by your company or just embracing new work modes, it is incumbent on you to continually develop yourself. If you don’t evolve, you will be left behind. Companies value most the employees that can keep up with new skills. And doing so is crucial if you want to get a leg up on the competition. Today, having top-notch skills is a more valuable currency than an impressive resume.
Virtually all job communications today, including sending resumes, happens electronically. If your resume submissions seem to be going into a black hole, they may be getting punted out of contention by ATS, or Applicant Tracking Systems. ATS software offers hiring managers numerous filters to quickly scan thousands of resumes for keywords that match the job description. If your resume doesn’t include those keywords, it won’t be seen by human eyes.
Therefore, you must tailor your resume for every single job, structured according to what the company’s known needs are and including all the right keywords.
The success of your application might hinge on one word. The length can be as long as necessary to show employers that you offer tremendous value, but limit the content to that which will make you appear like the perfect fit.
If you haven’t gotten a response in a week or two, follow up. Sometimes that extra effort, demonstrating your interest and attention, is enough to move your resume to the next round.
Engage a Career Management Firm
There are innumerable benefits to hiring a career expert to help you navigate the waters of your job search. These professionals can give you a fresh perspective on shortcomings you need to work on, the value that you offer, and suggestions on how to parlay your skill set into opportunities that you may not have thought about. They can also offer support to rejigger your job hunt and professional profile that will turbo-charge your efforts.
Are you a victim of ageism? A career professional will coach you on how to leverage your experience to your advantage and convince employers that companies that value mature workers make for more successful companies.
Stuck in a dead-end field? A career professional will help you translate your skills and previous work experience into another field.
Lacking confidence? A career professional will help you understand the rules of the game, give you the tools that you need to market yourself, and advise you on the best way to focus your efforts so that you can attain the optimal position. She will review your resume, coach you on interviewing skills – perhaps even suggest a wardrobe refresh (ever so delicately, of course!).
Above all, if you are to convince an employer that you will be successful, you must believe it yourself. Armed with the help that a career management firm offers, you can commit yourself with confidence to your job search.
If you’re a spectator on the sidelines of the of the job market waiting for a good time to jump into the game, now is the time. Conditions couldn’t be better for job seekers at the moment. If you wait, however, some indicators suggest that the economy may not look so rosy by this time next year.
To be sure, the current labor market is every job seekers dream. The US has seen eight years of job growth, and the unemployment rate at 3.7 is the lowest it’s been in about 50 years. In early December the Fed reported that labor markets have tightened further across a broad range of occupations. Conditions are so tight, in fact, that some emboldened employees in Chicago have “simply quit – with no notice nor means of contact.” To address the challenge of finding and retaining qualified workers, companies are raising wages and offering better nonwage benefits. Talk about a job seeker’s ideal market!
The Bureau of Labor tells a similar story. Since 2000 the Bureau of Labor has tracked monthly job openings, new hires and separations (which includes terminations, both voluntary and involuntary), in a report called the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. Voluntary quits have been rising since 2012 and have surpassed prerecession levels.
Several statistics demonstrate the remarkably constrained labor market.
According to the report, for most of its history, the number of hires (measured throughout the month) has exceeded the number of job openings (measured only on the last business day of the month).
Since January 2015, however, this relationship has reversed with job openings outnumbering hires in most months. At the end of September there were 7.0 million open jobs versus 5.7 million hires.
Even more telling is the chart in the same report that measures the number of unemployed persons per job opening. The chart shows a sharp drop from a peak in 2009 of over 6.5 to less than one today. In other words, in September 2018 there were 0.9 unemployed persons per job opening – a series low.
Other parts of the economy now seem to be coming under a cloud, too. The government budget deficit is growing. And the stock market, which often heralds economic downturns, has been roiling recently as investors react to plunging oil prices and mixed messages coming out of the White House about a lasting trade deal with China. Meanwhile, ominous signs are visible in the bond markets where investors are signaling concern about the long-term economic outlook.
In the November report by the Department of Labor, nonfarm payroll employment rose by 155,000. The industries with the most gains were health care, manufacturing (largely in the durable goods industries), and transportation and warehousing. Employment in professional and business services, where 561,000 jobs have been added over the year, also continued to be strong.
For professionals, there is, perhaps, an even better source of employment information. LinkedIn, which is used by over 20,000 companies in the U.S. for recruiting and where over 150 million workers have LinkedIn profiles, is now a go-to resource for everything from networking to job searches. Because people actively update their profiles to reflect changes in their employment status, LinkedIn has become a valuable tool in researching job trends.
The industries with the biggest hiring increases in that time period were Public Safety (up 10.3%), Corporate Services (up 10.2%) and Software and IT Services (up 9.7%). Other industries that round out the top 10 include, Agriculture, Wellness & Fitness, Transportation & Logistics, Finance, Health Care, Design, and Energy and Mining.
LinkedIn reports that national hiring has leveled off since the summer, although it is too soon to say whether this is the start of a trend. The industries that had the greatest hiring increases on a month-to-month basis in October are Legal, Public Safety, Corporate Services Agriculture, Finance.
In general, Health Care, which boasts not only fast job growth for many different occupations but also growth in the overall number of jobs added to the economy, promises to be an industry leader for employment opportunities in the long-term. But some industries will be vulnerable if the trade war worsens, particularly Manufacturing, Transportation and Agriculture.
Which Regions are Hottest?
According to LinkedIn, Austin, Denver and Nashville attract more workers across the U.S. than other cities. For every 10,000 LinkedIn members in Austin, 121 more arrived over the past 12 months. In fact, Austin, along with Denver and San Diego, were the U.S. cities with the most overall migration activity, including workers moving into and out of the city.
The labor market has tightened in more than two-thirds of the largest cities compared to a year ago. A tight labor market reflects the limited number of workers to fill the available jobs. But a growing problem for some employers is not a lack of available workers but a lack of workers with the right skills for the job.
San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles top the list of the cities with the greatest shortages of skills. The skills in demand depend on the city. Oral Communication, Business Management, Leadership and Digital Literacy, for example, are in great need in all three cities.
Workers with skills in high demand will find themselves especially sought after by employers who are increasingly desperate to find new talent. But, as long as the economy stays strong, job seekers of all skills are in the driver’s seat.
The mid-term elections in 2018 ushered in a rainbow of newcomers to the House of Representatives, including a record number of women. Events of the prior years have galvanized women and their supporters in historic ways, forcing us all to reflect on the fairness of the treatment and representation of women in the business world. It is fair and right to increase the numbers of women at senior levels in the work world. But there is an even better reason to do it: Companies that have more women in leadership positions perform better than those that don’t.
There is a growing body of evidence that correlates companies that prioritize gender diversity with better business performance. Various studies have analyzed different angles to this phenomenon and the results are eye-opening. Companies that promote diversity enjoy higher financial returns, longer-term economic profit, more innovative efficiency, and, ultimately, a competitive advantage over other companies.
Diversity isn’t just about gender, either. It’s about people with a broader range of experiences and backgrounds than the white men who have historically run companies. Research shows that the benefit to companies of hiring people of different races, ethnicities, abilities, and sexual persuasions, is strong financial performance – even stronger than that of gender diversity alone.
If you’re in the job market, naturally, you want to target an employer that is more successful and innovative than others. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to seek out companies that promote inclusion and diversity. As it turns out, companies with diverse workforces tend to be better places to work at the individual level.
Because people from different cultures and backgrounds require different accommodations from their employment, diverse companies tend to have more flexible policies – such as remote working, generous time off, or onsite child care – that will enhance your own work-life experience. In the business world, diversity is a winning strategy for everyone.
A Better Bottom Line
There is growing corporate awareness of the value that diversity brings to business. Global Consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, a leader in research about diversity and women in the workplace, has produced some remarkable findings – and companies are taking notice. McKinsey sees a consistent trend over several years confirming that diversity matters.
According to its 2018 report, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to have above-average profitability (compared to 15% in 2015) – as measured in earnings before interest and tax, or EBIT – than companies in the fourth-quartile; and they were 27% more likely to outperform fourth-quartile companies on longer-term value creation.
Ethnic and cultural diversity, also, continues to strongly correlate with profitability. Companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform peers on profitability (compared to 35% in 2015).
Interestingly, companies that rank poorly on diversity actually lag behind their industry peers – they are 29% more likely to underperform. The results are clear: when companies commit themselves to diverse leadership, they are more successful.
McKinsey’s work dovetails with the conclusions of other research, such as a recent study that found that corporate policies that promote diversity and a culture of inclusion not only increased a company’s value, but also its innovative efficiency. What’s more, they found that these efforts pay off especially well during economic downturns.
Another interesting report in 2016 found that the impact of female leadership on firm performance increases with the share of female workers, the thinking being that female executives are better equipped at interpreting signals of productivity among female workers.
What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander
Women bring a unique stable of demands to the workplace. Regardless of their employment position or how much money they make compared to their domestic partner, women statistically do the lion’s share of the work managing their home lives. Call it their “second job.” The burden of childcare and eldercare, among many other responsibilities, tends to fall to them, which all too often inhibits their career growth.
Some businesses (albeit, not enough) recognize this and try to offer women – and by extension all of their employees – creative solutions as a means to retain valuable talent and reduce the cost of onboarding. They might offer the option to work from home, take extended leave or work non-traditional business hours.
Even more impressive are the companies that go the extra mile in offering exiting employees an outplacement program, such as the one offered at The Barrett Group, to soften their transition to another more suitable employment.
Men and women, alike, benefit from a more supportive work environment and a better work-life balance. Employees who feel that their needs are respected by the company make for a more engaged workforce. On the flip side, companies that think creatively about accommodating the needs of their employees will find that their workforce is happier, more productive and innovative, and at lower risk of quitting.
Diversity Benefits the Individual, the Company…the World
Diversity makes good sense at a micro and a macro level. At the micro level, it is not necessarily the case that diverse companies perform better because women and minorities are better at running a business, or because they make better business decisions, rather, because they tend to attract a broader range of talent.
Diverse companies are attractive not only to women and minorities, but also to everyone who wants to work for forward-thinking organizations.
And workers with a broad range of backgrounds and experiences offer valuable perspectives in the decision-making process, which improves a company’s overall corporate performance.
At the macro level, there is a significant economic implication for countries that underutilize a large segment of their workforce. McKinsey Global Institute estimated in a 2015 report that global GDP would increase $12 trillion if women achieved gender parity with men.
The issue of the economic contributions of women is even more salient in countries with aging populations. Countries with graying workforces can’t afford to ignore the underrepresentation of half of their population in the labor market.
In the context of a tight employment market and the competitive demands of the digital age in the U.S., employers must be smart about attracting and retaining talent. Consequently, there is a growing trend for companies to develop Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) programs to tap into the myriad benefits that diversity brings.
Smart job seekers will, therefore, focus on such companies because gender parity, diversity, and inclusion are not just women’s or social issues – they are business issues.
Between the #MeToo movement and the Kavanaugh confirmation process, the national news has been focused on women a lot recently. It seems fitting in this forum, then, to consider employment from the perspective of women. It’s no secret that they have a tougher road to travel than men. Their disadvantages begin right out of the gate and have no end in sight. So, what should women know to get ahead in the employment market?
Understanding the barriers to achievement for working women and quantifying the obstacles are the first steps towards gender parity. It is hard to measure when and by how much sexism tips the balance against a woman in the workplace. Consider Serena Williams’ loss to Naomi Osaka at the U.S. Open last month. Was the umpire harder on Williams than he would have been on a male tennis player behaving in the same way? Many argue that he was and altered the outcome of a high-stakes match in the process.
In a similar way, women face harsher judgement by employers and superiors in the workplace, resulting in fewer hires, promotions and pay raises than men – and sometimes more terminations. In the corporate world judgements usually are aren’t on public display. But statistics tell the story.
According to reports by data company Visier, women are 21% more likely than men to be considered “top performers” by their companies. Yet, they continue to be hired and promoted at lower rates than men, and they continue to lose ground throughout their careers. Despite greater company commitment to gender diversity than ever before, women are paid 80% of a man who does the same job, and they are underrepresented in corporate America at every level. Studies also suggest that women are treated more harshly than men for similar misconduct violations at the same firm, time and location.
Global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company has partnered with LeanIn.org to undertake a long-term, comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America.
In the 2017 report, McKinsey has produced some remarkable new conclusions. One key finding is that women’s ambitions are curbed early. “At the first critical step up to manager, women are 18% less likely to be promoted than their male peers.”
Another key finding is that people don’t see the problem.
In companies where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman, nearly 50% of men think women are well represented in leadership – and as many as 33% of women agree.
Sometimes Culture is the Enemy
Some conclusions appear consistently in the report each year. One example is that women, in general, are less likely to receive advice from senior leaders on career advancement. This is problematic because employees who do so are more likely to be promoted. Apparently, men are just naturally more likely to mentor men and women are more likely to mentor women. But as men largely fill the ranks of senior leadership, women are left behind.
Second, women are doing double duty. According to the report, 54% of women are shouldering all or most of the household work, compared to 22% of men. Women with a partner and children are 5.5 times more likely than their male counterparts to do all or most of the household work. This is true even of women who are the family breadwinners.
McKinsey finds that, contrary to conventional wisdom, women are as ambitious as men in achieving career success, and they are no more likely than men to plan to leave their jobs to focus on family. Still, when the pressures of family life rise, it is women who fill the gaps.
Women are more likely than men to assume responsibility for child-care and women make up 60% of the caregivers for elderly family members.
Government Policies Are Failing Women
Outdated government social policies bear much of the blame for stalling progress towards gender parity. According to a new book published through the Brookings Institute, huge gaps in social programs, like affordable child-care and elder-care, exacerbate the problem.
Also, consider that U.S. is the only industrialized country without a national paid leave policy for mothers.
Companies aren’t doing their part either. Women in more senior roles are more likely to have a working spouse than men, but companies aren’t reliably supportive of employees who need to balance work and family. Less than two-thirds offer maternity leave beyond what’s required by law, and only about half offer fathers the same benefit. Meanwhile, longer-term support, such as emergency or on-site child care, is relatively scarce.
Perhaps less acknowledged is the tax penalty women often face when they get married. U.S. tax structure tends to raise the tax rate for the spouse who is the lower earner – which, for reasons already mentioned, is usually the woman. This has the effect of discouraging women’s labor force participation.
When it comes to career and financial advancement, the cards seem stacked against working women.
Steps to Take to Get Ahead
The first step women might take when considering their career prospects is an optimal place to work. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research publishes an annual study of the employment and earnings status of women in the U.S. and ranks every state, plus Washington DC, based on the gender wage gap, women’s labor force participation, and representation in professional and managerial. According to this year’s study, only Washington DC merited an A grade. The next five highest ranking states (Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York and New Jersey) received a B+.
Industry is also important to consider. Although no industry can boast equal representation of women and men beyond the director level, certain industries do better than others, such as health care, insurance, pharmaceuticals/medical products and retail.
No matter where they work, women need to be thoughtful about how to advance their careers. Not only should they ask for a raise, they should specify an amount. They should argue their case by demonstrating that they are high performers, have taken on a greater workload or assumed the responsibilities of a more senior person.
Above all, they should solicit advice from managers on how to move to the next level.
One happy bit of news for women this past spring was the ruling by a federal appeals court that prohibits employers from paying a woman less than a man who is doing the same work because of her salary history. It effectively institutionalizes discrimination. To date, 11 states have banned employers from asking job applicants for salary history.
Breaking down barriers for women in the workplace is slow going.
But doing so ultimately benefits everyone. Until people at the government, corporate and individual level, alike, commit to resolving the problem, true progress will be elusive.
The Digital Age Is Transforming Work: Here Is How to Get Out in Front of the Changes
A review of management consulting literature about the impact of the digital age on the workplace is apt to take your breath away. The language used predicts nothing short of a full-scale revolution of the global order of business as we know it.
Consider the following statements:
“Digitization is sending tremors through traditional workplaces and upending ideas about how they function.” (McKinsey)
“The digital age is moving at such a fast pace that it is fundamentally transforming the way organizations operate….” (Deloitte)
“A tidal wave of change is coming that will soon make the way we work almost unrecognizable to today’s business leaders.” (Boston Consulting Group)
The consistent theme of these reports is that the landscape for workers of all calibers is shifting in very important ways. Automation, artificial intelligence and digitization will disrupt traditional notions about career-tracks and full-time employment.
Increasingly, organizations that have hired people for well-defined jobs with a general function will instead employ them for on-demand assignments.
They will favor creating small, flexible, high-performing teams with talents specific to a given project that can respond to varying workloads and short time tables.
In an effort to be agile and responsive to technological advancements, companies will increasingly seek workers with specific expertise, whether it be from their own ranks or from contract employees working remotely – and outside the payroll.
Understanding these and other changes and getting out in front of them will be crucial for everyone in the workforce to retain a competitive advantage – and even to stay relevant. It will be incumbent on us to continually learn new skills and remain open-minded about flexible work arrangements. Done right, we can learn to harness the benefits that the digital age offers us towards better work-life balance and overall job satisfaction.
The Gig Economy
The concept of the gig economy – that is, an employment environment where independent workers are increasingly used for short-term engagements – is getting a lot of study as people try to quantify it and analyze its impact. In 2016 global consulting firm McKinsey calculated that there are as many as 68 million independent earners in the US – or 27% of the working-age population (McKinsey). A year ago Intuit found that figure to be as much as 34% and said it was expected to reach 43% by 2020 (Money). Meanwhile, Forbes recently cited a survey that forecasts that over 50% of the US population will be freelancing by 2027 (Forbes)!
To be clear, these statistics do not mean that one in three workers is employed full-time as independent workers, only that they derive some income from that source. McKinsey has found that a majority of the independent workforce is made up of people who participate in it for supplemental income.
Of course, some may regard independent work as a more permanent income stream. Whatever the motivations, the trend is clear: the gig economy is expanding. And whether you join their ranks or not, they will be your competition.
To be sure, there are challenges for gig workers, especially those who rely on the income.
Lack of income security is the most obvious risk. Someone who isn’t working isn’t making money. Perhaps the biggest downside is that independent workers face gaps in health care, pension, unemployment insurance, and other benefits. There is also the risk that project-based work undervalues independent workers and their full package of skills.
For all its shortcomings, however, the gig economy offers some very attractive upsides. It offers flexibility and autonomy. The work is diverse and offers opportunities to network with people in other industries, which could open doors to future job prospects. Hate your job? McKinsey reports that those who choose to be free agents are more satisfied than those who work in traditional jobs and that about 25% of the people who hold traditional jobs would prefer to be independent workers.
The increased prevalence of digital technology will lead to new job functions and categories – but also to shortages of people with the skills needed to fill those roles. Research firm, Gartner, reports that “…talent has now been recognized globally as the single biggest issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives. The biggest talent gaps are around information — big data, analytics, and information management — followed by business knowledge/acumen.” (Gartner)
The Boston Consulting Group forecasts that nearly every organizational role will eventually require the use of sophisticated technology. In the face of such radical change in the job environment, staying competitive means adapting. Companies and individuals alike will need to invest in massive, ongoing skills development.
For you, staying competitive might also mean leveraging the power of the virtual workplace to live in a city with a lower cost of living while working remotely for a company headquartered elsewhere. Constant upskilling will be imperative, and so will be an openness to new attitudes and work styles. Above all, workers must view changes in the workplace as an opportunity to envision how the new environment can shape their careers in satisfying ways.
Older Workers Have an Edge
In many ways, older professionals are well situated to benefit from the changes that the digital age will usher in. Their professional confidence and veteran experience make them much more desirable to employers looking for reliable, quality work. Older professionals who demonstrate an ability to obtain new skills, especially digital skills, will be in high demand. This will be true whether you are a full-time employee or a temporary consultant for a short-term project.
When it comes to the gig economy, the financial situation of older workers, which is generally more stable than that of young people, will afford them more flexibility to weather income fluctuations.
And because work-life balance is more important to older workers, the ability to control their own schedule is very attractive, even if it comes at a financial cost.
Independent work can also be useful as a life preserver for older professionals transitioning from one job to another or for those scaling back their careers but who aren’t ready for retirement.
With such major changes on the horizon, even senior professionals in stable corporate jobs should consider developing at least one side stream of income to enhance their career and themselves, according to an article in Harvard Business Review (Hustle).
Author Dorie Clark argues that, if nothing else, a side gig is a hedge against uncertainty, enables you to learn new skills, builds your network, enhances your brand and, of course, grows your income.
Whether you call this work model freelancing, contract or contingent work, or “alternative work arrangement,” you must also call it the future of work. While it can be unsettling to have to re-learn how to be competitive in the digital age, adapting to the change is the best way to position yourself for success and is the key to shaping your career in the most satisfying way possible.
The job market is hot! Job openings are at a record high. If ever there was a time to consider changing jobs, now is it. But if you haven’t switched jobs in a few years, make sure you understand what is new, because job searching in the digital age is different from just a few years ago.
Talk About Competition!
For one thing, technology has led to an explosion of the pool of candidates available to employers. Not only is it easier for candidates to apply for jobs, it is also easier for businesses to find qualified candidates. No longer are you competing with just the local talent – you are potentially competing with job contenders from around the globe. Moreover, technology now enables workers to work remotely with increasing frequency. That means that geography is becoming less of a factor in recruitment when it comes to finding someone with the right skill set for a job.
Who Uses Paper Anymore?
Paper resumes are a relic of a bygone era. Virtually all job communications today, including sending resumes, happens electronically. And if you apply for jobs online, you will encounter ATS, or Applicant Tracking Systems. ATS software has become increasingly popular over the past several years because it enables hiring managers to quickly scan thousands of resumes for keywords that match the job description. If your resume doesn’t include the right keywords, it may never be seen by human eyes. This means that it is as important to craft an ATS-safe resume as it is to make it eye-catching to real people.
It is also important to tailor your resume for every job, structured according to what the company’s known needs are. The success of your application might hinge on one word. Dan Resendes, Chief Consulting Officer of the Barrett Group, recounts one client who was the highest-ranking tech person at his company. Although he reported directly to the COO, his title was “Director of Technology,” not “CIO,” and his resume reflected as much. His efforts to find a new position as a CIO continually came up short until he finally added that one word to his resume. Before long, he landed a position as a CIO.
“When an employer gets 10,000 applications and someone needs to find the five best ones, they’re trying to quickly whittle down the list,” said Resendes.
Success Starts with Social Networking
Networking has always been a great way to get a leg up on the competition when it comes to job hunting. In the digital age, it’s crucial. One reason why is that jobs are often posted on job boards as a matter of formality after someone has already been earmarked for that position.
“If you’re responding to job boards, you’re coming late to the party,” says Resendes.
Professional connections enable you to learn about potential opportunities before they even become available. And sometimes a connection is reason enough for a company to create an opportunity. If you offer a skill set that is attractive to a hiring manager, she will find a way to bring you onboard.
Employers often encourage their current employees to leverage their networks and refer their friends. According to a report by software company iCIMS, which designs ATS and recruiting software, 60% of employers believe that referrals bring in candidates that are a better fit for the company. They have good reason to think so. The report finds that 70% of referred employees surveyed have not changed positions since being hired, which means that employers can expect higher retention rates from referral hires.
While a business lunch is still a perfectly acceptable way to network, social media is the best way to build and maintain the informal relationships that are most useful in job hunting. If you’re a professional, the most important one is LinkedIn. The iCIMS report found that, when it comes to job research, 56% of workers use LinkedIn – more than any other social media.
Unlike other social network websites, LinkedIn is uniquely designed for professional networking. Members design a profile page that is structured like an online resume. You can summarize your career and education and highlight certain skills and expertise. You make connections by inviting people to join your network, which enables you to see their connections and even the connections of those connections. This visual web of professional connections enables you to develop new ones at the companies or industries that interest you.
Members in your network can also endorse you for skills, which increases your professional value in the eyes of other members of your network. According to Dan Resendes, your goal should be to get endorsements from 99+ people in your network. How? The easiest way is to endorse people in your network, yourself. People will often return the favor. What’s more, the activity might also lead to a phone call in which you verbally reconnect, catch up and possibly learn about upcoming opportunities – all from endorsing one person.
Did you know that savvy LinkedIn members can tweak their URL to boost hits on search engines? Say that you are a career auditor but want to transition into operations. You can add certain keywords to the URL of your profile to highlight skills that recruiters might be seeking.
Mistakes to Avoid
The number one mistake a job seeker can make is to prepare his cover letter and resume and immediately apply for a job, says Resendes. The first thing should ALWAYS be to ask yourself: Do I have social capital that connects me to that company? Would the person that can connect me to that company advocate on my behalf? Leveraging social connections should always be the first action.
The second big mistake is to customize just the cover letter of an application. It bears repeating that a resume should always be tailored to the position. And don’t worry about the length. Workers of a certain age remember well the one-page resume. But, nowadays, the length can be as long as necessary to show employers that you offer tremendous value. Still, your resume should not necessarily list ALL of your qualifications. Senior people sometimes list everything, thinking it will help them. But doing so can sometimes make you seem overqualified. The trick is to list only what is necessary to appear like the perfect fit.
You will be Googled! Most seasoned professionals did all their embarrassing, youthful antics before the digital age. But remember: whatever information might be on the Internet about you – both good and bad – is there forever. The best way to make sure your digital footprint best represents you is to post new information – articles, posts, etc. Search engines highlight new information over old.
Some hiring managers may ask you to interview by video. If so, be aware of good video etiquette. That means, be aware of your backdrop, confine your movements to the camera frame, avoid barking dogs and other background noise – and, above all, know how to use video technology!
Job seekers should keep in mind that an effective job search cuts both ways. Workers should always research a company before accepting a job offer. Thanks to technology, they have much better means at their disposal than ever before to do so.
According to iCIMS, nearly one in three full-time working Americans – and 47% of millennials – have declined a job offer primarily because the company had negative online employer reviews.
A quick internet search of a company or its leaders will yield a trove of useful information to get started. Job seekers can then find online reviews and salary information about companies at Glassdoor. Finally, they can glean a lot of information about company culture by simply following corporate executives on Twitter or other social media.
Technology has changed the landscape of the job search. Embracing these changes could mean new opportunities for you.
You’ve revamped your LinkedIn profile, added new skills and credentials to your value proposition, and practiced interviewing. You’ve re-written your resume for every job opportunity, crafted your cover letters with the care of someone wooing a new love interest, and sent follow-up messages to every hiring manager you’ve met. You’ve even lost weight and refreshed your wardrobe.
Are you in a midlife career change? Are you changing careers at 30, 40 or 50 years of age? Do you need a new career? If you are currently experiencing difficulty in your job search, we’re here to help. Please send a message with your information or call.