If It’s a Job Seeker’s Market, Why Can’t I Find a New Job?
by Julie Norwell
“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.
Barriers to Entry
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.
Resume Writing in the Digital Age
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.