At the Barrett Group we make it our business to help executives clarify their career objectives and then market themselves effectively. To do this as consistently as we do, we find it useful to take stock of the market situation every once in a while—like a swimmer lifting his or her head up over the waves and verifying position and direction—by examining our own market observations. So, let’s compare Q1 and Q4 so far to understand what seems to be happening in the executive career change market.
Note, these remarks refer only to our own clients.
In the first part of the year, the income segments of $100,000-$200,000 (total annual compensation) and above $200,000 were equally balanced at about 49% each. Some 39% of these clients state they were unemployed on average about 5.6 months before signing on. These results were quite polarized at the top and bottom end, with 43% of unemployed clients having been unemployed for 3 months or less and 54% of unemployed clients having been unemployed for 7 months or more.
In Q4 now, these results show a budge in clients in the $100,000-$200,000 income category that has risen to almost 60% of clients vs. the first quarter’s 49%. Now 51% of clients say they have been unemployed, and the average unemployment period has lengthened to almost 11 months. So, it would seem that the middle of the market has experienced more pressure during the last six months.
Another important aspect that we look at is our clients’ motivations for seeking our services. These vary over time, and it seems there is a coherent pattern here, too, if we compare the first quarter versus the fourth quarter so far.
Often clients reach out to us because they are reentering the job market after a pause. The pause could be because they have been with the same employer for a long time or due to illness, unemployment, or even other reasons. Recently we have repeatedly heard from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that people who were not actively seeking employment (and therefore not technically unemployed) have been reentering the market in the last year or two, so that not only is unemployment low but the number of employed can grow without unemployment sinking… if that makes sense.
Some 23% of our clients in Q1 cited this reentry as a factor in their need for support. This share sank in Q4 so far to about 19%. The threat of possible unemployment on the other hand rose in Q4 versus Q1 from 16% to 22%, a fairly sizable increase. Does that mean that as the expansion moves into record territory, companies are finding more and more ways to be efficient at the cost of mid-level and senior jobs?
Another classic motivation we hear a lot is “I must get into a new industry.” Now this can have various meanings from an acknowledgement that the current industry is losing its luster to a sense of personal boredom and the need for new adventure. It can even mean that the client sees other industries as potentially more lucrative given his or her skill set. All of these are valid perspectives on the market. Switching industries is a specialty at the Barrett Group because we help our clients to highlight the transferability of their skills and experience both during the Packaging (Resume Refresh and LinkedIn Reboot) and the Presentation (Interviewing) career change stages.
This need to change industries has waned some though when we compare Q1 and Q4 so far, dropping more than 12% points to just 11.6%. This may support the pressure we believe we see in the middle market, and therefore a shift in would-be career changer sentiment toward a search for security.
On the other hand, the other major motivation “My present income is too low” has risen sharply in the latest results, jumping more than 8% points to just under 20%. This certainly seems consistent with the bulge in mid-market job seeker population who have generally more upward income opportunity.
“No growth potential,” though remains a very consistent and strong motivator for our clients in both quarters at about 28%, indicating that dissatisfaction with growth opportunities continues to drive would-be career changers to a large extent regardless of the economic cycle. With our active assistance, about 75% of Barrett Group clients find their next opportunity via the “unpublished market.” This has even greater relevance in today’s market because the unpublished market offers opportunities with potentially less competition and therefore higher compensation.
Perhaps it is time that you, too, lifted your head up and took stock of your career situation. We help hundreds of people like you every year, so reach out and let’s discuss your true potential.