The jobs market in the U.S. is as good as it’s been in decades. Layoff notices are at lows not seen since the 1970s. The steady improvement in employment numbers pushed the unemployment rate down to 5.1%.
While the employment news is good there are still roughly 16.4 million people classified as either underemployed or long term unemployed. What happens over the next few months will determine what happens to that pool of workers. If the economy continues to add jobs at 200,000 per month and the unemployment rate dips below 5%, getting near what economists consider full employment, companies will be forced to start tapping that pool of long neglected workers.
If you’re considering a career change, or have been out of work for a long time, now is the time to be out looking. Companies are still complaining that they can’t find people but what they’re actually saying is they can’t find people with the skills they need nearby at wages they want to pay. Employers are willing to bargain but you need to be ready.
When the economy improves people ironically do things that make it harder for them to relocate to a better job. Buying a house, racking up debt, getting married and having kids are all things that make you less mobile in the workforce and lower mobility means fewer job opportunities. The person who says, “I can start in a week” will always have the hiring edge. Those who spend a lot of time on the road as part of their job can demand premium rates from employers as fewer people want to endure the petty indignity of modern air travel.
Brush Up Those Job Skills
Apart from being technically qualified for the job, there are some surprising skills that can make you invaluable in the workplace. Being a wizard with Microsoft Word and Excel are two skills that will make you an office god. If you are good at automating tasks, you’ll be able to write your own ticket. People who are savvy with technology will almost always be the first hired and last fired in a productive office environment. A certification isn't necessary but it helps.
Keep Your Resume Up To Date
A resume is more than just your job skills and work experience these days. Employers can get that from anyone, what’s harder is showing them what you can do. Fortunately, online media is amazing in its power, simplicity and reach. Consider adding a digital aspect to the old fashioned paper resume but keep any extraneous information off the paper. A resume should be short and to the point. Bullet points on your skills and accomplishments and then link them to specific jobs and never more than a single page. Put the creativity into your digital presence. A well thought out blog post that’s relative to the industry, a snappy Vine video, short and to the point but creative.
Everyone hates on LinkedIn and, believe me, that’s understandable but it’s also a huge resource when it comes to employment. More people are finding work and networking opportunities online than anywhere else.
To Move Up, Move Out
Changing jobs is almost always a better way to boost pay and move ahead than trying to slog your way up the ladder where you are now. Moving out to move up is pretty much accepted in the working world and, if you've been dreaming of a promotion or needing a boost in pay, now's the time to start looking. Employers are having a harder time attracting talent now and they're ready to deal to snag top people. Research perspective employers carefully and give preference to those that have been around long enough to survive the ups and downs of the economy. This might not be an opportune time to risk everything on a startup because, if the economy tilts lower, they'll be the first to go down.
Getting the really good jobs means standing out from the crowd. Bullet points of your skills and experience, a digital presence that provides detail in case anyone wants more, valuable job skills and networking are all excellent ways to separate yourself from the pack. Being able to go where the jobs are is just the icing on the cake.