According to the Department of Labor, U.S. non-farm labor increased by 3.3 million in the past 12 months. However, as shown by the current JOLTS report summarized in the graphic below, this growth looks like it has plateaued at around 5 million open jobs. The number of open jobs leads the filling of these jobs by about 2-3 months so the JOLTS report is a strong leading indicator of where the job market is heading. Nonetheless it’s plateaued at a very high level and for those thinking of changing jobs, now might be the perfect time. Things might start slowing down in 3-6 months once the Fed raises interest rates. This suggests that for those actively seeking new jobs there’s a need to accelerate your efforts.
With this in mind, here’s the 10-point game plan I use to counsel job seekers who are looking to make a career move.
- Maximize your use of time. Use the job-seeker’s decision grid to determine your “itchiness” factor. If it’s driven by the lack of long-term career growth, start scratching, but only consider jobs that will get you 3-4 years of experience in 2 to 3.
- Be found. Recruiters spend more time searching for candidates on LinkedIn than reviewing resumes of those that apply. Use the LinkedIn advanced search function to see if your profile turns up using typical keywords for the jobs you’re likely to land. If not, you’ll need to reengineer your profile to match those that do show up on the first two pages.
- Be noticed. Once you’re found you’ll only have 10 seconds to make it into the “worth reviewing in detail” category. Make sure your best stuff shows up in the snapshot LinkedIn provides when you’re searching for people. The line under your name is the most important, followed by job titles, the types of projects you’ve worked on and the quality of the companies listed.
- Expand your target. Rather than applying to a single job posting, use the “hub and spoke” concept to find companies with multiple job openings for similar jobs. This will help you identify the companies with the most hiring needs. With this list try to enter through the back door before applying. This way you’ll have a better chance to be a fit for one of many jobs rather than one specific job.
- Find some keys to unlock the back door. Getting referred to a job increases your odds of being interviewed and selected by 2-3X over applying directly. Even better: You don’t need to be a perfect match on skills and experience.
- Spend 60% of your time networking. Networking isn’t about meeting as many people as possible. It’s about meeting a few people who can vouch for your performance and who are willing to introduce you to other people who might be willing to vouch for your performance after they meet you.
- Be different. An unsolicited mini-project sent to a VP or director is a great way to land a meeting. Then convert the meeting into a job. Here are some other ways to be different.
- Practice. Here’s a template you can use to practice the Performance-based Interview I recommend hiring managers use to better predict on-the-job performance. You might even want to send a recording of yourself being interviewed to someone you’ve met through networking as a way to set up a meeting.
- Make sure you’re interviewed correctly. Most interviewers will ask irrelevant or misguided questions to assess ability and fit. When candidates start asking about real job needs and describing related past accomplishments they're able to improve their odds of being assessed accurately.
- Find out where you stand. At the end of the interview say you’re interested and ask about next steps. If the interviewer is noncommittal, assume you’re not going to be called back. In this case, ask if there’s a gap in your experience that’s of concern. Then attempt to disprove it using an example of a major accomplishment.
It takes a lot of effort to get a better job – especially one that offers significant upside potential. In this case the job seeker needs to act as both a personal marketing agent to just get the interview and a solution sales rep during the interview. Despite the effort, consider that the risk of not changing jobs and not growing is often bigger than moving on to something new. Now is the best time in the last 10 years to jumpstart your job-hunting efforts. So get going. According to the economic tea leaves the current “perfect storm” conditions might not be around much longer.
Lou Adler (@LouA) is the CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting and training firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring. He's also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine and BusinessInsider. His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013), provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people. His new video program provides job seekers inside secrets on what it takes to get a job in the hidden job market.