In a recent post I suggested there might be a slowdown in job growth in the March-April 2015 timeframe. I also suggested this slowdown would accelerate once the Fed raised interest rates. Given this scenario, time is of the essence for job seekers who want to get a job, get a better job or jump-start their careers.

A hint of this slowdown materialized in one recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) report indicating that net new job growth declined by 50% from an average of about 250 thousand per month for the past 12 months to only 126 thousand in March. Predicting this drop was an easy call to make looking at a different DOL  report - their JOLTs report for February 2015 (see graphic).

The JOLTS report summarizes all unique open jobs posted on major job boards in the U.S. There’s a lag of about 2-3 months when a job is opened to when it’s filled. The plateauing in the last five months of 2014 suggested there would be a flattening of new jobs filled in early 2015. The recent increases in January and February 2015, however, suggests there will be a turnaround in new jobs filled in April to June. (This is a prediction!)

Given this, now’s the time to do something if you feel your job is leading nowhere or your personal career growth has stalled. Here are a few ideas on how to jump-start your job hunting efforts:

  • Don’t wait. Time is your most valuable asset. Don’t waste it. If you’re doing the same things now that you were doing 2-3 years ago, you need to change jobs. Recognize that whatever you do in the next 2-3 years will impact your career over the next 5-10.
  • Staying stagnant is more risky than changing jobs. If you’re confident of your ability you’ll get more credit for proactively changing jobs than treading water. The world is changing along with every job. You need to change along with it or lead the change.
  • Now is the time to act. The window of opportunity is unlikely to stay open much more than the next 3-6 months. The JOLTs report is a good leading predictor of where the job market is heading. Now it looks good, but once the Fed raises interest rates, things could get bumpy.
  • There are more jobs available in the hidden job market. Before jobs are publicly posted, companies look to fill them internally or via an employee referral. This is what I refer to as the hidden job market. It’s important to note that people hired for these jobs are evaluated more on their past accomplishments rather than the depth of their skills. Even better: Often these jobs are modified to meet the needs of a strong person who has been referred.
  • Become a networking pro. Networking properly is not about meeting as many people as possible. It’s about meeting a few well-connected people who can vouch for your performance and introduce you to a few other well-connected people.
  • Build custom job clusters to find companies that are hiring. Use a broad filter like “packaging engineering” to find companies on or that have multiple openings for similar jobs. Under no circumstances apply for any of these jobs. Instead use LinkedIn to find the name of the department head or VP. Then follow steps 7 or 8 to get an interview.
  • Use the backdoor to get introduced. With the name of the hiring manager, department head or VP for a “job cluster,” you’ll need to find some person at the company you can use to get a referral. The backdoor approach ensures your resume will at least be reviewed first.
  • Entice your target lead with a mini-project or some attention-getting approach. One way a job seeker can get an interview without a referral is to demonstrate his or her ability ahead of time. For example, a person told me he prepared a competitive analysis of a company’s product line to get an interview with a VP Marketing. Another Idea: Use this interview template to practice being Performance-based Interviewed. Once you’re proficient, send a snippet to someone you found who is hiring.
  • Forget the pre-conditions. Be willing to discuss any job, anywhere, at any compensation level as long as it represents a significant career move. The worst thing that can happen is you turn down an offer.

If you’re not actively searching for a new job, you should be. Economic times are unlikely to be as good as they are now. However, looking for jobs online and applying directly to posted jobs should represent no more than 20% of your total job hunting activity. Instead use job clusters to find leads, get some referrals via networking and obtain some interviews by going through the backdoor.

Be bold.


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.