The news that the U.S. economy added 280,000 jobs sounds great. Bloomberg offer charts that show a more mixed situation. Yes, job growth is up. However, the unemployment rate went up because more people have entered the job market. Similarly, average hourly earnings is up, but that measure has moved like a yo-yo over the past year. The best news is that long-term unemployment is moving steadily down. If you’re thinking about looking for a new job or asking your boss for a raise, this could be a good time to act. Even if the news is mixed, the job market is much better than it was five years ago.
One of my clients is very talented. However, she was very hesitant about networking. She thought no one would want to help somebody else get a job in a competitive market.
I asked her to start networking in a simple way: Call the three people who are her references, let them know she is looking for work, and ask for advice. Two days later she had an interview with a company much better than the one that laid her off. Networking doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes clients have done everything correctly, and networking brings no results. That said, everyone should network, especially people who are looking for work.
Make a list of 10-20 people who know you as a professional. Here’s my suggestion about how you should ask for help: “I want to call you because I’m looking for a new job. You know me and how I work, and I’d appreciate it if you’d take a few minutes and give me some advice. What do you think I should do in my job search?”
Keep the conversation open and listen carefully. If a network contact gives you advice that is bad or useless, take it for what it is and be grateful for the time your contact has given you. If the advice is good, follow up quickly and let your contact know that you’ve done so. If your network connection suggests that you contact a certain person a potential employer, ask if you could use her name or if she will make an introduction. Always end your conversations by finding out if there is any way you can help people in your network.
Networking isn’t easy, and it doesn’t always work. However, a good network connection can lead you to jobs you didn’t know exist. It can also open doors quickly. Make networking part of your job search and career management strategy. Start with those people who know you best, your references. If you’re like my client, an interview with a great company can be in your future.
One of my clients is seeking to make a career change. At three points during a 20 minute meeting, she asked the same question: Should I learn Excel? It’s a great question, but not the most important to ask in a career change. The most important thing to do is to find types of job that fit the kind of skills you want to use at work. The next step is to find some job posts and analyze them. If you keep seeing that the employer wants someone who knows Excel, it’s time to learn how to use that software.
This example is true of almost any job search. Know what the employer requires before you worry about the need to learn new technical skills. Almost every job lists computer skills, but they tend to vary from job to job. Take the time to research what skills are needed for the work you want to do. Don’t waste your time or money on training for a skill you may never use.
One of my clients called today to tell me she has a new job. She has found a job at a bank and will more than double her salary in the new role. Few people are this fortunate in finding a new job. Even so, many people who change employers end up getting larger raises than they would if they remained with employers that give 1%-3% annual raises.
When this client’s previous employer, also a bank, started cutting staff and freezing wages, she didn’t wait for bad news. She became proactive and found a job in less than two months. She didn’t wait for success to find her. She went out and found a better employer. If you’re unhappy, don’t wait. Start looking.