Feature: The Darwinian World of Job Volatility
My son was laid off today. As a father, I ache for him and desperately want to help in any way that I can. It is a visceral reaction, I admit, an emotional counterpoint to the logic with which I do my job as a career columnist. In that latter role, I know that his situation is, unfortunately, increasingly the norm. Indeed, the nature of the employment environment in the Twenty-First Century is such that many of us will find ourselves without work at one or more points in our careers. It doesn’t diminish the hurt to recognize that fact, but it does help us prepare for this new Darwinian world of job volatility.
In previous years, our economy produced a broad array of relatively stable jobs. Oh, sure, there was always the occasional company that found itself out of step with its market and had to reduce staff, but those situations were the exception to the rule. Even during recessions, most of us continued to labor on; our raises may have been reduced or eliminated and our opportunity for upward mobility may have diminished, but at least, we were still able to bring home a pay check. At least, we could count on that.
In today’s jungle of job volatility, however, that certainty has been replaced by uncertainty, that assurance of continuity has been overcome by daily discontinuity, and that expectation of stability has been quashed by the shock of instability. These are not the temporary challenges of an economic down turn; they are the permanent conditions of a new and dangerous world of work. And, that evolutionary shift leaves all of us with a stark choice. We can either adapt or we can be overwhelmed. We can adjust to job volatility-we can acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to survive and prosper in this environment-or we can be its victims.
All of us, of course, would instinctively choose the course of survival and prosperity. But, I must warn you: To do so, we must change. We must accept a new imperative in employment; in essence, we must now work two jobs all of the time. The first involves our profession, craft or trade; the second entails the management of our career. Now, I know that career columnists have been preaching personal career management for years. The mantra has had many different expressions-from self fulfillment to You, Inc.-but, basically, the message has been the same. We must take care of our own careers because employers won’t do it for us. It’s been good advice, but flawed. You see, there was this one little problem: It was impractical for almost everyone. Even if a person wanted to take control of their work life, they couldn’t because the information and tools required to do so simply weren’t available.
Happily, that situation no longer exists. The Internet has made personal career management possible for everyone. Regardless of our profession, craft or trade, our industry or location, our years of experience or seniority, we can now go online and acquire the resources necessary to guide our careers successfully. To make best use of this capability, however, we must become expert at online personal career management. This competency involves the development of several new skills, but I suggest that you begin with the following three:
How? By putting job agents to work for you. A job agent is a free feature at many job boards. In essence, it works as a personal shopper for your dream job. You specify the kind of job for which you’re looking, and the job agent checks all of the job postings at that site for a match. It does so every day and all day long. Even better, when it finds one (or more) jobs that match your criteria, it sends you a private e-mail notifying you of the opportunity. That makes a job agent the perfect way to stay on top of the job market-and the search for jobs that are right for you-whether you’re employed or suddenly laid off or in the midst of a lengthy job search campaign. You stay vigilant, and it does all of the work.
How? By networking electronically everyday. Many of the best jobs are never advertised. They are a part of the so-called “hidden job market” and often, they are filled by candidates whom employers identify by networking. While traditional face-to-face networking remains important, the Internet provides a way for you to expand your range of contacts exponentially from the comfort of your home computer. Simply stop by the discussion forums and bulletin boards available on sites operated by your professional association, trade organization and/or college or university alumni group. These e-mail conversations are a great place to connect with others who share your background and, therefore, have the potential to be helpful in your career advancement. Remember, however, the key to effective networking online is the same as it is in the real world: You have to give as good as you get. Participate regularly in the discussions you join and be generous with your knowledge and experience.
How? By always being interview ready. Employers today look for candidates who have state-of-the-art skills in their career field and are up-to-date in their industry and the business world, in general. In addition, they expect you to demonstrate that professional knowledge and business awareness from the very first minute of their very first contact with you and continuously thereafter. As the “information superhighway,” the Internet offers a myriad of ways to accomplish such preparation conveniently. You can take college courses and training programs online, read journal articles archived on your professional association’s site, look over news feeds at business and other media sites and check the press releases posted on the sites of major employers in your industry. You have only one chance to make a first impression, and the Internet can help ensure it’s a good one.
Charles Darwin once wrote that “It’s not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent, that survive; it’s the one most responsive to change.” The skills described above position you to adapt to the new world of job volatility. They won’t insulate you from its disruption, but they will enable you to manage your career successfully in the midst of it.
NOTE: This column is the first of a four-part series. In the next three columns, I’ll provide specific tips and techniques for Staying ever vigilant, Staying ever connected, and Staying ever prepared. If you think this information might be helpful to your spouse or colleagues, friends or neighbors, please tell them to sign up for my free newsletter right away. Thanks.
Section Two: Site News
HotJobs.com released the results of a June survey of recruiters which found that 74% prefer to find candidates locally. In a similar survey of job seekers, it found that only 30% were willing to relocate for a new or better employment opportunity. To help you find such local employment opportunities, HotJobs.com has partnered with Internet Broadcasting System (IBS). IBS operates local news and information sites for over 60 TV stations representing NBC, Hearst, Cox and Washington Post Company. HotJobs.com will power the employment areas on 55 of the IBS sites.
Korn Ferry International, an executive search firm, announced the results of a recent survey of international executives. When asked to identify the most important trait in a leader, 43% voted for having a clear vision, 38% cited the ability to motivate, and 17% pointed to trustworthiness. In selecting a person for a senior position, 58% said the most important factor was fit with the organization’s culture and 38% said it was the fit with the position. As to their own situation, 40% said they were slightly underpaid, 39% said they were adequately compensated, 16% said they were grossly underpaid and just 1% admitted to being grossly overpaid. An astonishing 42% said they would live anywhere for the right opportunity, although 27% would turn down Beijing, China and 19% would spurn Mexico City, Mexico.
Netshare, a confidential executive job site for those earning $100K+/year, introduced a new Member-to-Member Forum. The feature enables subscribers (who pay a fee to access Netshare job postings) to trade job leads, share contacts and ask others for advice and assistance on such topics as job search, compensation and employment contracts. Responses are made in private directly to individual requesting assistance.
Society for Human Resource Management and CareerJournal.com unveiled the results of a recent survey of HR professionals and managerial and executive employees. It found that 83% of employees were extremely or somewhat likely to seek new employment once the job market recovers. What are they looking for? Fifty-three percent want better compensation and benefits, 35% are dissatisfied with their career development prospects, and 32% say they are ready for a new experience. What are HR professionals doing to retain top performers? Sixty-two percent are offering tuition reimbursement, 60% are offering competitive vacation and holiday benefits, and 59% are offering competitive salaries. What’s missing (or, at least, not mentioned)? An internal mobility system and commitment to individual development that will give employees the new experiences necessary for growth within the organization.
TrueCareers announced the results a survey that underscore the growing popularity of telecommuting among employees. Among the survey’s respondents, 80% say the ability to work from home part or full time is an important consideration when looking for a new job.. That’s down from 92% last year, but still an impressive level of support. Why is it so popular? Twenty-four percent of respondents say telecommuting gives them more time with their families, 19% say it saves time and money spent on commuting, and 43% say it enables them to be more flexible in managing their workday.
Section Three: Site Profiles
Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?
Which site will cause a bad reaction if you’re looking for a pharmaceutical sales job?
Where is the “holy growl” for those seeking a job as a pet walker?
If you want to work for a company that hires veterans as truck drivers, which site would be a dead end?
Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2003 Guides and Directories
Association for Financial Professionals
Post full time jobs: Yes
Post part time/consulting jobs: Yes
Distribution of jobs: National: USA
Number of jobs: 151
Salary levels of jobs: $41-50K, $76-100K
Offer a job agent: Yes
Resume database: Yes
How long are resumes stored: 1 year
Restrictions on who can post: None
Other services for job seekers: Career/job search information, Links to off-site resources, Confidentiality feature: block out contact information in resume database; resume not released to employer without candidate’s permission
Answers to Site Insite:
4. SalesDoctor.com, a sales consultant’s site
6. Truck-Driver.net, a listing of truck driving schools and career resources