Thriving in an Employer’s Market

I bet he had friends on the Death Star, too...

I bet he had friends on the Death Star, too...

As it turns out, the recession is effecting the global economy, which, consequently, is negatively impacting the Canadian economy. Shocking, I know. And you heard it here first, from The Daily Gumboot.

“What’s that? Oh, everyone already knows this? Um, okay, we’ll have to think of something else, then.”

So, it turns out that the Canadian jobless rate is going to hit 10%, or so says Mark Carney and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to the OECD, Stephen Harper and the Conservative government need to act quickly and decisively if the country is to avoid a crisis of joblessness. Depending on when and where you read “news” in BC, we are in the midst of a terrible recession (unfortunately emphasized by massive youth unemployment and under employment), or we are on the “cusp of recovery” because of cool new job numbers. No matter what, the employment situation in Canada is tougher than it’s been in a long, long time. A recent National Post article even revealed that many job seekers out there are dumbing down their resumes in order to remain competitive. And, to close the loop on this terrible situation, Tavia Grant’s article in Tuesday, September 22nd’s Globe and Mail accurately paints a picture of Canada’s workplaces being part of “an employer’s market!” Are you searching for work in your community? If so, we wish you the best of luck.

I mean, you can wait for Stephen Harper, the Canadian government, industry executives, Mark Carney, your mom, and Batman to do something about it, or you can combine some savvy career advice from this publication with your own awesomeness, and get out there and find meaningful work.

Here are some sure-fire, can’t-miss, foolproof, golden, and amazing tips on how you can thrive in an employer’s market.

1. Learn about emerging industries and new trends. The world is changing. Obviously. And now is the time for you to find your new place in it. For example, first year university and college students in Canada will, most likely, finish school and secure a job that doesn’t exist today. And whether you’re a 50-plus year old forestry worker from Prince George or a nickle worker from Sudbury, you are in a position to re-invent yourself as an employee. Things are changing, after all. Even when they stay the same. Alternative energy, corporate social responsibility and information technology are all pretty hot right now. It turns out that we will continue to use technology and people to overcome envirnmental challenges and the sinful human practice of greed. Not bad things to get involved in, if I do say so myself. Oh, and by 2012 immigrants will account for all net labour market growth in the Canadian economy, so, yeah, I guess do some reading up on where some demographic-related holes are going to emerge, too.

2. Hide in school. MBA applications to North American B-Schools are way up, according to Business Week. Why? Well, school is a great place to add value to your professional toolkit during an employer’s market, where opportunities are scarce and hiring and promotions are in a bit of a holding pattern. Now is a great time to invest in your education and get trained in anything from urban planning to social media marketing to library science to any shot-term, additional degree/diploma/certificate that compliments your existing education. Just make sure that your value is being increased while in school (ie. if you think a communications certificate is going to land you a project management position in a public relations firm when you have no work experience in the field, well, then the recession isn’t your biggest problem).

3. Get up early. Then network. This kind of thing is common sense, but it’s not common practice. Listen to leadership gurus like Robin Sharma to learn what it takes to get up early. Every day. It seems simple enough, but it’s not; especially for people who are un-employed or under-employed, as they lack motivation. Figure out what it takes to motivate yourself to get up early and be ready for action. Then go and talk to the people who work where you want to work (in a specific position or in an industry/organization about which you are thoroughly passionate) – we in the career development business call these folks “decision makers” (ie. they make the decision to hire you or not). Twitblog the interscape, read newspapers and magazines, peruse the Yellow Pages, visit libraries, and talk to people in order to find out where the decision makers you want to meet hang out together. Then go there and learn more about what it takes to work in their industry and/or for their organization. There are countless resources and tips about networking, especially for all you introverts out there. After you get up early, make sure you relax, too!

A good impression on paper, sure, but how about in person? You can barely see the guy!

A good impression on paper, sure, but how about in person? You can barely see the guy!

4. Manage your expectations, and love change. So you want to be a Product Developer with Google. Well, a lot of people do. And since a lot of Product Developers just got laid off, um, everywhere, things just got a lot more competitive. Needless to say, now is a great time to consider where (geographically, functionally, by industry, and by company) you can find the type of professional experience you are looking for, even if it might not be your dream job. CareerLeader, a Brookline, Massachusetts career consultancy has the following to say about bringing discipline to the dream during the recession: “We need the discipline of analysis to identify the skills and experience we need to advance toward our dream and to explore all of the various work settings where we can gain those skills and experience. If we have our vision before us, to revisit for renewed inspiration, then we won’t experience these skillful adjustments as failures or the abandonment of ‘the dream.’ Rather, we’ll feel new energy when we see them for what they are: true progress toward something that is real and important, toward what we want to be doing, and to be.” Your dream job will come eventually (even for you, Astronaut Cowboy), you just need to be patient. For you graduates, remember that where you start your career usually has nothing to do with where you finish it.

5. Make a polished and professional first impression: in person, on paper and online. This one is complicatedly simple. It all begins with knowing your audience and doing the research that will make them say, “wow, that was a great question!” Knowing the most about anything will make you stand out from the crowd. Being appropriately dressed (ie. if you want to be a server in The Bump ‘n’ Grind on The Drive, don’t show up in a freakin’ suit!), groomed and offering a solid handshake are all key. Eye contact and active listening are also phenomenally important for making a good impression in person. As for the impression on paper, here’s the deal: if you are a student, go to your university or college career centre right now; if you aren’t a student, check out the multiple career centres around your community and make an appointment to build a great resume. Here’s a tip: no matter how amazing, professional or experienced you are, try to create a one-page resume that you can use as a follow-up after meetings or networking events. As for your online impression, well, it turns out that the internet is on computers these days. Whether it’s something as simple as cleaning up your Facebook account, creating (and using) a LinkedIn profile, or showcasing your knowledge and style by blogging about an indutry in which you are, having a positive and interesting online presence is becoming more and more important.

So there it is. A healthy and sustainable community, after all, is made up of people who do meaningful work – and you deserve nothing less. Once again, as I say to my students, such ideas might be common sense, but they are not common practice. As you begin to create good career habits, be sure to have fun with it, too!

- JCH