News reports indicate a big decline in unemployment and a steady increase in jobs. This news could be interpreted by many people to mean that getting the job of their dreams will be easy. There are also many “help wanted” signs displayed in windows and on job boards. These clues could imply to some that employers are becoming more desperate and that keeping a job is easy. Don’t let the numbers give you false confidence. It’s not fake news, but the wrong interpretation could leave you vulnerable. Coasting along and doing the bare minimum in your job is probably not going to lead to sustained employment. Employers are demanding more, and expectations are still very high. Combine the pressure to perform more with fewer resources, with how quickly the market changes, and you could be caught holding the wrong end of the stick with little notice.
The best jobs are sought after by many, and the competition is still fierce. And typically, employers view an unemployed person as having less value than an employed person. So waiting until a toxic environment pushes you over the edge before you start looking for alternatives or allowing a bad situation to turn into an unplanned dismissal can put you at an extreme disadvantage. If you have failed to look around you to gauge the extent of any impending changes, you could be in for a big surprise. Moreover, if you have allowed things to go too far and are thinking that being unemployed is an easy hurdle to overcome, then you may be in for a shock when trying to right your ship. It’s time to adapt to changing circumstances, adjust your expectations and overcome obstacles that you may not be able to walk cleanly away from.
Getting a job is easy if you have no expectations, no aspirations and no financial requirements that must be met. But throwing a resume at some job boards with the intent of attracting the right employers for the best jobs is probably off base. It’s just not that simple. Finding satisfying work or keeping really great jobs requires more effort than you may have invested in the past. Doing what you have always done no longer gets you what you always got.
Over the years, jobs have become far more specialized, unique and outcome-driven. Someone “liking” you is not enough. Your most ardent advocates can move on and leave you without a buffer or support when needed. Being great yesterday does not ensure you are considered great today when leadership changes. Moving forward, the assumptions we once relied on regarding reemployment are no longer holding true; e.g., “I’ll get in the new job and figure it out as I go.” An effective job search requires more than having a slick resume or an engaging LinkedIn profile. Using the right “key words” is not good enough — you have to be able to back it all up. Creating a façade for people to flock to and expecting that to lead to an offer without more effort is as unrealistic as believing that showing up for work every day is still enough to safeguard your position.
Doing what you have always done no longer gets you what you always got.
If you are looking for more than a minimum-wage job, then your success will depend on much more than how attractive you appear, how many key words you can throw into a resume or how well you can schmooze. If these techniques have worked in the past, you may have been very early in your career or in the right place at the right time. If you are later in your career, there is more at stake. Competing successfully for many jobs in today’s market will depend on what you know, whom you know (which is always the case), how well you can relate your experience to the employer’s needs and how clearly you can articulate your value. Even being in the right place at the right time still requires knowledge and preparation. Knowing about the organization and the people you will work with and being prepared to describe your work in a way that demonstrates you can accomplish what they need are all needed when you are on the spot, even if it is not a formal interview.
If you have been unhappy at work, don’t wait until they pull the plug on you. Even the companies with incredible growth will reevaluate where their money is going and realign staff according to business goals and perceived value. Feeling haggard and hassled or being afraid of a layoff without taking action is not a solution. Assess your performance and the other people’s perception of your value. If either of these areas can be considered subpar, then get started on a plan for finding a new workplace before things get out of hand or the door shuts behind you. Don’t assume you’ll be able to throw your hat in the ring and quickly find something better. The grass may seem greener elsewhere, but assumptions can lead you astray. It takes time and effort to find out for certain.