4 Things to do When the Job Market Sucks

One of the realities of the today’s job market is that fewer positions match the skills of the talent pool. The irony is that if you have a job, chances are you’re under increasing pressure as management piles on more demands. On top of that, there are bosses who are capricious, unreasonable or simply mean, and so make your life even more miserable.

Dice's Guest AppearanceIn other times, you’d have had the opportunity to find a new job through a straightforward search, often within a few months, or even weeks. Those days are gone for now. Every economy has cycles of growth and recession. Sooner or later, we’ll be back in a real growth cycle. Here’s what to do so you can be prepared to take advantage of it.

Educate Yourself

I was talking to a friend of mine (Sally – not her real name) who wants to leave her job because of a long commute. She’s super educated with a graduate degree and professional certifications like the PMP. I told Sally that her reasons for leaving are weak. At a new employer, she’ll undoubtedly run into the same kinds of problems. I suggested that she make use of her company’s liberal education benefit. If your employer pays even a small amount of money towards education or training, take it. Taking classes that count toward a degree or certification will make you more valuable to your next employer. In other words, use your current situation to your advantage.

If your employer doesn’t offer any educational benefits with your employer, take classes through an industry program or at a local college. Yes, they can be expensive. But they may be a tax write-off, thus lowering their real cost. And if you’re really resourceful, trade someone an education. Train a friend or colleague on what you know, and learn something of value from them.

If you don’t want to do that, then just read a book, technical manual or any other material that will teach you a new skill.

Practice Interviewing

Most workers interview a handful of times every few years, sometimes less. Athletes, even in high school level, practice six or more times for every game they play. That’s because practice makes perfect. The same holds true for interviews. So:

  • Find an interview buddy and make a long list of interview questions.
  • Include the questions that you really hate to answer. Questions like “What is your greatest strength/weakness?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
  • Every day, in person or on the phone, tackle one of the questions from your list.
  • Always give the first answer that comes to your head.
  • Ask how you sounded. You want to know if you answered the question with clarity and power. Ask if they would hire you based on your responses.
  • Track how you improve week after week.

Update Your Resume

If you got a call from the CEO of your dream company and they asked to see your resume, are you ready? Is it up to date? Does it include specific recent accomplishments? Has it been proofread by three different people for content, grammar and spelling?

The key is to make your resume a reflection of your work. When I’m reviewing resumes, here’s what I look for:

  • Is the grammar and spelling correct?
  • Does it tell me what you’ve done so that I can understand your skills and experience?
  • Does it include your email address and phone number?

Remember this: “The purpose of the resume is to get you the interview, the purpose of the interview is to get you the job”

Assess your Skills and Core Competencies

When you’re planning a trip, the first thing you do is decide which airport you’re starting from. When you’re planning a job search, understanding where you are today is critical in determining how far and in what direction you’ll need to go in order to reach your goals. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are you good at?
  • In what areas are you weak and want to be stronger?
  • In what areas are you weak but OK with not changing?
  • What do you aspire to be strong at?
  • Any other questions that stem from your ultimate career goals.

Take some time and write down what you love to do and what you have been hired to do. Are they the same? If not, why not? Do you think you can’t do a job that brings you joy? Perhaps you need special training to embark on a new career. Whatever it is, I can promise you that investing your time in doing what you love will always pay off.

Lorne Epstein is a professional recruiter and authored You’re Hired! Interview Skills to Get the Job. You can connect with Lorne on Linkedin or Twitter, or email him Lorne @ ElectricCow dot com.

5 Responses to “4 Things to do When the Job Market Sucks”

  1. Another way of telling that the Job Market Sucks, is seeing that there are hundreds of useless discussions about dressing for success, talking the talk, which day is best for interviews, how to tell if the stars are aligned correctly for successful interview.

    So many discussions and only one job offering…..

    This sort of nonsense will continue for the next few years, and the climb back to normalcy would take an additional few years


  2. I agree with your advice, but need to point out one thing. In the very section where you extol the value of correct spelling and grammar, your word structure is glaring. “The key is to me make your resume…”?

    I am not usually nit-picky or a grammar nazi, but I can’t help but notice how one-sided the requirements are. I have spent months reading similar advice, warning that even the slightest error on a resume will get it round filed. However, the HR personnel who wield such power never actually spell check their own emails. Please proofread before posting.

  3. I don’t get the “Educate Yourself” at all! You say, “I was talking to a friend of mine (Sally – not her real name) who wants to leave her job because of a long commute. She’s super educated with a graduate degree and professional certifications like the PMP. I told Sally that her reasons for leaving are weak. At a new employer, she’ll undoubtedly run into the same kinds of problems.”

    First of all, that is only 1 reason, and it is not a weak one. Second, as long as she chooses a job that is closer, then how could she possibly “run into the same kinds of problems” at the new employer? (and again, how can there be “problemS” when she/you only list one problem?). Finally, you talk about how she is already super-educated with multiple certifications. Why does she need even more, just to try and avoid a long commute?

    As Spock would say, this is completely illogical, and therefore totally unhelpful as an example.

  4. Lookingforajobtoo

    I think some of the advice here was helpful, but I don’t think it’s good to discount a reason to leave a job when the reason may be legitimate to the performance of the employee. One of the top three reasons for leaving my previous employer had to do with the long commute, on top of the driving I had to do on-the-job. My commute was about 40-45 minutes in 3 different traffic backups. At worst, it took me an hour to get home or to get to work and it was almost 2 hours if the weather was bad. I think to myself, if I had a job with a close commute, I would spend less time on the road which is wasted time. My last employer didn’t offer benefits such as allowing you to stay late to wait out the traffic to get more work done, and then flex your time accordingly the next day or so to keep it at 40 hours. To me, reducing commute time is a legitimate reason as it allows for more time that could be spent at work, or spent attending to the things in your personal life.