Job seekers might finally be finding a more friendly labor market.
According to June data released by the Labor Department earlier this month, U.S.-based employers had 4.7 million job openings on the last day of business in June--the highest number of job openings since February 2001.
“The war on talent continues to become more of an issue for employers looking for professional-level talent,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half International. “For the individuals that are out in the job market, it is very positive to know that on average, there are two job seekers to every job opening.”
The labor market has had a protracted recovery in the wake of the Great Recession, with the unemployment rate at 6.2% last month. But there are industries looking to hire. According to Joanie Courtney, senior vice president of market development at Monster.com, strong demand remains in information technology; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); health care and professional and business services.
Professionals with in-demand skills can take advantage of this time period to advance their careers and salaries. But experts warn employees to look before they leap to a new employer.
“When you are working, continue to build on your reputation and credibility,” says Ellie Eckhoff, vice president at executive coaching company ClearRock. “If you are looking for a job, always think about how to sell a solution--not just your experience.”
According to Eckhoff, job seekers often make the mistake of droning on about their experience during interviews when they should be talking about their ability to fix a problem and add value to the office.
Despite the improving labor market, networking is still a crucial part of career advancement—even for employees fielding recruiter calls.
McDonald says proper networking not only means meeting people face to face, but having a strong social media presence and a well-written resume. “Don’t take anything for granted. The competition is still there. Those that continue to move forward with a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose are the ones that get the best positions.”
It’s important to network outside of trade events or industry association meetings, says Eckhoff. She recommends job hunters research the companies they want to work for and set up conversations with current employees. Focus the discussion on advice, she adds, not how to get a job.
For job seekers who don’t have the in-demand skills, now may be a good time think about getting the skills. Courtney of Monster says that while some of the jobs may require specialized training, the alternative to attending classes is to get a job as a temporary worker or consultant in the new field to gain on-the-job experience. If that’s not an option, job seekers can also consider volunteering to get the needed experience.
Even if a company doesn’t have a job posting, Courtney says don’t be afraid to reach out.“If you are passionate about getting onboard with a company or into a new industry, be aggressive about marketing yourself in a professional manner, she says.
“When you land an interview, make sure you are prepared, put your best foot forward and sell yourself appropriately to the hiring manager. Let them know why you would be a good fit and ask for the next step in the process.”