Last New Years Eve, my wife and I toasted champagne glasses to a refrain I assume familiar to many within our industry that night, “To the end of 2009!”
I’ve read many a blog article suggesting a more upbeat assessment of the economic landscape, to some extent as if believing made it so. If 2009 taught us anything, you do not wait for the rising tide to lift all boats – you create your own fortune through the brunt force of tenacity. 2010 proceeds precisely as you navigate it and the product of due diligence on behalf of your client and overall career pursuits. Fate is what you make it.
I understand, it’s difficult in a very personal, emotional way that takes a toll on you and those you love. What we are witnessing is an overwhelming issue of uncertainty in the macro economy. Businesses don’t know what their tax rates are going to be this year. They know in 2011 they are going up. Should Federal Healthcare Reform prevail, we are seeing the combined top tax rate for small businesses in Wisconsin for example, at 54.27%. We have huge regulatory uncertainty in 2010. Costs inherent in Cap & Trade, will be just as easily supplemented by EPA regulatory fiat, should it fail to pass. . So what is a hiring manager going to think about the future? Projecting headcount at Fortune 500 companies is done within a landscape in flux. Corporations factor the ability to attract capital, corporate market share, inventories, GDP and unemployment as a whole. Moreover, weakness in labor markets and the sharp fall in labor income ensures a self fulfilling, weak recovery due to weak consumer confidence; increasing the risk of a double dip recession. A few important factors to take into account if you wait for economic bell weathers to determine your next step:
• While the official unemployment rate is already 10%, when you include discouraged workers and partially employed workers the figure is a whopping 17.5%.
• Many firms are telling their workers to cut hours, take furloughs and accept lower wages. Specifically, that fall in hours worked is equivalent to another 3 million full time jobs lost on top of the 7.5 million jobs formally lost.
• The average length of unemployment is at an all time high; the ratio of job applicants to vacancies is 6 to 1.
The ratio of job applicants to vacancies is particularly relevant to recruiters competing for finite openings. To illustrate: When I featured a key technology company’s call for over 200 staffing openings, over 1,000 applied to my post. In this particular scenario and ongoing to date, Senior level contract recruiters and sourcers long accustomed to the luxury of being virtual and corp-to-corp faced increasing rejection due to on-site and w-2 requirements. The W-2 issue alone plays a factor that previous capital expenditures as write-offs are endangered, which exacerbate the amount of time to recoup losses in business savings that weathered 2009. Even the recent news of a positive 5.7% quarter of economic growth offers only part of the story. Businesses eventually have no other choice but to increase inventories and make obligatory investments they have otherwise put off.
As you gasp and sigh, I am determined to breakdown the obstacles, to remind you that it is not in the macro-economic data that determines your fate, it is in the specificity of your hunt, – the micro is your personal approach. The question posed is not simply “what is going to be the shape of tan eventual recovery,” but rather, how are you as a recruiter going to ensure risks are identified and your game plan managed? First things first, stop praying in front of a job board after each Boolean Search; i.e., (Recruiter OR Talent OR Sourcer OR Recruitment OR Staffing). Due diligence takes a broader approach to identify opportunity. I propose each of the following exercises as part of a broader strategic effort to add value to the fundamentals of both job search and career success:
1) Understand your target industry(s): Navigate your job search and career advancement as you would if you were a day trader – watch as many cable news economic panelists as possible and do so regularly. Various corporate Quarterly reports and stock patterns provide a glimpse into what industries are flat, in growth mode, or projecting sustained growth. Company by Company, industry by industry – forgo setting your expectations on the broader economic news. Target specifically and efficiently.
2) Avoid one size, fits all in the manner you distribute your resume or view advertised jobs: Too often senior recruiters make the same mistakes as the unemployed candidates they have hired or passed on. They apply the old fashioned way, by looking at known openings rather then assessing that fiscal year budgetary assumptions change head counts. Imagine your success looking the pre-digital way; be it the classified newspaper or on a job center wall. You couldn’t compete in today’s information autobahn. Rather, you apply for jobs yet unknown and unannounced. You don’t apply to an impersonal, careers email address, you seek the department or business group staffing executive if not a senior recruiter within the group. As in all things, go to the source of hire, by sourcing their contact info as specifically as possible. Find a name and title of a key decision-maker at “BigCompany” but don’t know their email? If you need to proceed further than Jigsaw or Zoominfo, Google FirstName.LastName mailto:*@company.com
3) Research, database your targets, and invite … Repeat. Where do you start? The low hanging fruit suggests Recruitingblogs and ERE.net, Linkedin recruiter groups, Google/Yahoo recruiter based groups are a few mentionables as the direct way to identify fellow peers. Moreover, lead databases such as Jigsaw, Zoominfo are quick ways to identify staffing executives and jumpstart your efforts to building corporate staffing org charts. For those who take great joy in peer searches, I like to try this string. Create search strings on various search engines to broaden your knowledge of direct reports. Given that recruiters are blog and website savvy, try various search tools like IceRocket, Tweepz, Gigablast, pipl, and Whois.domaintools.com – to name a few.
4) Peer-to-Peer Open Networking: Connect to other recruiters, staffing executives and thought leaders. It’s not who you know, but who knows you. You can drink the Koolaid of “doesn’t know” and click delete, or you can realize that who you know is already in your Outlook contacts. Yes it’s true. Why wouldn’t it be? I assume by being unemployed you will have eventually exhausted your Outlook by now.
5) Social media is most effective when its observed as part of a broader strategy: It’s a process within a new solution, not a one step road to success. It’s the yellow brick road in the introduction journey: Linkedin is your next step to introducing yourself to them, becoming their Twitter followers as a means to then directly message them, moreover phase three onward to a Facebook invite with your prior recent connections mentioned as a point of origin to reintroduce yourself with your contact info and resume.
6) Don’t be “That Person”: The person who only contacts pertinent decision makers when he/she needs something. Who receives but rarely gives. Who says thank you that ‘one time.’ Keep in touch every few months and offer your assistance routinely and sincerely. Don’t be the person who people mock when they read “Contact me by cell if I can be of help” on the bottom of your Linkedin or Facebook Profile and yet you don’t include your actual number. Complete that profile as thoroughly as possible with as many links to track you down as feasible so that a layoff doesn’t cut off your tracks to being found. (Yes I have seen that one too many times.)
7) Spreadsheeting or Databasing Updates don’t Start and End with a job Search: Regularly update and inquire on new contacts to add as if your position is never secure. In most instances it isn’t. 9/11 and Bank Sector crises happen when you least expect it. Assume the next crisis is a day-to-day game changer. Be ahead of the game.
8) Know what Questions need to be asked rather than simply seeking answers: The Staffing Industry profession Requires Us to be life long students. Technology and best practices dictate we adopt and assimilate, if not also innovate. You never stop learning. You never presume to know what you need is enough. Never resist an offer to be taught and always invite a Mentor in your life. Never assume the most junior member amongst you doesn’t have information you can use. You are as good as the mentors you keep in your inner circle and the contributions you make within it.
9) Try to understand your detractors as you would your friends and colleagues: Misunderstandings can be extremely superficial as they are repairable.
10) The worth of your various social relationships are not simply accounted for in the form of present monetary value. Don’t treat colleagues as assets according to who they know and can introduce you to as a means to an end. Knowledge gained from your contemporaries is its own reward as it is to extend sincere kindness. Learn to relish kindness as much as you embrace it to keep you warm on those cold and sullen days. Kindness makes you more productive and valuable as a coworker and as a human being. Be remembered for all the right reasons. Prove who you are in both the worst and best of times and serve as an example in your own right. Moreover, humble yourself in asking others the secrets to their success. To be succinct, ask of others and diligently follow through in assembling your circle of mentors and keep them close regardless of economic situations.
Know your world, the economy that affects our broader industry, and understand the business sector your niche is within. Above all, for you it’s not a spectator sport. Consider this analogy: It’s deeply personal, your horse is in the race. The jockey rides to victory on the horse he came on. Your search strings and how you relate within your industry, both virtually and, in person, will be the horse your job search success depends upon. Your due diligence in your job search and in meeting your long term career goals will likewise be reflected. It’s your destiny – start to respect it with a certain standard of care.
Join me in making a toast to a year wiser, and moving forward regardless of the broader economic landscape.