Landing a Job in the New Economy: Growing Your Career amidst “Green Shoots”

By Justin Honaman, and Monique Honaman (www.ishrgroup.com) The economy has shifted. Growth and positive earnings are the talk of CNBC. We have added a new word to our vocabulary: 'Green Shoots' (referring to the "green shoots of recovery" that are sprouting in our global economy). If the pundits are correct--that the economy is recovering and growth is again in our future--what should we be doing from a career perspective to ensure that we take the preparative actions leading into a growth phase of the market?

At the same time, what should we be doing to ensure that we are better prepared for the next pullback?

There are three perspectives to consider:

Resources Under-Utilized Today (RUT). You lost your job during the economic pull-back and have been looking for new opportunities since the day you received the news that you were being let go. Now is the time to be on your game from a networking and career preparedness standpoint. It is time to get out of your rut.

Many firms are short-staffed having cut back further than necessary from out of fear and a reactive-planning perspective at the end of 2008 and early 2009. These firms need to back-fill roles and have held off doing so due to the uncertain nature of our economy and the underlying market. These firms will be the first to hire; the question is when the green light will be given to post the jobs. Expect positive market momentum to encourage companies to get ahead of the curve-to hire the strongest talent available and attempt to leap-frog the competition.

Many other firms are ready to grow and feel that this market is a "survivors'" market--those that "made it through" this tough downturn is the long-term winners as they will be there in place as the market recovers.

How do you prepare for either of these scenarios?

First, your resume and supporting material (e.g., your personal brand materials, personality profile, and any information about speaking presentations given, training certificates, and so forth) should be organized and ready to share. Be concise. Nobody wants to read a 10-page resume (and frankly, anything more than two pages can be considered too long). Use your resume to get you in the door. When an interviewer wants or needs all that additional information, he or she will ask for it.

Documents must be 100% clean-in other words, spell-checked and accurate--and should be ready to share at a moment's notice.

Second, you must engage in networking activities. We can't emphasize this point enough. These activities should not only encompass your industry of expertise but also community and other business/leadership affiliations. Many individuals find their next position via their network primarily because their network ensures a trusted source for referrals and knowledge of an individual. Beware of the trap of networking: making others feel as if you are connecting with them for nothing other than finding yourself a job. This behavior is incredibly transparent. Instead, approach networking in terms of "connecting people" and "paying it forward." See what you can offer to others, and you will be amazed at what you find they are often able to offer back.

Be honest from the beginning. A statements like, "I am looking for a new position and thought you might be able to point me in the right direction," is far more effective than, "I am looking for a new position. Are you hiring? Here's my resume."    

Third, have your story straight. Honesty and openness are the keys to success during the interview process. Now more than ever, individuals have had "clean" career histories turned upside-down. Don't try to hide the fact that you have been laid-off or to cover up a gap in employment. Have a solid explanation and feel confident in sharing it during the interview process. Know the "Book on You." What are you known for?  What are the strengths you bring to the table, and where do you know you are not well-suited? How would people (managers, peers, direct reports) describe your authentic leadership style?  What do you bring to the table? Having thoughtful answers to these questions will set you apart from your competition.

Your interviewer will know that you are serious and that you have spent time on self-reflection. Lastly, interview the company just as much as the company is interviewing you. Resist the urge to jump at the first offer that comes along. Trust your instincts on this one.  Remember, you don't want to be looking for another job in six months either because this one really wasn't a fit (or you are asked to leave) or you are just plain miserable.

Employed Yet Eager (EYE). The second perspective is that you are currently gainfully employed, and you are ready to make a career change. You either took a job because you "needed the job" or you have been in the role for a period of time or are ready to move on. You are constantly "EYEing" the marketplace for new opportunities and are eager to take the next step and determine your next role.

First and foremost, you must define the purpose for your planned move. Is it financially driven? Is it career driven? Are you falling for the "grass is always greener" scenario? We have personally witnessed a number of individuals who have chosen to make career moves for more money or a perceived better career opportunity only to end up with nothing. They pursued an opportunity for the wrong reasons. Be honest with yourself about why you are looking for a new position. It's critical that you look at the entire package when considering a new opportunity.

Many people consider only the financial worth.  "By how much will my total comp package increase?" These same people often fail to consider the "cost" of having to rebuild their brand within a new company or the "cost" of not having the initial flexibility that a prior position afforded, or the "cost" of rebuilding their internal company network so they quickly know where to go for what. When interviewing for these jobs that offer "more," be clear about what "more" looks like beyond more money. Listen. Ask questions. Again, trust your instincts and be honest about what is important to you and at what cost.

Happy-In-Place (HIP). The third perspective has you in a role that you completely enjoy. You feel like you are adding value and appreciate the value of the company's products and services. You are comfortable with your salary, benefits, team, and role. You begin and end every day feeling confident in your authentic leadership style and the shadow that you are vision-casting as a leader. You know you are coaching others to be successful. You take pride in your company. You are making a difference.

If you are one of the HIP people, take the time to appreciate the position you are in as there are many, many others that are in situations significantly different from yours. Enjoy your role. But never become complacent. Make sure that you are acing the "blocking-and-tackling" activities. Deliver results. Encourage and grow your team, personally and professionally. Lastly, never forget to help those in a RUT or those who are EYE'ing other positions and are looking to land their dream job. Pay it forward when possible. Be available for networking. Make connections. Offer advice. The reality is that you never know when you may need their assistance in the future.

"Green Shoots" may indeed be sprouting. As we continue to gain momentum through our economic recovery, focus on what this means for you in terms of your career growth and planning. Be prepared. Stay sharp. Constantly assess and re-assess where you are, what you are doing, and how satisfied you are with your level of contribution. Nobody can afford to become complacent. The days of lifetime employment are long over. The lessons learned from this experience, regardless of whether you are in a RUT, keeping your EYEs on the marketplace, or are HIP, will stay with you long past this phase of life. The question is, Will you utilize the lessons learned to make better decisions in the future?