Could the current labor market disruption help your career advancement?
The events of recent years have had a profound impact on the U.S. labor market. In fact, there are currently an estimated 10.5 million open positions, far more than the number of people actively looking for employment. While that disparity has left many employers in desperate need of workers, it may also represent a clear opportunity for employees who are looking for career advancement at their current companies or in different jobs.
In this post, we'll examine the current labor market uncertainty and explore how the right strategy for finding work during the labor shortage can help to advance your career. We'll also provide links to resources that can assist you as you prepare to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Disrupted labor markets
Prior to the pandemic, most experts agreed that the nation's employment condition was best described as “full employment” – which most economists have defined as somewhere between 4-5% unemployment. When the pandemic struck the U.S., the country had been experiencing the type of low unemployment it had not seen for roughly half a century, with a January 2020 rate of 3.6%.
The pandemic changed all that, as businesses closed across the country and tens of millions of Americans found themselves out of work. Unfortunately, the lingering effects of those lockdowns continue to this day, with experts noting that labor participation is still well below pre-pandemic levels. In short, there are still many people who have yet to return to the workforce. In addition, millions of other workers have left their jobs in search of greater fulfillment or higher pay and benefits, while others have simply reached retirement age.
Why is there a labor shortage?
As a result of this disruption, multiple industries throughout the economy are experiencing an unprecedented worker shortage. These industries encompass not just the so-called “nonessential” sectors affected by the pandemic, but professional industries like accounting, legal services, design, and the sciences.
Whatever its impact on the broader economy, one thing seems certain: this is the ideal opportunity for the currently employed to use their search for work during the labor shortage to advance their careers. Traditionally, labor shortages give workers power, as employers raise wages and increase benefits to attract new hires. With so many companies complaining about an inability to find qualified help, now may be the perfect time for you to take the next step in your career journey.
How the right strategy for finding work during the labor shortage can advance your career
The important thing to remember is that this type of opportunity may never arise again. No matter how happy you think you are in your current job or industry, it's wise to survey the employment landscape to see if there is an even better position open to you. However, you will need a sound strategy to do that. These tips should help:
1. Review your career goals
Before you do anything else, begin by taking stock of your current career status to assess it within the context of your goals. If you're like most people, you probably have yet to reach your ultimate career goal. The question to ask yourself is whether it's the right time to take the next step on that career path. Are you ready for a promotion or a move to another company that might further your career goals? Do you just want a pay increase or are you thinking about a shift in your career path?
Only you know the answer to these questions, so carefully evaluate your current situation prior to making any rash decision.
2. Consider your prospects
If you have decided that now may be the right time to make a career move, then you will need to assess your prospects for career advancement in this environment. Take some time to think about your existing skills – both hard and soft – and then do some research to determine whether there are opportunities out there right now. Activate your network by letting your contacts know what you're seeking. Ask them whether they're aware of any available opportunities.
You should also use internet resources like LinkedIn to search for open positions that match your skill set. This is critically important, since any search by job title alone could easily miss a wide array of great opportunities.
3. Look for internal mobility opportunities
Do not neglect possible advancement opportunities within your own company. With so many businesses in desperate need of workers, many companies may rely on promoting internally rather than waiting for qualified candidates. This is especially true for businesses that want to provide incentives for their employees to stay during this time of labor upheaval. Check your company's job postings or have a conversation with your supervisor or human resources department, to find out about any openings and express your interest.
4. Update your resume, social media, and other branding tools
Once you have decided that now is the right time for you to advance your career, you should make sure that you've properly updated your resume and online brand. Review your resume to update your skills, credentials, and experience. As you identify target opportunities, be sure to insert the right job-related keywords as you tailor your resume for each application submission.
It's equally important to take the time to update your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, and other elements of your online brand to ensure that they're consistent with your resume. Always assume that hiring managers will be reviewing your online presence. These updates will also make it easier for job recruiters to find you on LinkedIn and elsewhere.
5. Begin to apply for positions that fit your needs
After taking care of these concerns, your next step will be to begin the process of applying for the open positions you seek. Regardless of whether you're trying to find a job at another company or pursuing an internal opportunity, approach the application process with the same level of professionalism. Just remember that exploring these opportunities in no way commits you to leaving your current job. If you look around, submit your resume, and ultimately decide to stay where you are, the only thing you will have lost is the time involved in that process.
On the other hand, it's quite possible that a better job may be out there waiting for you. With millions of workers having moved on, retired, or otherwise abandoned the workforce in recent years, there has probably never been a better time to evaluate your options for career advancement.
The time is now!
As the labor market continues to experience unprecedented upheaval, many companies find themselves under tremendous pressure to fill job openings. With the right preparation, focus, and determination, you may be able to leverage your effort to find work during the labor shortage in a way that advances your career.