At the rate websites proliferate today, you might have missed this new entry in the category of job search trends: Bright.com. I did! Until now, anyway. I actually started out reading an article on Fast Company, titled “5 Stupid Reasons You’re Underpaid–And How To Fix Them,” and the author said, ” Check out Glassdoor and Bright for background and talk to friends and colleagues in the field–knowing your worth is key to career planning.”
I’d heard of Glassdoor, but Bright? Not in terms of job search or anything else along those lines. I followed the link to the Bright.com website. While I have to say I don’t yet know anyone personally who has used Bright.com in his or her job search, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of what I found.
Bright Labs–New Job Search Trend?
It seems that in 2012, Bright.com launched something called Bright Labs. Here’s an excerpt from their press release:
“Bright Labs is a bi-weekly updated set of interactive tools, infographics, and analyses on the current employment landscape. Bright’s team of data scientists utilizes data from social networks, stock prices and volumes, real estate and construction, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and a variety of other sources to create a holistic assessment of the employment market and to reveal trends and scientific findings. One of the cornerstones of Bright Labs is the Bright Employment Index, which tracks the overall job market and provides a monthly snapshot of fluctuations within any given industry.”
As if that didn’t sound impressive enough, here’s what the press release also says about a concept called The Bright Score, which the company came up with:
The company “has processed over 15 million job descriptions and more than two million resumes, all of which gives the site one of the most insightful and up-to-date perspectives on the jobs landscape. Bright.com has generated more than 20 million Bright Scores, used by job candidates to assess whether or not a job opening is the right fit and by talent recruiters and HR professionals to efficiently evaluate thousands of job applicants and find the most qualified candidates.”
Technology Taking Over Your Job Search?
I’m full of questions today and not much in the way of answers so far. But enough about Bright.com! What does this say about job search trends?
Some people would consider it just more evidence that technology is taking over job searching, and they might have a point. The Internet, social media and other technology trends have had a huge impact on the way many of you conduct your job search–not to mention how you perform your job once you actually land one. It has certainly become important–if not essential–that you develop a reasonable level of competency in using technology tools to manage your career and the various job changes you either have gone through or will go through during that career.
At the moment, however, one critical point about technology and your job search comes to my mind: Technical tools don’t hire other technical tools–people are what need to be hired, and once hired, they have to work with other people. So somewhere, at some point, people need to connect with people. Technology can’t do it all–and I suspect that some of what it can do is not as hugely superior to human interactions as its proponents would like to claim.
As I’ve said before, I’m definitely not anti-technology. I’d just like to see a better balance between it and the people it’s supposed to serve–especially when situations such as your job search are involved.
In my previous post I mentioned briefly the importance of keeping future increases in mind when you negotiate your starting salary in a new job. Of course, that does not mean you will receive the starting salary you are hoping for. It probably makes sense to aim as high as you can realistically believe is within reach. However, if your goal is “over the moon” or at least not in tune with what is actually going on, you might find the time has come for a reality check on your new job salary expectations.
What’s a “Reasonable” New Job Starting Salary?
You probably realize the answer is different now than it was several years ago. And a lot of people have something to say about this topic–if you Google the phrase “new job salary expectations,” you’ll come up with about 3.9 million hits!
The one at the top of the list when I searched was “Job Interview Answer: What Are Your Salary Expectations?” by Alison Doyle on about.com. However, what got me started on this tack was an article I just finished reading, which I found referenced on SmartBrief on Your Career (listed as “What managers should consider before switching jobs”). The original Fortune/CNN Money article by Anne Fisher deals with starting salary expectations and is titled “Job hunting? What kind of pay hike to expect”.
So what’s “reasonable”? Here’s a quote from Fisher’s article that gives one indication, based on what’s been happening in recent years. “An analysis by Salveson Stetson of compensation data from the past six years found that job-switching senior managers’ starting pay plummeted by 56% during the downturn. It’s edging back up, but on average, managers are getting offers 34% lower than in 2006 and 2007.” Fisher goes on to say that sales and marketing executives are the group probably least impacted by the downturn, whereas general managers are among the harder hit groups.
How do You Determine What Salary to Aim For?
I hate to say this, but the starting-point is research-research-research. Do whatever you realistically and legally can to uncover information that will help you determine your likely value to prospective employers in today’s job market and the leverage you might have in the eyes of those employers. That is, what’s the probable range the companies will be targeting for someone with a background similar to yours and how does that compare to your situation (expectations, current salary, job security or lack thereof, etc.)?
Fisher points out that every job seeker has some basic resources he/she should be checking out. For starters, she says you should “use sites like Salary.com and PayScale.com, as well as job boards with postings that provide salary ranges, to get an idea of what kind of salary you can reasonably negotiate for. And don’t forget that salary isn’t everything. Perks and benefits can sometimes make up for so-so base pay.”
You can probably find formulas of one kind or another all over the Internet for how to figure your new job salary target, so I won’t bother to “go there” in this post. However, I do have one commonsense approach to suggest:
- Figure out what you need to live on without a drastic reduction in your standard-of-living (including your family, if you have one).
- Look at what you’re currently making, including bonuses/perks, if you have those.
- Research to get a rough estimate of what people with similar experience, education and other qualifications are supposedly being paid. Where are you in that range? If toward the higher or lower end, what factors might be causing that placement?
- Identify your drop-dead number (which I’ve previously described as the least you can realistically accept). Then determine a range that starts somewhat higher than that and sets an upper limit you can hope to reach if all goes well.
- Brush up on your negotiation skills! See if you can come up with a win-win proposition that prospective employers can’t afford to turn down.
If you have not yet considered eventual retirement as a part of your overall career management, I encourage you to start now. We all know that the economy and job market have become seriously more challenging over the past several years. What you might not have thought enough about is whether you need to revamp your career management planning in light of the need to cover your retirement years.
While I tend to be an optimist and take a positive approach to challenging circumstances–and I personally do not expect to retire any time soon–I also like to stay aware of what is happening or might be happening that could affect me when I reach that point. To that end, I read occasional articles and other advice pieces on the subject of retirement preparation and calculation of financial needs to cover that period. An article published in October 2012 (just a few months ago) was the latest to catch my attention.
Concern about Retirement Income
Authors Rich and Fry note in their article, More Americans Worry About Financing Retirement, that “Despite a slowly improving economy and a three-year-old stock market rebound, Americans today are more worried about their retirement finances than they were at the end of the Great Recession in 2009, according to a nationally representative survey of 2,508 adults conducted by the Pew Research Center. About four-in-ten adults (38%) say they are ‘not too’ or ‘not at all’ confident that they will have enough income and assets for their retirement, up from 25% in a Pew Research survey conducted in…2009.”
If you do the math, that means there are still 60% of Americans who feel confident they’ll have enough money to cover their retirement. However, if you’re among the 40% who don’t, that might not make you feel a lot better. Regardless of which group you fall into, though, it’s a good idea–maybe even a great one–to start now in doing serious thinking and planning to address your personal situation.
As important as anything else is the need to keep this subject in mind when you’re looking for a new job, negotiating your salary or taking any other action that could have an impact on your long-term income prospects.
Wait Until Late-Career to Consider Retirement Plans?
As the Pew Research article notes, the age at which we feel most concerned about our retirement income has dropped noticeably over the past 3 years. “In 2009 it was ‘Gloomy Boomers’ in their mid-50s who were the most worried that they would outlive their retirement nest eggs. Today, retirement worries peak among adults in their late 30s—many of whom are the older sons and daughters of the Baby Boom generation….This is also the age group that has suffered the steepest losses in household wealth in recent years.”
Worrying alone isn’t the answer, of course. However, thinking you don’t need to consider retirement plans until you’re, say, 5 or 10 years from retirement age, could land you in trouble a lot sooner than you expect. For example, Social Security payments depend heavily on your most recent years of earnings. If you don’t do your best to maximize your income in earlier years, you might not have enough time to catch up. (For the moment, I’m ignoring the arguments about how long Social Security will be around, etc.)
It’s important to remember, too, that future raises from your present employer are based on a percentage of your current income. If you have or can find any negotiating leverage to boost those a bit, it could pay off more than you think later on and help strengthen the financial aspects of your retirement outlook.
One definition of “dinosaur” is: A person or thing that is outdated or has become obsolete because of failure to adapt to changing circumstances. In today’s challenging economy and competitive job market, it’s probably the last term you want to have applied to you! If you haven’t kept up with industry changes, emerging technology and other trends affecting your career prospects, you could well find yourself on the layoff chopping-block and badly positioned to land your next job. While no one can anticipate and avoid all the possible gloomy scenarios, you can take some actions to enhance your position.
Lack of Up-to-Date Expertise in Your Job Field
I’ve hammered on this subject before, but I still run across job seekers who either don’t “get” it or for a variety of reasons (some valid, some not so much) just haven’t done anything about it. One potential advantage you have over newer candidates is the depth and breadth of real-life work experience you’ve accumulated and the contributions you’ve made to employers over that time. If you can appropriately articulate and showcase those contributions, you can get a leg up on your less-experienced competition.
However, that might not be enough to help you if you have let your development of skills and expertise lapse–because you didn’t think it was terribly important, thought you didn’t have enough time to devote to maintaining and increasing your expertise, or for some other reason. That’s likely to prove a costly mistake–a true error in judgment. In one sense, it resembles running in place while a group of more energetic and victory-hungry runners are barreling down on you from behind! Taking a brief rest-break sometimes makes sense, but the operative word here is “brief.” No serious job seeker or career-minded individual can afford to opt-out of the necessary skill maintenance and upgrading for long.
Layoffs and Your Income-Level Challenge
Another aspect of avoiding the job search dinosaur status involves a more daunting situation. As a recent CNN article titled “Get used to a life of layoffs” notes: “The tech job market is excellent for younger workers, but many of those who are laid off and over 35 will find the market less welcoming. They’re perceived as too expensive….Indeed, jettisoning the veterans is often the hidden agenda in mass layoffs. It’s no coincidence that many of the U.S. core engineering openings at HP have titles like Recent Graduate, Intern and Post Doc, all aimed at the younger crowd.”
The article goes on to note that you could find yourself displaced and sidelined for a very long time in your field (perhaps even permanently) because you are much more costly to employers than reasonably skilled younger job seekers. In addition, offshoring is still alive and well, and it continues to make inroads on employment opportunities in a variety of fields and industries. The hard truth might be that you will at some point face the necessity for making a change to a new field and/or industry. Since that in itself can be a challenge and you probably won’t be the only job seeker trying to succeed in doing it, you need to take as farsighted a view of the situation as you can and do your best to open up alternative possibilities that could work for you–before your back is against the wall and employment disaster looms.
Numerous news-feeds, blogs, etc., provide information on the latest job market statistics and often include predictions about what’s coming down the road–anywhere from short-term periods to years from now. As a current or future job seeker, you should do your best to stay on top of this kind of information, as an aid to your career management activities. However, if you take everything you read as gospel, you could find yourself thoroughly confused!
Job Market Predictions Not Cast in Concrete
One definition of “prediction” is “forecast.” Basically, that means “to estimate or calculate in advance.” That alone tells you something about the nature of predictions. Even the best job market experts are drawing conclusions about the future based on past and present knowledge available to them. They can’t assure you that what they believe will happen will actually happen, much less that it will happen when they predict and in the way they predict. Virtually every job market prediction they make is “subject to change without notice.” Too many variables can pop up to ensure any degree of certainty. Look at what happened when the bottom fell out of the real estate market, for example. The impact hit harder and lasted much longer than predicted, leaving many people scrambling to find jobs and careers outside that field.
Interpretation of Job Market Predictions
Even if statistics included in the predictions are based on reasonably sound assumptions, they can still be open to multiple interpretations. That’s why you’ll often see a particular news item viewed differently by different commentators, bloggers and others. Either intentionally or through unintentional bias, an individual can provide an interpretation of the statistics that fits his or her view but contradicts the view held by other individuals. Politicians aren’t the only ones guilty of this, but they’re definitely a good example. That means you need to take different views of job market statistics with a healthy dose of skepticism. Trying to stay informed about possible outcomes or events in the job market is good; letting yourself get sucked into unquestioning acceptance of a prediction based on something no more solid than Jello is not so good.
Tips for Responding to Job Market Predictions
Tip #1: Consider the source. How strong are the organization’s or individual’s credentials for making job market predictions? What kind of track record has been maintained and over how many years?
Tip #2: Remember that time changes everything–or almost everything. Predictions are moving targets. Even if something seems like a near-certainty now, in 5 years…a year…maybe even less, it could turn out to be anything but certain. It might not come to pass at all or maybe much later than originally predicted.
Tip #3: Build a contingency factor into any decisions you make based on job market predictions, even those that come from the most reliable source you can find.
As Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Although the US job market has seen some glimmers of light (more in some industries and geographical areas than in others), the future–both near and long term–still clearly holds challenges for many of us. If you’re not currently in an employment situation that’s stable, satisfying and financially sufficient for your needs, you might be tempted to throw up your hands and say, “That’s it! I’m stuck and there’s nothing I can do to make things better.” While understandable, that admission of defeat doesn’t achieve anything except to let you vent some of your frustration.
It might be true that one person alone can only accomplish a certain amount, although a number of people in history have shown how amazingly much one person can achieve. However, I prefer to look for support in pursuing challenging goals and keep an open mind about where that support might come from. I encourage my clients to do the same, because sometimes really great results can come from doing that.
United We Stand–Strength in Numbers
I’ve been thinking recently about all the existing and emerging challenges facing individuals and entire countries throughout the world–major economic crises, tight job markets in many countries (or at least a scarcity of jobs for some groups and individuals), a growing gap between the “haves” and “have nots,” and more. Two phrases came to mind, and they’re somewhat related to each other. One is “united we stand,” and the other is “strength in numbers.”
According to Wikipedia, “‘united we stand, divided we fall’ is a phrase that has been used in mottos, from nations and states to songs. The basic concept is that unless the people are united, it is easy to destroy them.” What I get from this today is that there’s a temptation for us to think we’re alone in the boat and need to look out for ourselves first and foremost. However, that can too easily lead to an undesirable–maybe even disastrous–outcome. Whether it’s conducting a job search for a suitable position or doing your best to be a productive and valuable employee in a position you already hold, “me first at all times” is not really an outlook you want to hold onto.
In a similar vein, I found a number of quotes referencing the concept of strength in numbers, but one of my favorites was this: “There is strength in numbers, and if we all work together as a team, we can be unstoppable.” (Craig Kielburger, founder of Free The Children, an organization to stop child slavery) What you might not be able to do alone, it’s absolutely possible you could accomplish with some active help.
Practical, not Pollyanna-ish
One definition of Pollyanna is “unreasonably or illogically optimistic.” There’s nothing wrong with optimism (remember, I’m an optimist); however, optimism needs energy and commitment behind it to transform a gloomy picture of the future into one that holds promise and encourages hope. I don’t know about you, but that’s where I’d like to put my efforts, even if I’m “only one person.”
As this is my first post of 2012, it seems appropriate to talk about connecting with others. This could apply not only to strengthening our career management and job search activities but also to helping others, whether or not they can turn around and give help back to us. However, this is, after all, a careers-related blog, so I’m not going to go into details about the other kinds of helping we might do. That’s up to each individual, anyway.
What’s the difference between a connector and a networker?
I hadn’t realized there actually was a difference between those two concepts until I came across an article by Alina Tugend called “Are You a Connector?” According to her, connectors are people who are always willing to help and will go the extra mile to find someone who can if it’s not within their power to help directly. Apparently, the concept came originally from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (mentioned by Maryam Banikarim, a senior VP at Gannett). In any case, the idea is that these individuals have “energy, insatiable curiosity and a willingness to take chances” plus “a genuine love of meeting people and making friends,” and they go beyond what is generally thought of as networking. They definitely exhibit a willingness to help even when they don’t see the probability of short-term payback.
Considering this description, I realized that I haven’t known many people who would be described as connectors, but there have been at least a few. Since they are apparently a rare breed, I’m probably fortunate to have known any!
Become a connector for individuals who need help achieving career advancement or finding a new job
If you don’t have the real zest for interacting with people that was described above, you might think you can’t reach connector status. However, I don’t think that’s the final word on the subject. Some skills can definitely be learned, and I believe connecting is one of them. It’s just very important to have a strong desire to do more than you’re already doing along those lines–a desire that will motivate you to take action (desire alone won’t get you there). As Banikarim notes, one way is to avoid gravitating toward friends at meetings and for meals, choosing instead to sit and converse with people you don’t already know.
Enhance your career by helping yourself become a better connector
You probably already know that the economy and the job market pose multiple daunting challenges today, a situation that’s likely to continue for quite some time. That’s a good reason to understand that you can help yourself while helping others. As Tugend’s article states: “The willingness to reach out to someone you don’t know is crucial to the art of connecting, and especially important in uncertain economic times. Those who are in mid-career and may have worked for one company for years should learn connecting skills before they need them.” These words of advice could well apply to all of us, not just those in mid-career!
We all need to stay aware of what is happening or might be coming in the job market, as best we can. It’s a matter of enlightened self-interest and astute career management, for one thing. Although there are a lot of possibilities you might want to think about, some are probably more likely to arise than others and deserve special attention. That’s why I found “5 Need-to-Know Trends in Today’s Job Market” by Michelle Rafter to be particularly interesting. You can find her article here, but I’ll give you some of the high spots:
“Here are five other job market trends to be aware of, especially if you’re over 40:
1. Boomers are staying in the work force longer. People are likely to continue working longer, the EBRI study concludes, to save more for retirement, make up for investment portfolios that tanked during the recession or to retain health insurance coverage.
2. Despite a national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, certain jobs remain unfilled due to lack of essential skills.
3. People may be working, but they’re overworked or unhappy, and many would switch jobs if they could.
4. Employees are happier with more flexible work schedules, but so far, most don’t have them.
5. More public and private employers offer telecommuting, but they still lag worker interest.”
Smart job-seekers and career-managers (and don’t we all want to fit those categories?) know they can no longer count on employers to take care of them, if they ever could. Good companies do treat their employees well, but even they don’t guarantee desirable employment indefinitely. They can’t. The best possibility you can hope for these days is long-term employment; lifetime employment is a long-gone myth. Keeping informed about trends in the job market will help you focus on what’s possible, rather than what’s not, and choose your actions accordingly.
You’ve probably heard the definition of insanity that goes something like this: Doing the same thing in the same way, over and over, and expecting different results. When this concept is modified and applied to your job search, it becomes a real-world problem that could have major repercussions. If you’re doing the same things and expecting the same results in conditions that might be very different from what they were years ago, that’s a good example of an insane job search. You’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment and, ultimately, a failed job search.
First and foremost, if you’re using the same job search tools and techniques in 2011 as you did in 2001, even if they worked then, they might not work now. Unfortunately for job seekers, nothing stands still these days, if it ever did. The economy is different–in some cases, radically so–and the job market is almost certainly a lot different. Just as the publishing of open jobs migrated from newspaper classified ad sections to online job boards and other online resources, so does your choice of tools and techniques need to take into account the different conditions of today’s employment world and adjust accordingly. After all, modems are pretty much gone, cell phones are making phone booths almost obsolete, and typing resumes on an electric typewriter is the technology equivalent of a dinosaur.
So what should you be doing differently in your job search to make it sane? Maybe too much to touch on here, but just as an example:
* Do your homework (intelligence-gathering) on likely companies and industries before you start blindly sending out resumes.
* Take the initiative to establish contacts in, or connected to, companies you’d like to work for, whether they’re currently hiring or not.
* Launch or upgrade your online presence to ensure recruiters and hiring managers can find you there (they will look), and make sure the overwhelming image is positive (no Facebook lampshade photos!).