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Job-Hunting Strategies for a Turbulent Economy

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As you likely read the other day, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that there were 292,000 new jobs filled in December 2015. This brings the total in 2015 to 2.7 million new jobs, on top of the three million in 2014. Given the instability on the world economic front, you need to wonder if this rapid increase in hiring is sustainable. This has significant impact on job seekers and employers alike.

Before the DOL report was released, I predicted the following 2016 hiring trends. The DOL report increases the chance they’ll occur.

  1. Hiring growth will continue for at least three to six months.
  2. Voluntary turnover will increase as recruiters pursue more passive candidates.
  3. Salary growth will accelerate to enable companies to compete for the best talent.
  4. Job dissatisfaction will increase as candidates overvalue the short-term rewards without due consideration to the long-term consequences.
  5. Companies will overreact to these short-term trends and attempt to keep their best people from leaving using the wrong inducements.
  6. This vicious cycle of job dissatisfaction, low performance, and high turnover will accelerate until some macroeconomic event breaks the bubble.

Whether you’re a job seeker, employer, or recruiter, the current diametrically opposed world and U.S. economic trends urge caution. For example, consider this fresh-off-the-press Fortune article summing up why people leave what appear to be dream jobs. The big takeaway: What you get on the day you start and the related glitz does not determine happiness, success, or job satisfaction. It’s what you do every day after that, and who you do it with, that counts.

Given this state of affairs, here’s some rational advice for employers and those who are actively seeking a new job or are considering an offer for a dream job.

1) Don’t make long-term career decisions using short-term information. This is the big takeaway from the Fortune article and the advice I’ve been giving to my candidates since 1980.

2) Time is your most valuable asset. Use it wisely. If your current job does not provide you the opportunity of getting better at what you want to do, you should seriously consider changing jobs despite the turmoil and potential risk. There’s often more risk in not changing jobs.

3) Strategy drives tactics, not the other way around. Whether your job-hunting strategy is to just pay the bills or something more significant, every job change you make should be considered with this strategy in mind. Whether you’re actively looking for a new position or not, do you have a personal career strategy driving your actions?

These points are all captured in the Job Seeker’s Decision Grid graphic I introduced last year. It offers a useful guide for helping job seekers figure out whether an offer is appropriate and for employers to better describe an open position.



People leave jobs for the reasons on the bottom half of the grid and accept them for those at the top. These reasons can be divided into short-term extrinsic reasons (on the left) and long-term intrinsic reasons (on the right). Regardless of why people leave jobs, when they accept them for the short-term extrinsic reasons in the upper left, the job can quickly become disappointing. This is how the vicious cycle of dissatisfaction, underperformance, and turnover is created and perpetuated.

So regardless of the economic conditions, the decision whether to accept an offer needs to emphasize the intrinsic long-term criteria in the upper-right quadrant–what the person will be doing, learning, and becoming. Here’s some advice how to evaluate a job offer on this basis. It starts by categorizing the offer into these three components:

Day 1 Criteria This is what a new hire gets on the start date–a job title, a compensation package, a specific location, a company name, and its reputation.

Year 1 Criteria This is the doing and learning part, including the work itself and its importance to the candidate and the company. This is influenced by the quality of the hiring manager, the team, the culture, and the work-life balance.

The Future This is what the person can become if successful. It depends on the company’s growth prospects, the quality of the leadership team (especially the hiring manager), and the long-term compensation package.

So whether you’re not job hunting or have one or more offers, compare your current job and each opportunity on these three measures side by side. (There’s a formal chart on page 268 in The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired.) As long as you weight each component equally, you’ll quickly discover if you should begin looking if you’re not and how to correctly evaluate an offer when it’s received. This will be how you can prevent or break your personal vicious cycle. More important, it’s how you build a career worth building.