10 Things Job Seekers Should do in a Tight Labor Market
The US unemployment rate is at a record low, and currently there are more available jobs in the United States than there are people to fill those positions. In this “tight” labor market, where employers know they have to do more to recruit qualified candidates and make their jobs more attractive, job seekers also know that they have more choices and perhaps don’t have to worry so much about the possibility of being unemployed for very long.
But, aside from being aware of more opportunities or choices, what can job seekers or professionals actually do to take advantage of a tight labor market and use this candidate-friendly market to advance their careers, grow as professionals, and reach their goals?
1. Aim high
Now is the time to reach a little out of your comfort zone and apply for jobs you might not be 100% qualified for. Employers are looking for motivated and dedicated candidates that will grow with their company, and they may be willing to make some concessions here and there on their “required experience” wish list for jobs if they see potential.
So, take advantage of the current climate and take some risks: apply for your “dream” job, lobby to have your job title upgraded, or finally go after that management or leadership position you’ve been eyeing. Even if you have a bit of a skills gap for the position, you’re more likely to be considered, in spite of any shortcomings, in a tight labor market where quality candidates are scarce.
2. Know your worth
Knowing your worth (your strengths as well as your weaknesses) and being a self-aware professional is a valuable skill in any kind of labor market, tight or not. But, when the market is full of opportunities as it is now, it’s important to be able to identify and communicate your strongest, most impressive skills and then leverage those to advance into a higher position.
3. Don’t be afraid to negotiate
Once you’ve been offered a new position, don’t shy away from negotiating for things like a higher salary, more benefits, flex time, employee perks, stock options, matching programs, or a better job title. In a tight labor market, qualified candidates are in the powerful position of being sought-after and often actively pursued by employers, who are more likely to consider enhanced employment packages because they're trying to stay competitive. While you want to avoid making unrealistic demands that don’t align with your background, you also don’t want to pass up the chance to put yourself into a better position when the environment is ripe for negotiating.
4. Put yourself out there!
Even if you’re happy in your current job and not actively looking to make a change, put your resume "out there" and see what happens. The act of applying for jobs in and of itself is a valuable professional exercise. For example, it forces you to take stock of your skill level and experience and identify any missing pieces (do you need more training? experience? education? certifications? what skills or experience do you need to get the the next level in your career path?).
Also, interviewing with different employers and seeing how they respond to your resume gives you a sense of your competitiveness on the job market. This can be valuable knowledge, even if you choose to stay with your current company and instead lobby for more growth, resources, and benefits right where you are.
And finally, you never know what opportunities you’ll be presented with! A tight labor market is the perfect time to go after that elusive “dream job” that’s been in the back of your mind for months or maybe even years. Your chances for success have likely never been greater in terms of a healthy, robust job market, so freshen up your resume and get out there!
5. Are you a millennial? You’re in luck!
Talented millennials looking for long-term careers in the hospitality industry are a highly sought-after demographic among employers. So, even though you may be fresh out of school with little work experience on your resume, don’t despair. Your prospects for a job are still great! Hospitality employers are laser-focused on finding young talent that can demonstrate those key “soft skills” that are so important in a customer service industry like hospitality… things like good communication skills, resilience, the ability to prioritize and think quickly in a fast-paced environment, or the ability to collaborate and problem-solve with team members.
So, even though you may not have a long list of job titles on your resume just yet, you can still find creative, compelling ways to impress employers with your enthusiasm and dedication to the industry, your willingness to grow with an employer long-term, and your impressive customer service skills.
6. Minorities, women: start applying now!
Groups and demographics who perhaps once felt that certain positions or levels were more of an uphill climb for them than other candidates can now enjoy a “friendlier” job market that may be more appreciative of their talents than in years past.
7. Do your homework
If you find yourself faced with several attractive job offers from different employers, don’t rush into a position without some due diligence. Remember, in many ways, you’re in the driver’s seat here, and as such you should take care to steer your career down the right path. Before you commit to an employer, find out as much as you can, not just about your role or job duties, but also about the company as a whole.
What is the company culture really like? What kinds of professional development programs do they offer to help you fulfill your long-term career goals? What is the company's leadership philosophy and management style? You want to do as much “homework” on the organization as you can to find out if it’s the right fit for you.
8. Re-evaluate your priorities
What are the most important things you care about in a job? Salary? Location? The opportunity to travel? Flexible hours so you can spend more time with your kids? Excellent medical coverage for you and your family? The opportunity to advance quickly into management? Working for a prestigious, industry-leading company? Take an honest look at your goals and priorities – both personal and professional – so that when you’re negotiating with a potential new employer (or even your current employer) on the expectations or benefits of the job, you can clearly, confidently, and persuasively lobby for exactly what you need and want. This will also increase your job satisfaction level down the road.
9. Don’t take the market for granted
While labor experts differ on how or when they think the job market will level off, the most important takeaway for job seekers to know is that it will in fact level off at some point and the low unemployment rate will either stall or begin to creep back up. So, if you have no other real reason to delay going after that coveted position you’ve always wanted or moving up into a better job title or higher salary bracket, there’s no better time than now to take your career to the next level. Employers are hungry for qualified candidates; if you know you fit the bill, there should be nothing stopping you from going after your dream job!
10. Ask for a raise
If you’re happy with your current employer and know you don’t want to look outside of your company for other opportunities, you can still take advantage of the tight labor market by lobbying for a higher wage/salary, better benefits, or an upgraded job title. If your performance at the company has been good and you have a positive relationship with your boss, they’re likely to consider offering you a more competitive package so you don’t leave them for another opportunity.