Strategies for Entering [and Reentering] the Job Market

Recent grim job forecasts indicate it may be time for a new approach to work

to Careers |

Truth is we’re all entering this job market for the first time. Nobody has ever seen a job market like this one before. Picking a safe profession, working for a big company, moving to where the jobs are, none of those standard practices of the last 50 years seem to be as effective as they once were. Maybe it’s time to try something totally different. What is there to lose?

The idea of a safe profession has no meaning in a global economy where there is a practically endless supply of talent in almost all professions. Working for a big company doesn’t seem to be any less risky than working for a small company since so many big companies are constantly restructuring and shedding business units and employees. And since jobs are less tied to geographical locations than they used to be, chasing hot job markets guarantees you’ll have to move every two or three years. So if the level of competition and risk is high wherever you go, perhaps the best approach is to go where you want to live and do work that you find to be interesting (regardless of traditional concerns).

Coming to Grips with New Job Market Realities

Relentless competition is now a fact of life in every line of work, so realize that you might as well do something you are genuinely interested in doing. That can be anything from programming to photography, from financial services to organic farming. Because whatever you choose, you’ll have to spend a lot of time doing it and constantly improve your performance and learn new skills if you want to keep up with the pace of change and get ahead. And you’ll only be able to do that if you like what you’re doing and have your heart in it. The days of steady annual raises as a way to lift your income are rapidly coming to a close.

Big brand name companies are often the most risky companies. They can be stuck in their ways, invested in old habits and beliefs, and with enough money to ignore changes in their markets until it’s too late. They can be unwieldy corporate bureaucracies that spend more energy trying to maintain the status quo than paying attention to evolving customer desires. In their bid to avoid change and attempts to avoid risk they wind up taking the biggest risks of all. When they finally do decide to change, they often hire their usual band of experts who give them the usual ineffectual advice and then they launch into expensive and risky projects to reinvent themselves. When those endeavors fail, as they often do, they are then left with no alternative but quick and ruthless cost cutting, downsizing, and the selling of assets – no job stability there.

There are plenty of surveys that claim to identify the best cities or the best regions to get a job but these surveys come up with new answers every year and not all similar surveys in a single year even agree with each other. It’s true that certain kinds of jobs are more available in certain places but that’s getting less and less true all the time. If you want to go into movies maybe Los Angeles is the place to be, but the movie industry is changing fast and spreading out to many more cities. If you want to be a stock trader New York or London used to be the best places to go, but most trading is now done online and you can do that from anywhere with a good Internet connection.

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