As Recession Recedes, Time to Look for a New Job?

Many professionals are still reeling from the last economic collapse. Career experts say that’s no reason to put off looking for the right job.


How many professionals have said that any job you hold these days is a good job? Many recession-scarred workers are holding on to their positions for dear life — even when those jobs don’t necessarily position them for career growth. But with the economy slowly improving and the jobless rate inching lower, is the time right to start thinking more about whether you are in the right job and less about whether you’ll lose it?

Career experts who spoke with Ladders said there’s no time like the present to begin a search for a job that will best leverage your talent and skills, as well as provide opportunities for personal and professional development. Indeed, some experts say we are at the edge of an employees’ market.

“U.S. companies are at an interesting crossroads right now when it comes to strategic workforce planning,” said Randy Hain, CEO of Bell Oaks Executive Search. “On the one hand, we are recovering slowly from a deep recession where significant downsizing is still having a significant impact on business. On the other hand, we are headed into a talent war the likes of which we have not experienced. Even in this economy, there is a shortage of professionals who bring to the table proven specific industry expertise paired with strategic business intellect. Forward-looking organizations are looking and hiring for these qualities today.”

All of this is not to say that boom times are just around the corner. Instead, the economy seems to be moving ahead in fits and starts, with unemployment moving downward much more stubbornly than it has after earlier U.S. recessions.

A report by the Congressional Budget Office, ” The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2011 to 2021,” states: “Although recent data indicate that growth may be picking up, the pace of economic recovery thus far has been sluggish in comparison with that of most previous postwar recoveries.” The CBO estimates that the U.S. unemployment rate will fall to 9.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and to 8.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The recovery may be slow, but it is making progress. And career experts say professionals should use this time to polish up their resumes, grow their networks and strengthen ties with colleagues.

Look to new fields

“The savviest people I know are always considering career moves,” said Cheryl Heisler, president of Lawternatives, a career consultancy for lawyers. “Even while hiring in the traditional job markets has been incredibly slow, these people have taken to building and nurturing their on-line and personal networks so that when recruiting picks up, they are poised to leap ahead. In spite of, or maybe because of, the fact that there are fewer jobs available now, even as the recovery continues, it is easier to have purely informational conversations about positions, companies and industries. … But, of course, any information you gain, when offered up freely in the course of a personal-networking meeting, can grow into much more as market conditions change and the networking relationship builds.”

Bell Oaks’ Hain also recommended that professionals start thinking out of the box a bit, broadening their potential job searches to emerging industries such as clean energy.

“Consider opportunities in new and growing industries, like the new energy field,” Hain said. “There will be continued career growth in this industry for the foreseeable future given the ongoing push across the country for ‘greener’ technologies and state-mandated renewable energy quotas. Now is a good time to transfer skills from other industries to the new energy field because it is still largely undiscovered land.”

Indeed, with the increasing pace of technological and cultural change, many of the most promising areas for the future may not be on professionals’ radars right now. Potential job seekers should be watchful for areas of “disruptive” change, such as social networking, when thinking about making their next professional move.

The bottom line, experts said, is actively to look for a new job when your current position is not meeting your career expectations and goals, but to always be ready to take advantage of new opportunities.

“As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron, and you should be continually sharpening your contacts even when you’re not looking for a new job,” said Deborah Millhouse, president of CEO Inc., a direct-hire placement, temporary staffing and human capital services firm. “Network with business leaders and mentors on a regular basis to ensure your connections are strong when it is time to look for a new job.”