April 19, 2011

The Move in with Mom Phase is Over!

Over the 30+ years that I have been doing career planning and job search strategy, I have noticed cycles and phases in employment patterns. I have observed at least five phases.

When the economy is really bad, and no one is hiring, there are just no jobs to be had. This is the "forget it and go back to graduate school or move in with Mom (or both)" phase. A huge number of people who graduated between 2007 and 2011 have had to take this detour. So did people who were laid off over the past three years. Crummy survival jobs or working multiple jobs to make ends meet has been the norm.

When things first start to pick up in the labor economy, employers have some pretty ridiculous expectations for candidates. I call that the "must walk on water" phase of job growth. Employers can demand much more from job seekers when the supply of labor talent is plentiful and the demand for that talent is low.

Next comes the "masters degree with 3-5 years of experience required" phase of job growth. This is when there is increasing demand, but the employers still can limit the applications to some pretty high-end talent. (This phase is almost as restrictive as the "must walk on water” phase, but there is hope.) The transition from this phase to the next is pretty rapid in most situations because many employers start picking up at about the same time, so the supply/demand situation starts changing across several industries simultaneously.

The fourth phase is the more reasonable phase of job growth. I believe we are in this phase now. It is the "bachelors degree with excellent communication skills required" growth phase. This is one of my favorites. It tells you that if you work hard in school, get a little experience, develop some great communication skills, and don’t have some major personality flaw, you will get a good job and perhaps multiple offers to choose from. It does require some serious job seeking activity, but you will be rewarded. I am hoping job development phase will continue into late spring and early summer.

The fifth and final phase of job growth is really great for job seekers. It is the "bachelors degree in progress with a heartbeat" phase. This is the phase that most people like best. Economists are wary of this phase. An overheated job market creates the climate in which employers are so desperate to hire that they will take anyone and pay anything to get them. The hiring frenzy is on. Salaries climb, benefits are generous, hiring bonus’ and stock option sweeteners are rampant, and fringe benefits become ridiculous. In this climate, companies offer $10,000 moving expenses to pack your stereo and jeans into the Civic and drive to San Ramon. Really!

The heartbeat phase may be just around the corner when the baby boomers finally vacate their positions in large numbers... Look for this to happen as the stock market recovery builds traction and 401Ks start to soar.

Even the triple headed disaster in Japan and unrest in the Middle East are not having a huge impact on the recovery ... at least not yet.

If you looked away for the past week or two or three, you might not have noticed that the economy is rapidly expanding with opportunities. My phone is ringing. My inbox is littered with job listings. JETX is bulging with jobs! We have posted 27 jobs so far in April. In one day we posted 11 jobs - more than were posted in all of December. Students and alumni are reporting offers- and in some cases, multiple offers, a phenomenon not seen in years. The salary offers being received are substantial.

It still takes significant effort to get a job offer. Manuel Arciga, who graduated this past fall with a BS in ME, found his job in JETX. He was hired by CPM Rayner Equipment Systems for a Machine Design Engineer position in Sacramento. Manuel is working on interesting projects and was sent by his company to CONEXPO, in Las Vegas- “a senior project fair on steroids”. Interviewers told him it was his presentation - including his portfolio and interview skills - that got him the job. Manuel said in his email “Your career planning course is one of the main reasons I ended up getting this career job.” He requested a tour of the facility and an informational interview before the job interview. He was prepared!

Laith Assaf, a Civil Engineering senior, got his offer with DPR from a contact made at the Reno ASC job fair. He credits his preparation - researching the company, and gathering info on what to expect in the interview from a DPR rep, as key to his success. “It takes initiative. When you show you really are interested in the company it makes a difference.”

The market is hot! Are you taking advantage? Are you taking initiative? Is it time for you to find your own place in the world... Mom will miss you.... for about a day.