[The Job Hunt] If the Recovery is Here, Are You Ready? 5 Ways to Be Prepared

One of the adages in career coaching is that the best time to look for a job is before you need one.

With the signs of both Spring (at least in San Francisco) and an economic recovery in the United States appearing, a thaw in job opportunities looks like it has hit. But the jobs won’t likely be in exactly the types of roles as before, and maybe not even in the same geographies as the bumpiness of an uneven recovery hits different parts of the country. It does mean that some people will find similar roles, while others will need to repurpose themselves into new roles or new careers.

My leading indicator for over 20 years in employment markets has been HR/Recruiter postings: employers generally beef up their HR/ Recruiting functions when they start to feel pinched with internal recruiting capabilities and they can see new openings generated by increased business coming down the pike. Call it the CraigsList index and if you look at for February 1, 2010 it’s picked up.

So if the recovery is here, are you ready? And if not, what does ready look like? Here are five thoughts from over 25 years of recruiting and career coaching experience:

  • The best candidates are in part are those people that have a clear sense of who they are, and the skills and experiences that make them unique and potentially valuable. In other words, they “know themselves.” They get that ability by spending time (there is no replacement for basic hard work here) talking to people in an increasingly broad network getting information and feedback on their skills, and places and people to look at for jobs. Here’s the skinny on how to do this information gathering and networking process if you don’t know how here.
  • Strong candidates have done their homework on their prospective employers and industries. They most likely reached out and met people (using LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter to work their personal networks to find people) with the employer they’re considering. This research BEFORE the job interview means they have a leg up on what’s going on with the firm, and have figured out how what they offer might be of help. Info on that research process is here.
  • Resumes are not the end all and be all: in the day of Applicant Tracking Systems, where resumes are frequently text dropped into a box, spending countless hours fussin over the right font and text style is obsessive, not helpful. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to have a solid resume (or two or three depending on what they’re trying to do) ready. So good candidates have their resumes and bio’s up to date, avoiding a scramble.
  • Good candidates have alerted their trusted personal career networks that they may be looking for options outside their current role / firm. While it’s not exactly like putting your home on the market, there are some similarities: your personal network might know of someone looking to hire you. And like putting your home on the market, it shouldn’t be something that you do every other 30 days in a series of on again, off again behaviors.
  • Finally, good candidates have a six sense, and the involvement of their family, if they are going to do an active job hunt. If you have the choice – and we always don’t – have things buttoned down in most parts of your life during a job hunt / job change optimizes your ability to be more successful in the new role. Having a parent in extended hospital care, house remodeling mid-stride, or a dissertation not quite done, would be all things I’d like to have put to bed before I started a new job. I know, sometimes there’s no choice: but if there is, choose times when you can focus on the job hunt or new job.

If you have those 5 things nailed you’re in great shape to either do the best you can in a job hunt, or the best you can in a new role. And here’s one more: buy Richard Nelson Bolles’ book What Color is Your Parachute. It’s a wonderful resource for career and life planning and something you’ll use for the balance of your life.

Being ready for a job hunt is a little like being in good fitness shape: it doesn’t happen overnight. And as another adage goes, you only have once chance to make a great first impression. If you’re ready, that impression is likely to be a good one.