Whether or not the U.S. economy has hit a recession, one thing is clear these days: Uncertainty is in the air, and it affects nearly every economic sector, including the job market.
The recent rise in the U.S. unemployment rate -- 4.9% in January -- indicates that fewer jobs are being created, but the shrinkage may not affect job-seekers in some fields, such as technology or health care. Nonetheless, experts say job seekers should pay attention to current economic conditions and expect that the job-search process may take longer.
Adjust Your Approach?
"The unemployment rate has risen, but it is not at a point that should cause job seekers to panic," says John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. "Even at 5.2% or 5.3%, there is still demand for workers. Those seeking jobs in construction or mortgage lending might have a more difficult time finding employment, but we have not seen a significant downturn in hiring in other sectors."
Alexandra Levit, author of "They Don't Teach Corporate in College," suggests job seekers may want to alter their approach due to economic uncertainties.
"Perhaps this means earning a paycheck at your current job while conducting interviews over your lunch break or doing volunteer work on the weekend that might lead to a paid gig," she says. "If you are currently unemployed, you may have to settle for a situation that's not 100% ideal in order to keep yourself afloat through the downturn."
David Bach, a workforce development specialist in San Francisco, says job seekers can "improve their competitive edge by becoming more aware of the top ongoing employers." Fields that are less affected by the evolving economy -- such as education, health care, and energy -- make an ideal focus right now, he adds.
Tips for Reaching Your Goal
Experts recommend the following actions to increase your job-search success in an uncertain economic climate.
* Tailor your presentations; don't be generic. "In developing a resume and other promotions materials, think about how your current skills and talents apply directly to the responsibilities you'll hold in the new job," says Levit.
* "Create a target list of companies," says career coach Julie Jansen, author of "You Want Me to Work with Who?" She suggests sending the list to 25 people, asking them if they can put you in touch with an employee at one of the listed companies.
* "Make yourself and your skills more visible," says Bach. He suggests posting and refreshing your resume in more places, such as online job boards, and going to job fairs.
* "Create an advisory board of smart and empathetic people and confer with them regularly about your job search," says Jansen.
* "Hone and utilize your 'elevator pitch' as often as possible," says Bach, referring to a 30-second summary of your professional assets.
* Keep your spirits high. Don't let the process overwhelm you or weigh you down. Jansen advises, "Make a list of your five favorite things to do, and do them!"
* Make an effort daily. "Do one thing each day -- like emailing a new contact or attending a networking event -- that moves your job search forward," says Levit. "Your worst enemy is inertia."