Let’s start the year off right – with good tactics

Happy New Year!

Aren’t you glad it’s 2014? I am. Last year was interesting, to say the least, finishing with smaller job gains than we should have seen, but more than we feared while watching the impending obstructionist government shutdown become real – and prolonged.

The effect could have been worse, which indicates that our job market is on a better trajectory than (a) statistics show, and (b) politically-driven voices admit. For example, despite negative forces, the job market will have gained approximately 2.3 million jobs in 2013 (when all numbers are finalized), the third consecutive year with more than two million jobs created. Though that’s not exactly setting the woods on fire, it’s the first three-year span like it this century.

Looking farther beneath the surface, you’ll see that the results of two negative forces are easy to spot. Each of the last two years started strong (especially 2012) and then things went batty. In ’12, the painfully long, bitterly negative Republican primary season created great trepidation on Wall Street and in the halls of hiring. Both dipped seriously, the Dow dropping 2,000 points while Q2 and Q3 hiring – combined – didn’t match the first quarter alone. Once the drama died down (Election Day), hiring and Wall Street both picked up. The fluctuation in 2013 was not as dramatic but the similarities between the graph lines of the job creation numbers and the Dow – and how closely they correlated with Capitol Hill’s increasingly intense shenanigans – are pretty hard to ignore.

Who knows what craziness might be ahead this year (including mid-term elections), but I’m hoping we’ve seen our fair share, and that we’re left to a 2014 that will not be tampered with. If that happens, we could be looking at what I originally predicted for last year: three million jobs created (or more): the best year since 1999.

If that’s the case – and we’re not constantly crossing minefields – then we should pick ourselves up, think positively and constructively, and determine to move down the field. To that end, I’ve gone back through the last few years of this column to gather some of my more tactical pieces of advice which, together, should form the basis of a solid game plan for 2014. In no particular order:

  • Update your resume every six months. If you haven’t done this in the last half year, do it now. Then keep it up. If you can do it yourself, fine; if you need help, get it. But never let more than six months go by without an update.
  • Network smartly – and always. I’ve said a zillion times: if you’re busy calling all your contacts only when you’re out of work, you’re not networking; you’re begging. Networking is an ongoing function, like breathing. The cardinal rule of networking is “ABC: Always Be Connecting.” One smart move: join a network group (or two) and stay active, employed or not.
  • Be – and stay – proactive. You might recognize my mantra – “The American job market will never again accommodate the passive job seeker” – and that the opposite of passive is not active; it’s proactive. Take initiative. Start things moving. Make contacts. Meet new people. Identify companies where you’d like to work and let them know it. Stir things up.
  • Aim high. There’s no reason to believe you have to take a step backward, except if it’s a carefully planned strategy to get into another field – and not always. Otherwise, no matter how long you’ve been unemployed, your perception of your self-worth should not suffer. Do not sacrifice your long-term career plans at the altar of desperation.
  • Develop your career skills as well as your job skills. The most qualified candidate does not necessarily get the job. The job will usually go not to the person who knows most about the job, but to the person who knows most about how to get hired. In other words, career skills are equal to or more important than job skills.
  • Interview strategies are more important than interview skills. More candidates are eliminated due to lack of strategies than any other reason, and more candidates move forward on the wings of good strategies than any other reason.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Actually, there is no such thing as a comfort zone anymore, so get comfortable with that idea. This is a message of opportunity, not doom.
  • One step taken in advance is longer than ten steps taken to catch up. Get out ahead, take the first step, and then keep up the pace. Do not procrastinate and do not let up. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the right track; if you’re not moving fast enough, you’ll get run over.
  • To communicate well, communicate simply. So many cover letters and resumes are pointless, endless, and hopeless, as are performances on the interview stage. Remember the “Three Cs” – Clear, Concise, and Compelling. Nothing fancy. Nice and simple.

And finally, because the only employment statistic you really care about is yours: an unemployment rate of either 0% or 100%...

  •  It all starts with – and depends on – attitude. And that depends on you. The world is either an endless flow of possibilities or a limited choice between probabilities. Your decision.

Happy 2014!


Career Coach Eli Amdur conducts workshops and one-on-one coaching in Job Search, Career Planning, Resumes, and Interviewing. Reach him at eli.amdur@amdurcoaching.com or 201-357-5844. Please visit www.amdurcoaching.com and "like" him at www.facebook.com/AmdurCoaching.