The August 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs’ report tells us a lot of things about the economy. It shows that unemployment remained low at 3.9%, and – this time – we learned that, in addition to the 201,000 jobs which were added, year-over-year wage growth rose slightly from 2.7% to 2.9%. The average worker finally saw a pay increase, albeit a rather small one, of 10 cents on the hour.
As small as this wage increase is, it does matter. It shows that the job market has tightened significantly, and a tight job market tends to motivate employers to pay workers more. They won’t do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They will do this to compete for top talent, and they will do this to retain their best workers who have become dissatisfied after earning less than they feel they deserve for far too long.
Low unemployment combined with the newly reported wage growth indicates that the tide is turning to your benefit. The stage is set for you to experience a big win in a market where job openings outnumber job seekers as reported in The Wall Street Journal. Dissatisfied workers can win, and astute job seekers (those who know how best to leverage this market) can win most of all.
You have more power in this tight job market; use it to job hop your way to a raise or negotiate your way into a promotion.
Job Hop Your Way to a Raise
Even though unemployment has been decreasing since the years of the Great Recession, wages weren’t increasing, and low wages have been a leading factor for ongoing dissatisfaction in the workplace. The October 2017 Mind The Workplace report found that a whopping 71% of employees were actively looking for new work or thinking about leaving their jobs. The study surveyed more than 17,000 employees across 19 different industries in the United States and concluded that the number one reason stated for workplace dissatisfaction was low wages.
Recent data indicates that many of you can give yourself a raise by simply switching jobs – by voluntarily hopping from one job to another.
Do the following to set yourself up for success:
- If you like your current job and have data to support your belief that you are being paid less than the market rate for the work you deliver, first ask your current employer for a raise, and be sure to take your data with you.
- Be prepared to substantiate your good performance and present how you are meeting or exceeding current performance expectations and goals. You may need to communicate this information to your current employer or to a new one if you are unsuccessful at getting the raise you ask for with your current employer.
- Prepare yourself for rejection and remember it’s not personal. Get mentally prepared to resign your position if you have to. Understand that you are in the driver’s seat, but you have to be willing to search out new or alternate opportunities, and you need to show how you are uniquely skilled to deliver on organizational goals. In a tight job market, job seekers have more power because there are fewer skilled workers searching than there are available jobs.
- Read this article which details the risks involved with staying in the same job for too long and provides more understanding for how leaving your company can lead to higher pay and increase your long-term professional prospects.
- Get your resume, CV and/or portfolio updated and ensure all material presents you in the best way possible.
Negotiate Your Way to a Promotion
Often times you may want to compete for a new position or promotion but fear you won’t be competitive or even considered because you may not have some seemingly important aspect of the position specifications such as a college degree, a certification or enough experience. You come to believe that certain positions are out of reach for you due to lacking these qualifications. The tight job market is changing the landscape, and you should look again at any new or promotional positions of interest to you.
In a tight job market, employers become more willing to modify or adjust the qualifications for positions and even consider fewer years of work experience and reduced educational requirements to get you in the door and fill their jobs. To demonstrate this point, some employers have announced they are waiving college-degree requirements so they can expand the candidate pool and encourage more applications. On-the-job training is increasingly being viewed as a more timely way to achieve immediate workforce goals in this tight job market. Take advantage of this!
Do the following to set yourself up for success:
- Figure out where the demand is in the market and within your region. The latest job report shows that business and professional services and healthcare industries topped the list, among others.
- Build your brand and get professional exposure when and where you can. Seek out opportunities to volunteer, to speak, to write and to network.
- Take note of your transferable skills. Outline what you have done that you can transfer into a new job to help achieve organizational goals. Even if you don’t have a particular credential or degree, you do have transferable skills of value. You need to be able to identify what these are and why they should matter to the employer.
- Build up your confidence and submit your resume, CV and/or application for every position that interests you and you believe you can do; then develop your argument/proposal for why you are the one to do it regardless of how many years of experience you have or whether you have a degree at all. Remember, in this market, employers have fewer and fewer skilled and “qualified” people to choose from, and this is precisely why you have more room to negotiate your way in to a better job.
- Look at the position, the company and the culture and do what you can to establish a contact there. Use LinkedIn, Twitter, a recruiter, a friend and/or a letter.
- Find out what it really takes to be successful in the role and then leverage what you have going for yourself to negotiate the offer even when you don’t necessarily meet all the qualifications. Employers are not being as picky today. Use this to your benefit.
The iron is hot, and this tight job market should provide you all the courage you need to strike now.
If you want to leverage the tight job market, strike now and strike fast. This means you don’t want to wait to get started on the action items I have provided for you. David Payne with Kiplinger forecasts that job creation is likely hitting its peak and will soon decrease below 200,000 per month due to a scarcity of workers. This might mean that you likely have the most power that you will have for a long time right now.
Terina Allen is a strategist, consultant, international speaker and the CEO of ARVis Institute, a management consulting, training and executive coaching firm.