It’s a crazy time in the world. Pandemic, post-pandemic, high inflation, high gas prices, labor shortage, hot real estate markets, cooling real estate markets, mandatory back to the office, remote jobs, hybrid jobs, … We are getting conflicting messages about how this craziness affects careers and job search:
- The job market is hot, but the stock market is not. How long will the job market be hot?
- There is a labor shortage, but I am nervous to ask for a raise in this uncertain economy.
- Everyone needs to be back in the office, except for fully remote and hybrid job openings that keep popping up on my LinkedIn feed.
- Covid is over … sorta, but I am not sure if I should go to work with a cough.
- My company has unlimited paid time off, but nobody is actually taking any time off.
- Does business casual mean can I wear my yoga pants with a blazer?
Let’s break down career and job search trends during this confusing and uncertain time:
Hot Job Market
There is so much to talk about in this hot job market, which is being driven by a big labor shortage. Bottom line … there are so many job openings. “If every unemployed person in the country found a job, we would still have 5.4 million open jobs. “ Understanding America’s Labor Shortage, Stephanie Ferguson, US Chamber of Commerce, June 3, 2022
So what does this mean for a person thinking about switching industries, companies, or job functions? There is no time like the present to ride the wave of this trend. Markets are cyclical, and today’s trend can become tomorrow’s old news. Now may be the time to kick into action. Think about what direction you want to take your career and what parameters of a job are important to you, and what is on your to-do list for your job search:
- Update your marketing docs – resume and LinkedIn
- Get your ‘story’ down
- Check out the (very real) postings on job boards
- Network your way into the companies who are posting
Contrarians worry that a job switcher risks becoming a LIFO – Last In First Out, and winds up without a seat in this game of musical chairs. Yes, change comes with a bit of risk. But missing the boat comes with the risk of getting stuck at the shore.
Back to Work or Not?
Ask an old schooler and they will say, ‘Everyone needs to be back in the office full time, no exceptions. That’s the only way to conduct business and learn your trade … in person, dressed for success. Ask a Gen Zer and they say “Technology enables me to do my job from anywhere. I don’t want to pull my horse and buggy up to the water cooler.”
There are many reasons why people want to work from home, such as no commute, work from any location in the world, ability to squeeze in life stuff during the work day … laundry, carpool, quick jog outside, etc. There are also many reasons why people don’t want to work from home, such as small living quarters, social interaction with others, Zoom fatigue, live mentoring, etc. Add to this equation that companies and employees may have conflicting economic skin in the game. Some firms have signed long term commercial real estate leases and need to justify their office space costs, and some employees have relocated and don’t want to move back to expensive cities.
A big takeaway from the past two years is that there are many successful ways to design a work model. One size does not fit all employers or employees. For example, some companies offer Fridays from home or August from wherever you want, and even fully remote with week-long offsites for the entire company every other month. So when considering the next step in your career, make a list of your work ‘must-haves’, namely what is important to you. Then consider negotiating with your current employer for a flexible work model, or exploring new job opportunities with employers who offer different options. If you want to negotiate a work model that is different from the norm at your company, anticipate your manager’s concerns and come prepared with potential solutions.
Dealing with a cough and work this summer
At this point in the pandemic or post pandemic, the guidelines for staying home when you aren’t feeling well are murky. I am not a doctor and leave medical advice to science. But I would suggest applying common sense in many situations. Nobody wants to sit next to someone with a cough, no matter what the reason is for the cough.
Unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO)
There is a trend at companies being hyped called unlimited paid time off (PTO). “Some have found unlimited PTO to be a double-edged sword. Depending on the company, it can either be a godsend for workers who need more flexibility or an easy way for management to cut costs.” Unlimited PTO sounds great on paper, but the reality could mean you never take a vacation, Colin Lodewick, Fortune, March 3, 2022. When thinking about what’s important to you, if you value unlimited PTO as a job parameter, make sure it’s a perk that employees actually can take at the company you are considering. An option that can’t be exercised is worthless.
Work Wardrobe Post Pandemic. What to wear?
Of course as everything changes, so does fashion. We went from suits to pjs and leggings in the blink of a Zoom camera. So what do we do now that we are heading back to the office, if only for a few days a week? Post pandemic, many aspects of business formal attire feel dated and flat out uncomfortable. Who wants to work with a tie around their neck or in pointy high heels? However, being “put together” can instill confidence and enhance productivity. Try for a happy medium. Be comfortable and consistent with the norm in your industry, but recognize that you are leaving an impression.
Bottom line – stay rational to navigate uncertainty. Crazy times don’t have to leave you crazed.