2008 has, in many ways, been a very unique and trying year economically. The mortgage meltdown has impacted financial services, construction, and the credit market and yet we continue to see furthering implications into insurance and other sectors. Marque brands like Lehman, Countrywide, Merrill Lynch and Bear Sterns getting consumed in acquisitions or flat out going under has rattled the confidence of investors.
Everyday another headline speaks to the number of jobs impacted. And yet, top talent remains in tight demand. Why is that?
Companies large and small are feeling enormous financial pressure on both the top line and the bottom line. Revenue growth requires accelerating product development cycles, products that must compete successfully on the world stage, and a wide reach in accessing markets. Bottom line performance means increasing efficiencies through smarter ways of doing things. All in an world that feels like it’s continuing to accelerate in pace.
It’s become an ever demanding environment. People need to suit up and perform every day, even on day one. And, the bar on performance is getting higher—passionate, highly skilled, accomplished people are required to meet these demands.
Jack of All Trades, Master of None Need Not Apply
All that speaks to a need for highly and specifically skilled people. People that can move the business forward within the first month of landing a new role. There’s little appetite in the current market for ‘on the job training’. Finding those people is tough. But what about all those thousands of people who are out of work because of consolidation, bankruptcy or scaling back?
The probability that a given company who’s displacing workers has the same products, the same infrastructure, the same sales motions, and is in the same geography as yours is low. Can a Merrill Lynch broker sell storage products? Maybe, but most likely not on day one. Can an IT executive who’s been immersed in the Oracle environment their whole career create a strategy around SAP? Most likely but not without some runway.
The reality is the majority of key roles are filled with people who are employed. These are people who are key contributors, well known in their field, and too often, are immersed in their own demanding environments. That makes it difficult to attract their attention. These guys just aren’t spending their day looking at job boards and chatting it up with executive recruiters.
The Bandwidth to Recruit
It takes time and energy to recruit talent into the organization. Companies have been running lean and mean and will continue to do so. If you are a hiring executive, it’s likely that you barely have time to interview candidates let alone network, identify prospects and get them interested in working for you. In many ways, the tools we have—online research tools, social networks, job boards—by virtue of increasing the volume and noise level, have made it more taxing than less to find stellar talent. To be sure, that’s balanced by a greater pool from which to source.
Looking for Work
If you are in the job market yourself, whether you’re looking to advance your career or have been displaced, here’s some advice.
First, understand that looking for a new role requires a lot of effort and can be a full time role itself.
Second, stick to what you know. This isn’t a great time, unfortunately, to be trying to make a move into a new area that you haven’t proven yourself in. If you are trying to move from say real estate to sales, the best route is leveraging those who know you well—your network. They are the folks most likely to give a candidate an opportunity in an unproven area.
It’s also not a good time to be looking for a ‘stretch position’, meaning a promotional role with greatly expanded responsibilities. Looks for lateral moves if you need to make a move quickly and use it as an opportunity to build and deepen your experience base.
Finally, there’s simply no substitute for paying attention to your career moves as you make them with consideration for your long term marketability. Ditto with maintaining your network. It’s pretty tough to course correct on either of these two points at the point when you need a job.
Whether you are growing your business, backfilling someone, or restructuring your workforce to be more competitive, hiring top tier people is a difficult, time consuming process. Finding people who can move your business forward immediately almost always takes a big effort. The softening economy isn’t going to change that situation anytime soon.