How To Effectively Compete In A Tough Job Market

Getting In Gear For Career Success

YOU CAN ALWAYS FIND WORK
The best people don’t get laid off. If you’re good, there’s work out there for you. Those were the overall opinions of experts gathered recently at BLACK ENTERPRISE’s Career Roundtable. That’s a hard pill to swallow if you have been laid off and unemployed for a year or longer. Since the economic downturn in 2001, more than two million jobs were lost. There was little recovery in 2003, with projections for 2004 seeming optimistic. The downsizing and restructuring of the corporate landscape, however, has had residual effects that will continue to impact the work environment and employment. It’s still a buyer’s market, which brings and supports a high level of corporate arrogance.

“Companies are now leveraging their power in the marketplace,” explains Sharon Hall, managing director for executive search firm Spencer Stuart’s Atlanta office. “During the war for talent, if you were a strong talent, you could get hired because they couldn’t find anybody to change jobs. Now, there is so much excellent talent on the marketplace, corporations want to write … the whole resume. They are that specific.” So employees have to be smarter, more strategic, more visible, and more flexible. These changes in the market have imposed a variety of psychological pressures on those navigating in and out of corporate America on an old paradigm.

“[Companies] no longer hire on potential. They hire on results,” offers Joe Watson, president and CEO of executive search firm StrategicHire in Reston, Virginia. “And when you’re a person of color, that tends to impact you because of the historical lack of access to the right schools, the right career opportunities, the ability to build a foundation that would allow you to excel. You can no longer rely on your potential. You can no longer rely on the interview, on being smart and insightful and intelligent and driven and passionate and all of these buzz words that [in the past meant] great things.”

The experts, however, caution against allowing such new demands to deter you from working or advancing in your career. Success today will be determined by how well professionals compute these changes and how efficiently they react to them.

The pressure is being felt by everyone–white and black–remarks human resources consultant Ron Mason. Today, hiring managers are looking for tangible evidence that you can indeed perform the task and show results. Just being a great individual is not enough of a sell anymore. Job hunters as well as employees have to learn how to restructure their approach to interviewing, networking, and assessing their skills. And the packaging has to be airtight. “Put on your game face,” says Mason. It’s time to play hardball.

Participants of the roundtable include Hall; Mason; Watson; Katherine Giscombe, senior director of research at Catalyst, a nonprofit research and advisory organization working to advance women in corporate America; and Liz Riley, assistant dean and director of M.B.A. admissions at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. They offer specific guidelines to moving past the psychological blocks that prevent

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