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  • Writer's picturebeckywebber

Understanding today's job market

If it's been a while since you last looked for a new job, you will have noticed how vastly different the job market is compared to even a decade ago. Without wishing to sound negative, it's undoubtedly more onerous than it used to be and much more time-consuming than it ever was. Just ask a fellow job seeker. However, do not despair, you do not need to feel like you're hacking through a dense jungle with a butter knife. All you need to do is understand the challenges that lay ahead and how to overcome them.

While employment in the UK is at it's highest for decades, you could mistakenly believe that this fact alone should make it easier for you to find your dream job. Just look at the stats - fewer people available equals more choice of roles. Sadly this is not the case. The job market is much more crowded than it was ten to twenty years ago (especially at the higher end of the salary scale). There are more applicants per position, many of which hold university degrees. Not only that, but you could also be up against a candidate from overseas.

As gloomy as this all sounds, there's plenty you can do to overcome this challenge. Planning your career - where you would like to be and what you would like to achieve is an essential first step and one that that will point you in the right direction too.

Understanding what you have to offer, your values and your purpose will ensure that you spend time researching the best industries and companies to approach that will be right for you. Do not underestimate this essential stage in your job search. If you don't know where you are heading, it's near impossible to find the right destination.

Perhaps you have a passion for the environment and would love to become a Product Marketing Manager one day so that you can ethically promote fair-trade products globally? Once you have brainstormed your ideal career, this is where research becomes essential.

By understanding the industry, the companies and the key players within the sector you are interested in will give you an advantage over other job seekers who prefer to 'go with the flow.' Company websites, industry forums, LinkedIn profiles and trade journals are a great place to start your research. Also, rack your brain to think of anyone who knows someone in your industry of interest. Extend your network by meeting them for a coffee and ask them questions about the sector.

From an employers perspective, filling a position isn't a simple case of hiring the most intelligent and qualified individual. If this were the case, employers would automate ALL parts of the hiring process - thankfully they don't. However, while some automated screening processes sadly do remove perfectly capable people out of the early stages of the hiring process, there's more to securing a job than intelligence and qualifications.

How self-aware are you? The strengths and weaknesses questions have been around for decades. However, self-awareness has become even more critical than ever as we face the future of work. You may think that the main aim of your job interview is to convince the interviewer that you are flawless with no faults, but that approach doesn't work anymore.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. If you know what your strengths are, you can play to them. If you know your faults, you can work to improve them. Without self-awareness, you won't be able to do either.

Self-awareness gives you the ability to know yourself better. Once you know who you are, you can convey yourself better and with more confidence. Personal branding reinforces this. Your 'personal brand' starts on line but also extends to how you behave in real life. The stronger your brand, the easier it is for someone hiring you to decide how suitable you'll be for the role.

As well as self-awareness, another soft skill that is vital to demonstrate to prospective employers is your ability to collaborate with others, which is essential in today's workplace. Technical skills are much easier to train as opposed to communication, organisational, and team working capabilities which must be acquired and cultivated. A recent LinkedIn report reveals the most sought after hard and soft skills in 2019. Five soft skills stood out from others they were:

  1. Creativity

  2. Persuasion

  3. Collaboration

  4. Adaptability

  5. Time Management

You may think that these skills are less valuable than sheer intelligence or relevant training, but great businesses are built around teams, not individuals.

Your next job will all be about solving problems. Whether you are in customer services where you will inevitably need to handle complaints or you are in sales where you will need to identify your customer's pain points, your ability to solve problems and solve them under pressure will be essential. In business, issues crop up out of nowhere, so how do employers know if you are good at resolving a situation? As well as psychometric assessments, you'll be no doubt asked in an interview or on an assessment day how you've solved a problem in the past. Problem-solving requires you to bring together reasoning, logic and creativity not to mention the ability to keep calm and carry on.

You may have gathered already from this article and potentially your experience in the job market so far, finding a new job isn't as simple as you would like it to be. There are many things you can do to increase your employability, examples of which I have shared already in other guides I have written. However, taking some time to understand the job market to avoid launching yourself headlong into a disorganised and unfocused job search will protect your mindset, save you time and help you to secure a better outcome for your future.

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