Todd Nelson, StarTribune 661 Times 505 People

The key is to know what you want, know the technology and adjust expectations in your search.

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Finding a job in 2023 — like it was a decade ago — starts with networking.

Hiring surges while major corporate layoffs mount. The labor market remains tight as the unemployment rate hits a five-decade low.

Mixed signals in the economy can make for confusing times for those seeking jobs in 2023. One note of good news is a ZipRecruiter survey in late January that found over half of those laid off in December or January have found jobs — and another quarter said they had job offers.

"In my eyes, we're kind of getting to what I would say as a new normal," said career coach Nancy Fraasch said. "We're coming on three years with the whole job market and the whole world kind of turned upside down. I think we're kind of stabilizing so there's a new normal coming in. We're still kind of figuring out what that is."

How did they do it? Career coaches and recruiters say knowing themselves, knowing technology and adjusting expectations all play a role if you're looking for a job this year. For example, while job candidates enjoyed greater leverage in terms of compensation and working conditions a year ago, they now may have to adjust those expectations as employers push back.

Candidates should know what they want in their next job and methodically build a professional network. Many jobs are still filled through connections. A difference these days may be that some of that networking is done online — especially LinkedIn, where candidates should present themselves and their aspirations strategically.

In a tight labor market, strong candidates in senior professional and executive levels still have options and employers will work not just to sign them but also retain them, said Lisa Brezonik, CEO of Salo, part of the Korn Ferry staffing consultancy. But concerns about inflation and a possible recession have employers tending to hold firm on pay and where employees work.

"People are definitely looking for autonomy and flexibility," Brezonik said. "But as much as companies are struggling to find good people, they do have limits. If a candidate asks for more than what's really realistic, they're not going to get the role."

So candidates need to make sure they do their homework and know what people in their industry are making to craft a competitive but fair counter to any pay offers.

As far as fine-tuning job goals, Jenna Estlick, vice president of human resources interim solutions at Versique, said the recruiting firm coaches people on the hunt to identify their "three keys."

"Regardless of industry, title, company name, if those three things are true in your next position, you won't only be successful but you'll thrive," Estlick said. "If you can really hone in on what are those three non-negotiables that will help provide clarity throughout your job search."

Those could include job duties, company culture, professional development or other benefits.

"Understand what it is that gives you energy," said Christine Bartley of Career Leap Coaching. "What are you good at? What are those things that are important in your career? Is money? Flexibility? A culture with a lot of collaboration? Being in the office or remote? Use that information to anchor your job search."

Also reconcile your feelings about why you are looking for a job — whether it is because of layoffs or because you your boss was abusive — because you will be asked and you need to have a well-thought-out answer.

For those looking for work after losing a job, "there's no shame in being laid off anymore," said Janice Kalin, a psychologist who offers career counseling at Plan Your Career Now. Candidates should prepare to answer why they were laid off when employers ask and then get back to networking.

Kalin has worked with many "quieter people who would rather hide under a blanket than make a phone call and reach out" to expand their network. She has them list people they would be comfortable calling and then gradually contacting more of them.

Because while everyone must learn the right jargon to get past online résumé filters, those one-on-one meetings are more likely to lead to true prospects.

For the more outgoing, Kalin suggests going in person to companies where they would like to work, bringing a résumé in an envelope and asking to have it delivered to the right person.

She also recommends that clients have business cards made with contact information on the front and bullet points stating what they're looking for in their careers on the back. A bigger or more colorful card may help them stand out.

Because some 80% of jobs are filled through connections, Fraasch said, job seekers should spend 80% of their search time on cultivating their network. They should reach out to LinkedIn connections to see if their connections know people at employers of interest.

"You're not saying, 'I want a job,'" Fraasch said. "You're saying, 'I want to find out more about what you do. I want to find out more about the organization that you're in.'"

Ask for introductory Zoom meetings. Also be ready for job interviews to take place on Zoom, Fraasch said.

She raises her computer to improve eye contact during Zoom meetings and tells clients to dress professionally, make sure their background is appropriate and free of distractions and log in early to check their appearance and their internet connection.

LinkedIn strategist Anne Pryor and executive career coach Risë Kasmirski work as a tag team at Career Partners Twin Cities to help clients align their résumés and LinkedIn profiles and fill them with keywords for search engine optimization.

Résumés and LinkedIn profiles should begin with a "modern approach," Kasmirski said, instead of the recounting of a person's work history. That means clearly stating at the top what clients aspire to do, what their purpose is in what they want to do.

Pryor, who also is a recruiter, recommends thinking like a recruiter in approaching a job search.

"Be clear about who you are and what you want," she said.

Candidates should demonstrate how they would add value for their employer based on their brand. She tells clients to "change their oil every Sunday at 3:30" in the afternoon, planting key words in certain parts of their LinkedIn profiles.

"I consider LinkedIn a flashing digital billboard on the side of the road that they need to change all the time," Pryor said. "It's an aspirational tool. If they think about what they desire as opposed to the historical, they're going to get what they want more."

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