Planning your next move: Assess your skills and value in this volatile job market
December 2, 2021
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Even if you’re not actively considering changing jobs, it’s worth taking some time each year to assess the market and your skillset.

Business Job interview. HR and resume of applicant on table.

Image: ijeab, Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s not news that we’re living in a time of turbulence in the job markets. Help wanted signs abound, employees are changing jobs in record numbers and some people are exiting the workforce altogether. These changes are likely impacting you and your organization daily, requiring a significant investment of time process and mitigate. The challenges around retaining and attracting talent might even have you loathe to clear the digital dust off your own resume or dabble in the job market; however, this is a worthwhile endeavor even if you have no intention of changing jobs.

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Let the market speak

Whether you’re developing a technology strategy, designing a new product or assessing your skillset as an individual leader, the best place for feedback is the market. Too often, we theorize and hypothesize and end up miscalculating what the market actually values. One of the best ways to benchmark your skillset, abilities and overall value in the job market is to circulate your resume and respond to a recruiter or two on a professional networking site like LinkedIn.

If you’re not receiving an occasional inquiry from a recruiter in the current hot job market, you’ve already received market feedback that either your skillset is unattractive or you are unsuccessfully marketing your skills.

I experienced this phenomenon when my elaborate and extensive resume rarely generated a callback after an initial expression of interest. I did a simple experiment and considered the resumes I reviewed when interviewing new employees for my firm and which ones prompted me to invest more than a passing glance. Most were short, visually appealing, and left me wanting more, much like the trailer for a movie gives you enough of the plot to validate your interest, yet enough mystery to send you to the theater for the full show.

I shortened, revised and tweaked a version of my resume, condensing four pages of text into a page of punchy bullet points surrounded by professional graphic design. Over the course of a few months, I’d alternate which resume I returned to a recruiter who reached out, and universally the revised resume generated callbacks. It was counterintuitive that the “executive summary” version that was missing many critical details was universally preferred, but the market provided indisputable feedback.

Consider whether you’re a square peg

We’ve all heard the bromide about the difficultly of fitting a square peg into a round hole, yet many of us spend years adapting and modifying our skills and personality to fit our unique geometry into an employer’s round hole. There is most certainly an element of suppressing our unique individuality in order to fit into an organization. Still, too often we unknowingly conform to someone else’s vision for our skills to the point it becomes detrimental or causes us to underemphasize our unique strengths.

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One of the best ways to test for this scenario is to check in with former colleagues in your network. They no longer have a stake in your immediate working environment and can often provide a degree of impartial feedback both about your skillset and how it might be valued in the market. Not only can this be eye-opening, but it also allows you to reconnect with various parties in your network that might become valuable assets in a potential job search.

Assess your need for comfort in your job

For some people, the culmination of a career is knowing the ins and outs of their jobs to the point that they can predict, with reasonable accuracy, what their jobs will be like for the foreseeable future. For others, the thought of a workday years in the future looking much the same as today is terrifying. As you evaluate your position, honestly assess your need for comfort. Are you bored with your current job? Is your job primarily a means of financial sustainment to support non-work activities? The answers to questions like these should put a value on the non-monetary benefits of your current position.

Assessing your job market value is time well-spent

A diligent, annual assessment of your career, capabilities and where you want to go requires some effort and perhaps even a fair amount of time if you take this assessment all the way to testing your value in the job market. Whether you do this regularly or are testing the market after several years of absence, don’t let money be your primary driver. Consider what type of work, the industry and how the role positions you in the longer term. Consider the switching costs in terms of rebuilding your network, taking on additional risk and swapping the tried and true for the new and unpredictable.

Remember that jumping to the first offer you receive is not the goal of this exercise. Rather, seek to assess your value, identify any skills gaps and see what kind of positions and skills organizations are most interested in acquiring.

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