The Passion for Passive (Job Search that is!)

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When it comes to communicating your job search status, the landscape is, well … confusing at best. It creates a dilemma for the job candidate and in many cases, for the career coach.

clock pointing to human silhouette

To provide an illustration: let’s say you fall into the category of being in an open, non-confidential job search. This means that you are no longer attached to your former employer and are openly looking for a job. Here’s where it gets tricky. You have the choice of being transparent and openly communicating your job-seeking status (I fall into this camp in terms of what I would typically recommend). Counter to this, you can portray yourself as still working for your last employer, keeping the “until present” time frame for this work engagement.

So, what’s a job seeker to do? Even within the career space there are strong differences in opinion regarding whether to share that you are openly looking for a job, or to keep this masked and appear as though you are still employed. Not only is this confusing for the job seeker, it’s muddied on the career coaching front too. Within the career coaching space, there are coaches who subscribe to the belief that sharing your job-seeking status can effectively kill your chances of being found attractive by recruiters and hiring managers. Here’s my question: why?

Having worked in the outplacement industry for many years, otherwise known as corporate-sponsored career transition services, I coached a wide variety of professionals on how to market themselves in their job search. These individuals received these career transition services as part of their separation package to help give them get a leg up on their next steps.

During these years in outplacement, I coached many talented individuals who were strong contributors to their organizations, with sound achievements related to their work. In hearing their stories, the majority lost their positions as a result of a corporate reorganization / restructuring – literally “caught in the line of fire” in terms of their job loss. It was an extremely rare occasion to coach an individual among these ranks who was obviously let go and pushed out due to poor performance.

It’s relevant to look at the motivation behind some of these corporate downsizings. There was an interesting article in the Washington Post that highlights the strong pull that shareholders have on corporate America. It’s not uncommon for key organizational decisions like corporate restructurings and layoffs to be triggered and encouraged for short-term tactical gains, potentially benefitting shareholders.

With all this being the case, why are we still working off of a model that may have applied during a robust economy, when job search was much more candidate-centric, and there wasn’t such a wealth of talent ready to be hired? And then there’s the change to what’s considered an average time frame of employment, job to job, which has morphed over time.

“Changing jobs every couple of years is the new norm and it might even benefit your career. Just ask a millennial.” –Fortune, 2/2/15

Notably, a recent survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the average number of years for salaried workers to be in a job as 4.6 years. In an article by Kim Lachance Shandrow of Entrepreneur.com, published in partnership with Fortune Magazine, among millennials / Gen Ys and Gen Xers, a job move after several years of employment is not considered unusual and, and is in some cases is expected to showcase career advancement.

With all this being the case, isn’t it time for the career and recruiter space to keep pace? We encourage job seekers to embrace change, maybe it’s time for us to do the same.

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