Forecast for 2009 and what it means to you

Guest post by Gord Orlikow, Senior Client Partner, Korn/Ferry International.

The economic fallout from 2008 has left even the most prescient analysts slack-jawed, given the direction, speed and magnitude of market change.

We’ve heard the bad news — the job market will stay its dismal course in the first quarter and not improve until the end of the year or early 2010. Recent numbers are certainly bleak – Canada lost 64,000 jobs in December. The US was hit even harder; more than 2 million jobs were lost in 2008, with as many as 600,000 job losses in December alone.

For those of us still tempted to predict the coming year’s fortunes, we do so only with the greatest humility. If you are in transition or contemplating a job change, it is all too easy to be paralyzed by stories of Armageddon playing out in the media when, in reality, little has changed by way of what is recognized as an effective job search strategy.

While the overall environment is unquestionably challenging, some sectors have and will likely continue to outperform. In no particular order;

Technology: Leading organizations recognize the value of maintaining a long-term technology advantage as a shortage of talent still exists in this field after so many left eight years ago, following the tech crash.

Green Technology and “Clean Tech”: While still an emerging sector and subject to large swings, we anticipate the evolution and development of environmentally friendly technologies to drive demand for talent in this industry. Professionals with alternative and/or renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro) experience will be especially sought after in the near-term. Those with transferable skills from other sectors will find opportunities if they approach the sector strategically — especially those who have a technical regulatory background or who can grow the top line.

Telecom: With last year’s sale of additional wireless spectrum and the entry of new players into the industry, we should see additional demand for those who can build out and manage the additional network and all those roles associated with sales, customer service and administration to run the business.

Healthcare: An aging population and an overall shortage of skilled professionals suggest the healthcare sector will likely outperform the broad market. We expect to see continued demand in nursing at all levels; home health executives and professionals, and allied health professionals.

Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations: As the social media space continues to gain momentum, web advertising solutions, communities and networking sites could well drive jobs and be the center of attention in 2009.

Financial services: We expect to see hiring for turnaround executives, restructuring officers, distressed asset managers, compliance and regulatory professionals. Investment banking will remain quiet until that community creatively invents a new round of financial instruments to sell to the rest of us – though probably under a stronger regulatory environment. More importantly in the near term, talent so inefficiently sucked into that sector in the last ten years will exit in large numbers, competing for other technically oriented roles as they are more productively redeployed outside of financial services.

Sectors aside, the ongoing demands of the market do not stand still. Involuntary turnover will increase (restructuring) and involuntary turnover will slow (fewer perceived opportunities and individuals unable to afford retirement). In general, companies still need to replace those who retire or leave for other reasons and they have to hire people to address specific projects. The nature of the employment arrangement might change — smaller companies in particular might hire a candidate on a term or contract, tiding the individual over a rough financial stretch — which can turn into a full-time job down the road.

Plan your success: As always, a strategic, tenacious and active networking strategy is by far and away your best route to success. Given the current climate, a company terminating employees in one area will be enormously discreet if intending to hire into another area.

Why network?

  • If you are perceived as credible, your networking meeting evolves into a first interview – – where the conversation moves from a discussion about a business problem to a negotiation for a job designed around your skills (as opposed to you having to fit the recruiter’s narrow parameters),
  • It is exceptionally difficult to change sectors without networking to learn the issues, vocabulary and culture of the new sector,
  • With every meeting, you practice and hone your interview skills,
  • Even after only a few meetings, you potentially are positioned as someone who brings best practice business skills with them, and
  • You will meet those most influential in the sector including those in industry and in the services community serving that sector (such as recruiters specializing in the space).
  • Good economy or bad, there’s no shortcut to success. Intelligently knocking on more doors opens more opportunities. Make your plan. Work it with passion, tenacity and resolve. You will land in a good place – no matter what is happening in the broader environment.


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