PhotoYou've made the decision: This year I'm going to find a job I really want.

Even though the job market is expected to keep improving thanks to strong growth across many sectors, including health care, technology, manufacturing, and construction, the fact that many metropolitan areas are already approaching full employment suggests that finding that job will not be easy.

In its annual job market outlook, outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas indicates that 2016 would continue to see high levels of workplace churn, meaning increased hiring amid the job cuts.

“Workforce reductions are a part of the employment fabric now,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “We see layoffs even when the economy is flourishing. It could be a single industry, such as energy, which saw several years of expansion only to reach a point where there was more oil than we needed, leading to a massive price drop followed by widespread job cuts. It could be a single company going in a new direction or streamlining its operations.”

Strong hiring environment

Challenger said there should be a very strong hiring environment in the coming year. “Many industries are growing, companies are replacing retiring workers and new businesses are being established,” he noted. “Each month, about five million Americans are hired and employers report that there are still more than five million openings. There is tremendous potential out there.”

But Challenger stressed that even in the strongest economy, finding a job is never easy. “Those who believe they can simply send out a bunch of resumes and sit by phone waiting for it to ring with offers will be sorely disappointed,” he said. “The job search requires a lot of leg work to uncover the best opportunities. It requires networking, cold-calling, interviewing and the ability to persist in the face of rejection.”

Search strategies

For those entering the job market for the first time, those reentering the market, as well as for those in-between jobs or seeking to change jobs, Challenger offers the following steps to improve your chances for job search success in the new year:

  • Get involved with community service group. This is a great way to build your network as well as hone your professional skills.
  • Join a professional/trade association. These organizations can provide training and education opportunities and most hold several networking functions every year. The dues are worth their weight in gold if you meet a person at an event who can help you find a new job.
  • Have lunch with at least one new contact each week. Obviously, networking is an essential part of finding a job. But blindly adding new people to your LinkedIn contacts list, where they will likely just collect dust, is entirely ineffective. It is vital to meet with people on a regular basis. Lunch or even over coffee is an ideal setting, because it is more relaxed. Building these relationships may help you in your current position and they will definitely help when you enter the job market.
  • Rev up your skills. Employers want to know that you are up on the latest skills, trends, advances, etc. While some employers will foot the bill for continued education, the number who do so is shrinking. And, if you are between jobs, no one but yourself can ensure that your skills are up-to-date. Explore online courses and local certificate programs to broaden your industry knowledge, increasing your marketability to a variety of employers.
  • Look beyond your industry. Just because you have been working in the same industry for a certain number of years, does not mean that you must stay in that industry. Your fundamental job function is the primary skill set you are selling to employers, not your knowledge of a specific industry. Your skills as an IT professional in the financial industry are certainly transferable to the health care industry, for example. Job seekers can greatly expand their chances of success by expanding the number of industries in which they seek opportunities.

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