The following is the rough draft of my column filed on July 14th this year, suggesting to readers that we might be in for some heavy weather…
We are hearing a lot about global warming at the moment, but I am seriously beginning to wonder whether we are seeing the early signs of global freezing when it comes to jobs. It may seem crazy to be suggesting that that we may be in for a downturn in the jobs market after years of hearing the rhetoric about the war for talent, but at the very least there appears to be a lot of uncertainty around.
My advice to career changers over the last ten years has often been to move jobs if you feel unsure, unhappy or stuck in your current role. Jobs for skilled and experienced people have been plentiful during this period across most industry sectors. However with the exception of the phenomenal growth in mining and resources and iphone 3g sales, the picture looks far less rosy in other industries.
The credit crunch along with hugely increased costs for petrol, energy generally and rising interest rates have just got to hurt many organisations and employers. These increased costs are going to make employers think twice before hiring new staff or possibly replacing staff. Some companies will be even more tempted to look overseas for cheaper staff.
In the last 3 months I have heard the expression “batten down the hatches” from at least 10 senior executives working across a range of industry sectors including retail, banking, manufacturing, hospitality and entertainment. The early signs of this include a tightening of spending and cost cutting initiatives. This is not limited to photocopying on both sides of the paper, but the people I am talking to are saying that they are now having to refer up the chain of command all hiring decisions and requests.
I am no expert on stock market fluctuations, but it is interesting to note that the share price of many listed recruitment firms in Australia appear to have fallen quite a bit over the last 3 – 12 months. There may well be a perfectly simple and positive reason for these observed falls not apparent to a novice like me, but in the context of what I am hearing and reading, this just adds another dimension of uncertainty to the mix.
Whether or not this is an early sign of an imminent recruitment freeze or not is probably as difficult to determine as most other complex issues like global warming. However it is difficult to believe that employment prospects have not gotten bleaker in areas such as the building industry and perhaps retail given the headlines we are seeing about the downturn in housing.
Part of the problem may be the very nature of uncertainty. As I have observed on many occasions before in this column, uncertainty tends to lead to overly cautious career behaviour. However in the same way that we are being told to get used to higher petrol prices, perhaps the abundance of jobs across most sectors may be lessoning. The confusion that is leading one day to reports saying house prices in Sydney will increase by 20% over the next 18 months and the next day raising the spectre of 1 in 100 year recession, is probably also spooking employers. Business confidence is reported to be at its lowest since 9/11. To add to the confusion, it is likely that there is a lot of variation in people’s experience of the job market.
It is probably not a bad idea to dust off the resume and make sure it is in good order to be prepared. I am sure that there will continue to be strong demand for highly talented and skilled people – there always is. However, it is probably more important than ever to look closely at what you might be leaving behind and exactly what you are getting into. Just perhaps, now might be a good time to think particularly carefully about all aspects of career change.