After a recession that left Americans pessimistic five years into recovery, the job market has begun to turn to the advantage of executive talent.
You may have noticed signs of a power shift. Maybe your department has lifted a hiring freeze. Maybe you've lost more employees to competitors or to retirement. Or maybe more recruiters have begun approaching you.
This trend has staying power. Combine an improving job market with the knowledge gap that is emerging as 76 million baby boomers enter their retirement years, and U.S. businesses now face their first major wars for talent since the start of the Great Recession.
If you're feeling better about career prospects, you're not alone. Gallup, Pew and Economist/YouGov have all tracked increases in optimism about the job market. Gallup found that more Americans are optimistic about finding a job than at any time since the Great Recession.
The question for talent is this: how will you respond to new opportunities? Here are a few reminders of good practices that can make an even bigger impact in times of change.
Write Down Your Goals. In recent years, "keep a paycheck coming in" has sounded like an ambitious goal to many executives. The New Year offers a great time to think more about what you'd really like to do and how you might get there. Set a few career goals for the year, and write them down. A study conducted at Dominican University of California showed that people who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not, and I've found that the principle works in my own life. Somehow, you become more accountable for reaching goals that you write down.
Activate Your Network. You'll need supporters, and the first business week in January is a great time to touch base and wish people a Happy New Year. Pick five to ten people you know and admire and reach out to them this week. Remember to give as well as ask for assistance, and your network will flourish.
Take Action Every Day. Aim to take action toward your career goals each day, even if the actions are small. Learn one thing about one employer that interests you. Attend one event that you otherwise may have skipped. Return a call or e-mail from one person who may be able to help. If improving speaking skills is a goal, as it is for many executives, find one new opportunity to make some remarks in a business setting.
The emerging executive landscape brings opportunities for major career gains. With preparation and persistence, you'll have new chances to contribute in ways that make full use of your own distinct talent.