The job market just went from zero to 100 in an instant. Despite a sharp and sudden dip in employment numbers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, available positions are steadily rising in 2021. Now, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures put American unemployment at an attractively low 5.2%.
In other words, it’s an excellent time to peddle your talent in search of greener pastures.
At this moment, finding bountiful job openings is relatively simple. Jump on Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or ZipRecruiter, and something in your field is bound to catch your interest. Nevertheless, you don’t want to land just “anywhere.” You want to land somewhere that reflects your personal brand values, rewards your efforts, nurtures your talents, and provides an exceptional employee experience.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to predict which employers are most likely to be a good fit. Even if you scour the job posting, analyze the corporate website, and do some social-media digging, you might feel overwhelmed. This anxiety is backed up by a recent Jobvite survey, which revealed that 64% of participants say job searches are more stressful now than before COVID-19.
You don’t have to feel overwhelmed every time you scroll through job ads. Instead, put together a list of attributes your ideal employer has and align them with your personal brand, and let those guide your search. Once you have that list, the next step is to add some networking to the mix to try to get real-world insight into these prospective companies (and, of course, to try to improve your odds of landing an interview, compared to people who just apply over the transom). Along the way, be on the lookout for these three features, which should now be non-negotiable for all job seekers:
1. Look for organizations that value transparency.
With so much information just a few clicks away, it’s difficult for corporations to keep their operations completely private. About 96% of job seekers surveyed by Glassdoor said transparency is an admirable quality in companies. Of course, some businesses operate more transparently than others.
Ellen Kuntzman, Integrity Staffing Solutions’ director of talent acquisition, believes transparent brands make better first impressions on job seekers. “Transparency starts the candidate-employer relationship on the right foot,” Kuntzman says. “For applicants, information about the hiring timeline can help them comprehend where they stand in the process; plus, if they have other offers on the table or would like to add to their options, a time-to-fill estimate can help them map things out.”
Of course, you might want to focus on a specific type of transparency during your search. Do you want to work for a company that’s open about salaries? According to Glassdoor, about 7 out of every 10 people appreciate businesses that aren’t secretive about employee pay rates. Other types of transparency could involve talking openly about paths for professional growth, being clear about corporate values and mission statements, and even opening the financial books for all employees to see. A culture of transparency is also more likely to translate into a culture that values your unique traits and will not expect you to quash your personal brand in the name of lockstep conformity.
2. Look for organizations with flexible work scheduling opportunities.
It’s hardly a secret that organizations are starting to embrace true workplace flexibility. Many are moving toward fully remote workplaces, while others are using a hybrid mentality. Some are even experimenting with four-day workweeks, with a Society for Human Resource Management study suggesting nearly a quarter of U.S. businesses are testing those waters.
Depending upon your field, you might not be able to telecommute. However, flexibility doesn’t necessarily mean working from home three days a week. A flexible job could be one where you’re trusted to take time off whenever you need it, for any reason. Or it could enable you to make your own hours—as long as your supervisor and teammates know them.
Companies that offer flexible work arrangements often mention them in their job openings. Look for mentions of unlimited paid time off or phased retirement, especially if you’re nearing the end of your full-time employment days. The more power you have over your calendar and future, the higher your job satisfaction is likely to be in the long run—even if you’re fantasizing about going back to a corner office 9-to-5 right now.
3. Look for companies that offer growth potential.
Why do great employees leave? If you examine one CareerAddict study, you’ll see that 82% attribute it to not being offered any way to progress. That is, they can’t snag promotions, aren’t provided with relevant training, or are kept in the dark about how to move around their organizations. Instead, they have to figure everything out on their own.
In all fairness, workers also have to put in some effort. As writer and entrepreneur Anouare Abdou notes in a Ladders article, she fast-tracked her career by being assertive and ambitious. “I played to my multiple strengths and interests with lots of variety,” Abdou says. “I was involved in high-level decision-making, I witnessed the impact of my efforts first-hand without tons of red tape around taking initiative, and I believed in the mission of the organization with all my heart.”
That said, you can’t grow somewhere that’s not open to receiving your intentions. Therefore, explore all the educational and advancement benefits offered at a company before accepting any offer. Does the organization offer to pay for certifications or even degrees? Is there a clear path to moving vertically or even horizontally? Have existing employees consistently changed titles and roles? A “yes” to any of those questions could indicate you’ll have support in your pursuits.
The job market hasn’t been this strong in a while. If you’re tempted to make your next move, don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith—with these three safety nets in place.