Mark Anthony Dyson is the founder of the award-winning blog and podcast, “The Voice of Job Seekers.”
Here, he shares his advice for job seekers on navigating today’s market. Read on:
Can you tell us the story behind The Voice of Job Seekers? When and why did you start your site?
The Voice of Job Seekers blog was born out of needing a different voice for job seekers to hear. I already had a resume company with two outplacement contracts. The opportunities for clients were growing. Oddly enough, I started hearing what people couldn’t express: The job search is much more than resumes and resume advice.
I started seeing people in their whole lives and the energy (or lack of energy), time and value they placed on their job search. Sometimes they were getting in their own way, other times they couldn’t express their worth in a resume. It was very challenging for them and that’s why they came to me.
I empathized with them and felt their pain, so I started this blog without sharing anything from it because I wanted to experiment with different types of job search advice I didn’t see from other blogs. I already had a blog for my company, but more people found me so much quicker than from my business blog.
What’s the current climate for job seekers? How easy is it to find a job these days?
There are two dynamics in the employment space. Currently, it is a job seekers market. Recruiters are competing for qualified talent who are exercising control of their careers. Not enough job seekers are positioning themselves showing acknowledgment of their value. Just as people are living paycheck to paycheck, job seekers are only considering their next job when it’s time to look due to layoff, being under-appreciated in the current position or dismissal.
The second dynamic of this current job climate for job seekers is the competitive nature of vying for jobs although the statistics show unemployment is around 5 percent.
Underemployment is an epidemic in our country as many are in positions they are overqualified. It is harder than unemployment to measure because unlike unemployment, there are no markers to validate someone status unless he or she says they are underemployed. But, we do know as a result of some other studies and employers saying there is a skills gap. Some can do a better job at presenting themselves in a standout way, while others are lacking adequate soft skills to communicate value. Oral and written communication are essential, and most job seekers must develop these skills much more than he or she currently does.
Keep in mind no one will offer help if you’re underemployed unless you say you need help. You must assume control in your career trajectory – not solely for the next job. Career development is an ongoing process which includes showing proof of development.
What seems to give an individual a boost in today’s job market?
In general, those who envision (not necessarily plan) their career trajectory disrupt the hiring process in one of two ways:
The job seekers who are referred whether he or she is actively looking or not and keep options open. Incessant networking optimizes your opportunities especially when you are offering value without expecting the same in return. If you care about the industry and the community as a whole, and you’re lending your voice as a resource, people will see you as valuable.
Again, too many job seekers look at networking as a technique or a thing and not as a way of life. It is not something you unplug, nor is it always a thing you attend. Indeed, not only used for you to get something. It is an investment of your value to make a positive change to benefit others. If you can do it without a sweat on your brow or obsessing over what’s in it for you, people will offer opportunities along the way.
I can’t emphasize enough how individuals control their careers through sharing, collaborating and creating ideas. You will see successful careerists as insiders who are pointing others to other opportunities and ideas in their space. And many do this without egregiously seeking credit. In fact, they will note their accomplishments, but ideas and contributions have signature advice. If your advice is useful, constant and consistent, people will spread the word.
How should job seekers be using online tools like Paysa in their job search today?
I like that Paysa has niched down to tech careers to address and inform job seekers (particularly grads) interested in a career trajectory in tech. Job seekers should look to how their skills and the overall market will fare for current skills. New grads must keep their eyes on trends as changes occur in the market regularly.
Even before graduates enter the job market, their vigilance in following job trends must start as early as their freshman year. Minimally, as soon as they have claimed their change of major to a tech degree. Internet Security jobs are plentiful but still are challenging to get if you don’t understand how to navigate the market. Therefore, networking on and offline and sites like Paysa become a necessity.
What other tools or resources should job seekers be using to improve their chance of finding the right job for them?
Specific professional organization memberships are inexpensive for students to join and worth the investment after graduation. Industry conferences, meet-ups and seminars are networking gold mines. See if you can present at local events to increase visibility and social proof. Get on podcasts and community radio stations as an expert (yes, even if you just graduated).
Fill out your LinkedIn profile completely and join the specific LinkedIn groups of your interest and be sure to participate and increase your connections. Call or Skype others who appear to be in your desired field or whose career has progressed the way you envision.
FlexJobs is an excellent resource for tech jobs. Try their two-week trial first, but the paid version is a way to find remote tech work. They vet the postings to avoid scams.
Compete in industry-wide competitions to increase your exposure and find out what you don’t have. Publicized events draw interest from employers who are not advertising for employment. You also discover what is considered relevant and “cutting-edge” and the latest technology considered important.
How should job seekers approach negotiating their salaries?
You won’t successfully negotiate without knowing the average salary for your industry and for the city you want to work in. To make $150,000 in Nashville looks entirely different in San Francisco. It should be one of the first areas of study long before you start interviewing.
Two questions to really grasp: Do you understand your value? Is it only summarized by its cash value? Salary is important but everything negotiable. Is your job flexible? Can you take your vacation in time for the family reunion? Will they pay for conferences and training to help you maintain marketable skills? A successful negotiation doesn’t end at the cash value.
Never respond to the first offer without contemplation, careful consideration, and fend off impending frustration. In fact, you SHOULD never accept the employer’s first offer especially if the rules of engagement are clear as a general rule. There are times when the salary is non-negotiable, but you can always ask what is negotiable.
What are the most common mistakes you see job seekers making when it comes to negotiating salary?
The biggest mistake job seekers make is not negotiating at all. Most of us have done it at several times. An error for those unemployed and underemployed is not researching and understanding their market value at the outset of their job search. Again, waiting until you get an offer is too late.
Another common error is feeling the need to provide a salary history before knowing anything about the job. It’s chess, not checkers. This process must be well thought out and as strategic as possible. Again, there are many online resources available to learn the “how-tos.”
You’ve written/spoken about the gender pay gap. Why are you passionate about this issue? What can women do to protect themselves from wage disparities?
I am passionate about the gender pay gap as it stems from the same feelings I have about the racial pay gap. Right now, there is substantive evidence showing it unnecessarily exists. I believe it exists similarly for the racial pay gap, but the gender pay gap as I think about my Aunt who raised me when I was a teen, alone after my Uncle died never complained, but knew she was unfairly compensated as a nurse in a community health center.
Women need to speak up, confront and press on in seeking fair compensation based on facts. Many of them can find male allies to tell the dirty compensation secrets of what they make and leverage it. The system must be disrupted for it to break and change.
How can job seekers determine whether the salary they are being offered is fair?
Your research must be aligned with your years of experience, executing your skills as the employer’s, and if it adds value to the particular company. You won’t fool anyone comparing your beginning to someone’s middle. That doesn’t mean you don’t have value. It may say that you have misstated facts working against you. You don’t want to ask for less money than the company’s initial offer because you won’t make it up right away. You always to want to ask for unjust compensation unless the value exchange between you and the employer is a win on both sides.
What advice do you find yourself repeating to clients over and over again for surviving a job search?
Your resume is not a magic potion, it doesn’t move mountains, nor does it get you hired. It stimulates interest and a seat at the interview table. Look for creative ways to get a seat. Get referred or get rejected (which applies so many times).