How the job hunt has changed in this economy

Chris Farrell Mar 9, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: We’re just a few hours away from the most important economic indicator of the month: the February jobs report from the Labor Department. Economists expect it’ll show us the job market continues to get better. And as that happens, more Americans are likely to start looking for jobs even if they’re already working.

Marketplace economics correspondent Chris Farrell is here now with some job hunting tips for the employed and the unemployed. Good morning, Chris.

Chris Farrell: Good morning Jeremy.

Hobson: So have the best ways to hunt for a job changed in this economy?

Farrell: No, I don’t think so. You know, it’s well-established, lots of research shows that 50 percent or more jobs come from connections — family, friends, former colleagues. And so, I think in the downturn, that was probably an even stronger effect. But here’s what has changed: technology. Technology makes it much easier to build and maintain your network, these connections. Think about LinkedIn; so that is a really good move with this economy.

Hobson: Although I was just talking to a boss recently who said that he actually pays more attention now to an old-fashioned resume that’s delivered in the mail because he gets so few of them — everything’s online now.

Farrell: Yes, but you hang out with a bunch of curmudgeons, so I’m not exactly surprised that there’s a little retrograde feeling going on there. But in general, I do think for the person that’s trying to maintain their network, LinkedIn and other technologies makes it easier to maintain it and build it — it doesn’t create it for you.

Hobson: All right, what about people switching jobs? Is the economy now good enough for people who have been sitting in jobs that they don’t love to get up and go and apply for other things?

Farrell: OK, we can’t get carried away. The unemployment rate is still high. But I also don’t want to recommend that anyone stay in a job that they don’t like. So here’s the thing: fair or not fair — employers, future employers, prefer to hire people who have a job. So what I would be doing right now in this economy: Where do you want to go? Start nurturing that network. I would be going for that job, but keeping your current one until you get that offer.

Hobson: Chris, does the fact that a lot of people have been staying in jobs that they don’t love had an effect on the broader economy?

Farrell: Oh I think it has. There’s lots of surveys, Jeremy, that come out, that people are increasingly dissatisfied with their job, and there’s job-lock going on, and ‘I’m staying with this job because I need my health care benefits’ — that kind of effect. Here’s where I think the real economic effect is going to be going down the road: There’s going to be a wave of people, when they’re more confident, they’re going to say goodbye to that employer for the last time. It’s going to be a big brain drain; employers are going to be struggling with employees that can leave.

Hobson: Marketplace economics correspondent Chris Farrell. Chris, thanks a lot.

Farrell: Thanks a lot.

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