By Karen Debus, PHR
The job market may be improving, but the road is still a little bumpy. According to Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning, Baltimore County’s unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2014 was 6.0%, slightly lagging the national average. Of course neither local nor national figures are as high as the roughly 9.6% national average in 2009 & 2010 or as low as the national average of 4.6% in 2005 & 2006 as cited by the United States Department of Labor-Bureau of Labor Statistics.
People who have decent jobs are thinking twice about how green the grass might be on the other side and they have been hesitant to seek new opportunities. Once employees reach milestones in tenure and start accumulating benefits such as Paid Time Off (PTO), 401 K matches, Short/Long Term Disability, and Life Insurance, the cost of abandoning steady work and perks becomes quite high. Career moves require greater consideration for those who are low risk takers. When diving into the job search pool, be realistic about what it’s going to take to succeed because the old adage of “it’s easier to find a job when you have a job” isn’t necessarily so true during periods of high unemployment.
Northern Baltimore County – We’ve Come A Long Way
Plenty of Baltimoreans remember when Cockeysville was considered country and York Road was the only route to Pennsylvania. Many of those folks have retired from work, but can recount the stepped development of Northern Baltimore County by the business and residential growth they have seen over the course of their lifetime. In the span of the last 50 years, Northern Baltimore County has grown significantly. Once Interstate 83 (the Harrisburg Expressway) was built, companies that had previously inhabited space in Baltimore City spread northward and job opportunities in the area increased. Farmland was subdivided and locations such as Timonium, Cockeysville, Hunt Valley, Sparks, Monkton, Parkton, and Freeland became highly attractive areas to reside for city folks. As Cockeysville and Hunt Valley became the northern Mecca of business and industry, pioneering residents migrated to Northern Baltimore County to be closer to their work. According to Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, there are 2.6+ million people living in the Greater Baltimore Area at present. Since competition is great, candidates need to ask themselves if they have what it takes to enter the job market and they should be prepared to persevere and get back to basics.
In keeping with the past few years, finding job opportunities remains a numbers game. It may take time and energy, but it can be done. People who are successful are those who make full time jobs of their searches. While everyone would like to find a dream job with great pay and benefits, not everyone will be that fortunate, especially now. Rent needs to be paid and bills pile up. There is no shame in finding a job to provide housing for the family and put food on the table. Passions can be found outside of work in social or physical activities, hobbies, or within the arts.
Northern Baltimore County is full of job opportunities as it is the home of large companies such as Procter & Gamble, McCormick, AAI, Becton Dickinson, and thousands of mid-size and small companies including health care facilities, restaurants, and retail stores. Whether in need of full-time, part-time, or seasonal employment, the search for a job can be fruitful for those willing to make a concerted effort.
The most successful people at landing jobs are those who keep an open mind, are aggressive, yet flexible in their search, have a positive attitude, and never give up. It has not been unusual to hear that job seekers send out hundreds of resumes and/or applications, yet receive no response which is disheartening to say the least. High unemployment creates stiff competition among potential employment candidates, but it also creates more work for employment managers who have to review endless numbers of submissions for job openings (which is why they don’t have time to respond to applicants). Successful job hunters do not give Human Resources Managers the opportunity to pass over their resumes to discount them. They are on top of their game and prepared to endure.
Perception Is Reality – First Impressions Are Lasting Impressions
Interviewers can be a tough bunch. Their reputation depends on their ability to read people quickly and make the best choice for the needs of their company. They see thousands of resumes and applications and it only takes them a few seconds to put candidates into an A, B, or C category. Following is some H.R. advice to help keep candidates in the running.
· Never send emails that look like texts – Consider proper grammar, capitalization, and punctuation a requirement.
· Fill out applications completely – They are the legal documents for organizations. Telling recruiters to “see resume” is a command that is not appreciated as the readers must toggle back and forth between documents.
· Over dress rather than under dress for interviews – Even teenagers applying for summer jobs should NEVER wear clothing that is too casual. Sweatpants/shorts are ALWAYS out of the question.
· The unkempt/shaggy look may be popular, but it looks sloppy – Err on the side of conservative unless the target organization is within a creative industry where trendy is acceptable.
· Body odor is impressionable – Smelling like garlic, cigarette smoke, or too much cologne triggers a negative vibe.
· Do as mother would say – Give a firm hand shake, sit up straight, and make direct eye contact.
· Be respectful of personal space - Remember the interviewer’s desks are not coasters for drinks or interviewees personal belongings. Be polite and don’t invade their turf.
· Leave cell phones behind – Or at least turn them off. Calls should never be answered and the phone should never ring.
· Let the interviewers guide the interviews. There is a delicate balance between providing pertinent information and running off on tangents that interviewers will have to try to reign in.
· Be confident, but don’t get too comfortable too soon – This is the time for candidates to sell themselves, but know they must know their audience. Hiring managers are not friends, but potential employers. Keep conversations professional with only brief levity. Interviewers can see right through insincerity and schmoozing as well.
· Looking for feedback? – Phrased politely, asking interviewers for feedback is acceptable as long as the questioning doesn’t come across as aggressive or pressuring.
Northern Baltimore County is a great location for small, medium, and large businesses, but it is also highly populated and full of job competitors. For those who are unemployed, there is no alternative but to hit the proverbial bricks. But, those who are working need to assess risk before jumping into the deep end of the job search pool. Either way, get back to basics when seeking employment in today’s job market. Be practical. Learn from mistakes along the way. If necessary, hire a job coach or talk to people who hire employees for a living. But, don’t get discouraged. Many career counselors give advice on where to look for jobs, but what’s more important is attitude and persistence. It is not preferred, but required.