If you’re thinking of starting a new job search, here’s what to expect

Thinking of starting a new job this new year? Read about the importance of knowing what to expect before jumping in.

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The start of a new year is always a little rough. We have high expectations and pressures of becoming a better person, excelling in our career or finding a great new job. I can't help you with the better-person resolution, but if you are considering looking for a new job in the new year, I'd like to share what you should anticipate.

As an executive recruiter, I find that it is important to manage expectations. To illustrate the point, I'm going to tell you a little story about what commonly occurs during the job search process. A candidate, who loves the position he's interviewing for, is told that the salary range is between $150,000 and $200,000. The interviewee is earning about $110,000, and you would think that he would be overjoyed at receiving any amount in this spread. The offer comes in at $160,000 base salary and the person angrily rejects it. All he initially heard was the $200,000 number, and now he feels slighted that the company did not sufficiently value him and walks away indignant. The company should have been more careful in managing expectations by saying something like, "In light of your background and experience, the salary offered may be in the $120,000 to $150,000 level or around there. We can't guarantee it and the salary might even be lower. Is this a range that would work for you?" By simply managing expectations, the candidate clearly understands what to expect and will be thrilled that he received more than promised instead of being disappointed and walking away.

Similarly, most people see the new year as the best time to seek out a new job. There is always an abundance of opportunities available and companies are eagerly anxious to hire. Unfortunately, it's not that simple and easy.

The beginning of a new year is not like the start of a NASCAR race where a flag is waved and all the cars go from zero to over 150 miles per hour in a nanosecond. The initial few weeks start like my first few cars, I'd turn the key in the ignition and pray that it doesn't make that heart-wrenching sound as if the engine is dying. After multiple turns of the key, listening for all the parts desperately trying to connect, the car still won't start. I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere and have to find a person in another car who will help jump start the engine or call a tow truck.

The first few weeks of January commence with a crawl. More job seekers send out résumés and place calls to recruiters compared to prior months. Human resources and hiring managers look at the résumés that were previously sent to them back in early December and late November. A sprinkling of fresh positions are placed on LinkedIn, Indeed and other job boards. Slowly, as some time passes, job seekers and hiring managers get back into the rhythm. After weeks of taking it easy, we reluctantly accept the fact that we have to actually do our jobs.

Slowly the budgets are approved for hiring, shared with recruiters and posted online. In fields that are bonus driven, it's a delayed opening. Potential job seekers don't want to start looking out of fear of being found out and jeopardizing their year-end bonus. This period of time could take until February or March—as many bonuses are pushed out past December and January—and potential job seekers remain idle. The further out the bonus, the more the company handcuffs employees from leaving and has the option to cut or pull back the bonus if something bad happens in the intervening time.

For the fortune few, in certain situations, hiring managers are looking to move quickly. There are usually openings that have been left unfilled for months and the hiring manager is eager to hire. The job may have been posted in November. Perhaps, a few people were interviewed and then it got lost in the holidays. The workload piled up and the boss is motivated to get someone in as soon as possible.

Interviews scheduled for the first week are mysteriously canceled when the hiring manager and others are out of the office. There is also the reality of employees not accepting that work has started again. These folks sneakily take their vacation time after coasting during the holidays.

This year may be slower than the last few years. With the volatility in the stock market, having thousand-point moves and uncertainty ever the economy, politics, and global affairs, senior corporate executives may be a little rattled and take their time to hire. They may want to get a better sense of the economy before they bring new people aboard.

Companies have been aggressively relocating positions to lower-cost states and other countries to save money. They have also been deploying technology to cut costs. Hiring may slow due to decisions being rendered to move jobs or install new software and systems.

If you want a new job, you should get a jump on the competition and start right away. Update your résumé and LinkedIn profile, contact recruiters, visit job boards, and network. In a few weeks and months, there will be considerably more people to go up against in the interview process. This holds true for hiring managers as well. Get the job description completed, call some recruiters, and begin interviewing before your competition jumps into the game and steals the best candidates away from you.

Be prepared. If you have a bonus or other remuneration that you will walk away from, it is important to discuss it with the interviewers as soon as possible. Often times, a company may not be inclined to buyout out a bonus, stock and other rewards. For the companies based in the States where they are allowed to ask how much you earn, tell them about any year-end raise or other benefits that you anticipate or will lose if you leave. Otherwise, if you don't, their offer may be equal to what you will be earning and it won't be enticing to leave.

The new trend in hiring is not very job-seeker friendly. Emailed résumés are rarely responded to and calls are most likely left unreturned. After numerous interviews, you may be ghosted and never hear back. The robotic software may disregard your résumé since it didn't contain the exact words and phrases that the AI technology is programmed to find.

On the positive side, you control your own destiny. If you are unaware, many states have new laws that prohibit companies from asking how much you are earning. Other states that don't have this law, honor this rule. Now, you won't be held prisoner to your current salary. Prior to this, a company would ask how much you earn, then they'd make an offer a certain percentage higher. Although it may be more than you are currently earning, it could be considerably less than what they'd pay to someone else. It levels the playing field and can potentially dramatically increase your compensation.

If you put in the time, effort, and shrug off any roadblocks, you will prevail and find a new job. While it may be slow at first, the market picks up speed as time goes on. If you are thinking of searching for a new job, this is a perfect time to start.

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Article copyright 2019 by Jack Kelly from Forbes. Reprinted from the January 4, 2019 issue with permission from Forbes.
The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data.
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