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How to Take Advantage of the Tight Job Market

The tightest job market in nearly two decades is creating opportunities for American workers.
tight job market
Phillipp Birmes/Unsplash

Employers added 200,000 jobs in January, and unemployment is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. That means companies are being forced to compete harder for workers — a recipe for pay increases.

So how do you take advantage of the tight job market?

Switch Jobs or Ask for a Raise

For businesspeople, now may be the time to find a better employer and seek a substantial raise, Fortune reports. The time is especially right for this group because unemployment is even lower for knowledge workers, managers and other business people – 2.1 percent for workers with a bachelor’s degree or more, compared to that 4.1 percent rate overall.

In this tight job market, you may be lucky enough to be contacted by recruiters before you even update your resume. But if recruiters don’t beat you to starting your job search, one of the most important first steps is to clearly define your target, writes career coach Dawn Graham at Forbes. This entails identifying whose problems you want to solve, what companies offer the opportunities you’re seeking, what type of culture suits you and much more.

To ask for a raise, you must show your accomplishments and contributions to the bottom line in real numbers and craft your pitch to be about why giving you a raise is in your boss’ best interest.

Negotiate Pay

In either case – whether switching to a new job or asking for a raise at your current one – you can take advantage of the tight job market by negotiating pay.

If you’ve been offered a job, the company you’re interviewing with is ready to move forward with you, not start the hiring process over. Few retract offers for someone negotiating pay.

If you’re asking for a raise at your current job and are confident in your skills and accomplishments, you might be opening the eyes of your employer to the cost of losing you. If your employer is already struggling to keep and hire workers, the fear of losing another valuable employee could work to your benefit.

But you have to be realistic and well-informed. Before you start negotiating, find out what you’re worth by using online tools like the PayScale Salary Survey. By basing your request on data, you’re less likely to offend your employer or future employer, and more likely to get the raise you want.

Ask for a Bonus

Your research and internal knowledge of your company’s situation might lead you to think that asking for a raise might not be prudent right now. Maybe you just got a decent raise a few months ago but know your work on a major project was clearly exceptional.

Companies often prefer to give bonuses rather than raises, because bonuses are a one-time payout, whereas raises incur ongoing costs for the company.

Or if your salary negotiation at a new job is at an impasse, accept the new job offer but ask for a hiring bonus. It doesn’t break the salary range that the company has set for the job and it gives them what they want — you! Be prepared, however: you might have to agree to stay for a certain period of time or to some other contingencies. Don’t take this path if you’re not ready for more negotiating.

Go for a Different Job

Companies struggling to find employees are having to loosen job requirements, instead of searching for the perfect match.

If you see a job you want but don’t meet the specific requirements, apply anyway, touting your abilities and transferable skills. Companies may be more open to training you or even helping you get the academic degree that was previously required but now only desired for that job. Their lowered expectations could be your ticket to higher pay and career advancement in the future.

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What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.