The changing economy –or lack thereof– forced many job seekers to significantly alter their knowledge and techniques, get out of any comfort zone of previous methods used, and learn new skills and technology.
Here in Illinois, it’s been particularly difficult as we’ve watched several companies move operations to states with more agreeable corporate tax structures, and several, most recently Sears, use the threat of such action to negotiate huge tax concessions to remain in Illinois. Meanwhile, the citizens of Illinois have seen their personal tax structures rise in many areas, and home and property assessments climb in an era of declining home sales and income. I personally witnessed a parade of disgruntled homeowners as they marched into the Huntley post office several weeks ago to post certified letters of protest over these rising rates. The postal clerk remarked that her bin “was overflowing”.
It’s no wonder that the Illinois unemployment rate has gone up from an average of 9.4% in November 2010 to 10.0% in November 2011 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released 12.20.2011). Yet, even with these downward trends, there are several economic trends pointing toward a brighter future for 2012, and the American public needs to be ready to take advantage of them.
Retailers saw increased holiday sales greater than originally anticipated. Many of us spent more than in 2010, but were smarter about it. Shoppers scanned prices and took advantage of phone apps to compare items to get the best value. Layaway programs enabled savvy shoppers to begin early and pay off those items in a timely manner without incurring more debt. It was an opportunity for unemployed to take temporary retail jobs, and some will obtain long-term employment as a result, or at least add additional skills to their resumes. And many were allowed to take advantage of employee discounts for further holiday savings.
2011 has been the year of the internet. Networking has taken on a whole new meaning here. Not only is it important to attend networking events in person, but it’s possible to maintain and make new contacts online. Smart job seekers have Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, LinkedIn accounts, etc. Many have taken classes to update their knowledge of basic computer programs, as well as specialized ones used in certain industries. And the advent of smartphones has kicked this up another notch, allowing job seekers to follow HR experts, recruiters, and companies of interest.
Several industries have come to the forefront and continue to grow in job opportunities. Healthcare continues to grow as Americans live longer and need more care. Insurance Exchanges have formed as employers and consumers move to control healthcare premiums and costs. Keeping current in IT services in hospitals, medical practices, and related products and services is key as these entities continue the government-mandated conversion to electronic records. This is one example of one area causing a trickle-down effect of increased opportunities in others. It’s up to us to utilize these opportunities for new career choices, or update knowledge and experience to take advantage of them.