The pace of U.S. hiring accelerated in June, with payrolls increasing by the most in 10 months, suggesting firms are having greater success recruiting workers to keep pace with the economy’s reopening.
Nonfarm payrolls jumped by 850,000 last month, bolstered by strong job gains in leisure and hospitality, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The unemployment rate edged up to 5.9% because more people voluntarily left their jobs and the number of job seekers rose.
The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists was for a 720,000 rise in June payrolls. “Things are picking up,” said Nick Bunker, an economist at the job-search company Indeed. “While labor supply may not be as responsive as some employers might like, they are adding jobs at an increasing rate.”
The gain in payrolls, while well above expectations, doesn’t markedly raise pressure on the Federal Reserve to pare monetary policy support for the economy. Even with the latest advance, U.S. payrolls are still 6.76 million below their pre-pandemic level.
Demand for labor remains robust as employers strive to keep pace with a firming economy, fueled by the lifting of restrictions on business and social activity, mass vaccinations and trillions of dollars in federal relief.
At the same time, a limited supply of labor continues to beleaguer employers, with the number of Americans on payrolls still well below pre-pandemic levels.
Coronavirus concerns, child-care responsibilities and expanded unemployment benefits are all likely contributing to the record number of unfilled positions. Those factors should abate in the coming months though, supporting future hiring.
Wage growth is also picking up as businesses raise pay to attract candidates. The June jobs report showed a hefty 2.3% month-over-month increase in non-supervisory workers’ average hourly earnings in the leisure and hospitality industry. Overall average earnings rose 0.3% last month.
“The strength of our recovery is helping us flip the script,” Biden said in remarks Friday. “Instead of workers competing with each other for jobs that are scarce, employers are competing with each other to attract workers.”
The Labor Department’s figures showed a 343,000 increase in leisure and hospitality payrolls, a sector that’s taking longer to recover because of the pandemic.
Job growth last month was also bolstered by a 188,000 gain in government payrolls. State and local government education employment rose about 230,000, boosted by seasonal adjustments to offset the typical declines seen at the end of the school year.
Hiring was relatively broad-based in June, including other notable gains in business services and retail trade. However, construction payrolls dropped for a third straight month and manufacturing employment rose less than forecast.
“Most of the new jobs now being created are in sectors that were slammed by the pandemic, while companies in other industries are struggling to find available workers,” Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note.
The overall participation rate held steady and remained well short of pre-pandemic levels. The employment population ratio, or the share of the population that’s currently working, was also unchanged.
Average weekly hours decreased to 34.7 hours from 34.8
The participation rate for women age 25 to 54 rose by 0.4 percentage point; the rate among men in that age group also climbed
The number of Americans classified as long-term unemployed, or those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more, increased by the most since November
The U-6 rate, also known as the underemployment rate, fell to a pandemic low of 9.8%. The broad measure includes those who are employed part-time for economic reasons and those who have stopped looking for a job because they are discouraged about their job prospects
The labor force is the actual number of people available for work and is the sum of the employed and the unemployed. The U.S. labor force reached a high of 164.6 million persons in February 2020, just at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The U.S. labor force has risen each year since 1960, with the exception of the period following the Great Recession, when it remained below 2008 levels from 2009-2011.
The labor force participation rate, LFPR (or economic activity rate, EAR), is the ratio between the labor force and the overall size of their cohort (national population of the same age range). Much as in other countries in the West, the labor force participation rate in the U.S. increased significantly during the later half of the 20th century, largely because of women entering the workplace in increasing numbers. Labor force participation has declined steadily since 2000, primarily because of the aging and retirement of the Baby Boom generation.
Analyzing labor force participation trends in the prime working age (25-54) cohort helps separate the impact of an aging population from other demographic factors (e.g., gender, race, and education) and government policies. The Congressional Budget Office explained in 2018 that higher educational attainment is correlated with higher labor force participation for workers aged 25–54. Prime-aged men tend to be out of the labor force because of disability, while a key reason for women is caring for family members.
The Congressional Budget Office explained in 2018 higher educational attainment is correlated with higher labor force participation. Prime-aged men tend to be out of the labor force due to disability, while a key reason for women is caring for family members. To the extent an aging population requires the assistance of prime-aged family members at home, this also presents a downward pressure on this cohort’s participation.
You polished your résumé, dazzled them in interviews, and landed the job you’ve been chasing. You’ve finally received that coveted offer letter. But don’t get too excited yet.
“It’s sad to say that there are so many things you need to be aware of and careful of in something that should be very exciting for you,” says Kylie Cimmino, a consultant with HR consulting firm Red Clover HR. “But it’s about making sure that you’re covering yourself and you’re prepared for all of the minutiae that is included in that offer.”
So, before you answer your would-be employer with a resounding “Yes!” ask these five questions first:
Is this really the right position for you?
Paraphrasing actor Sally Fields’s iconic Oscar speech, it’s not uncommon to get caught up in the feeling of “They like me! They really like me!” and not think through whether this is truly the best job or offer for you. “Sometimes a job offer doesn’t fit, even though you applied for the role hoping it would. Take a moment and determine if this is really the job you are looking for,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of human resources for Indeed.com.
Think about the role and how it fits into your career plans. And, if you haven’t already, look into the company and its culture to see if this is a place where you really want to work. Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and others have reviews by employees that give a glimpse into the strengths and weaknesses of the company. Use your personal and professional networks to get a sense of what it’s really like to work for the company. If you don’t know anyone personally, it’s likely you’re just a contact or two away from someone who can give you more insight, Wolfe says.
Are there contingencies or conditions?
Some offers are contingent on a variety of factors, including background or drug tests, reference checks, or willingness to sign a noncompete or other agreement. Review these contingencies carefully and consider whether any of them may surface issues from your past or may not be something to which you’re willing to agree, says Colleen Drennen Pfaller, founder of HR consulting firm A Slice of HR.
Sometimes, the contingencies are assumed and may not be in the offer letter, she says. “[If] it’s spelled out, great. But if it’s not, you want to follow up and ask,” she says. Certainly, have that conversation before you give notice at your current employer. For example, if there is a signing bonus, do you need to remain at the job a certain period of time to keep it or do you need to pay it back? These are all factors that you should understand before accepting the job offer.
If you suspect that something like a background check will reveal a potential issue, it may be a good idea to broach the topic first, or at least have an explanation ready if it comes up, Cimmino adds. For example, if you take a prescription medication that may show up in a drug test, be prepared to address the issue, she says.
Is everything you want in the offer?
Read the offer carefully to ensure that anything you negotiated is in it, Wolfe says. Or, if there are additional concessions or add-ons—for example, additional paid time off, moving allowance, subsidized parking, etc.—that you’re seeking, set up a time to talk with your prospective employer. “Negotiating terms of the offer is a standard practice. You want to ensure that everything you were promised or expected is in that letter before signing on the dotted line,” he adds. Once you’ve accepted the offer, it can be difficult to go back and claim that you’re due something that was previously discussed, but not formalized in the offer.
What is the timing?
In addition, be sure you understand details that will affect your transition from job to job, including timing, Cimmino says. If you’re not starting your new job for a few weeks or if there will be a gap between when you leave your old job and start the new one, think about how you will bridge any health insurance or payroll gap. Be sure you understand when you are eligible for benefits such as health insurance, 401(k), and time off at the new company.
What impact will this job have on my family?
If your new role will require changes in your lifestyle, salary, hours, or other factors that may affect your family members, include them in the discussion too. For example, if you’re taking a pay cut or if the job requires more travel or a move, such changes will affect your spouse and children. It’s a good idea to be sure everyone’s on board, Wolfe says.
“While ultimately, the decision whether to take a job is the candidate’s, in many cases, their decision impacts others around them,” he adds. “Take time to consider and talk with your family about how this new position impacts everyone.”
Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She’s been honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Influencer Awards, and a few others. Find her on Twitter @gwenmoran and on Instagram @bloom.anywhere.
Job analysis is crucial for first, helping individuals develop their careers, and also for helping organizations develop their employees in order to maximize talent. The outcomes of job analysis are key influences in designing learning, developing performance interventions, and improving processes.The application of job analysis techniques makes the implicit assumption that information about a job as it presently exists may be used to develop programs to recruit, select, train, and appraise people for the job as it will exist in the future.
Job analysts are typically industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists or human resource officers who have been trained by, and are acting under the supervision of an I-O psychologist. One of the first I-O psychologists to introduce job analysis was Morris Viteles. In 1922, he used job analysis in order to select employees for a trolley car company. Viteles’ techniques could then be applied to any other area of employment using the same process.
Job analysis was also conceptualized by two of the founders of I-O psychology, Frederick Winslow Taylor and Lillian Moller Gilbreth in the early 20th century. Since then, experts have presented many different systems to accomplish job analysis that have become increasingly detailed over the decades. However, evidence shows that the root purpose of job analysis, understanding the behavioral requirements of work, has not changed in over 85 years.
Cascio, W. F., & Aguinis, H. (2005). Applied Psychology in Human Resource Management
Fleishman, E.A. (1964). The Structure and Measurement of Physical Fitness
Brannick, M.T., Levine, E.L., & Morgeson, F.P. (2007). Job and work analysis: methods, research and applications for human resource management (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Muchinsky, Paul M. (2012). Psychology Applied to Work. Summerfield, NC: Hypergraphic Press, Inc. ISBN978-0-578-07692-8.
Schmitt, N.; Fine, S. A. (1983). “Inter-Rater Reliability of Judgements of Functional Levels and Skill Requirements of Jobs Based on Written Task Statements”. Journal of Occupational Psychology. 56 (2): 121–127. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8325.1983.tb00119.x.
Peterson, N.G., Mumford, M.D., Borman, W.C., Jeanneret, P.R., & Fleishman, E.A. (Eds.) (1999). An occupational information system for the 21st century. Washington, D.C: American Psychological Association.
Hartley, D.E. (1999).
Morsh, J. E. (1964), Job Analysis in the United States Air Force. Personnel Psychology, 17: 7–17.
Premeaux, Shane R., Noe, Robert M., & Wayne, Mondy R. (2002). Human Resource Management (8th ed). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.
According to the career website, Ladders, recruiters spend only 7.4 seconds reviewing a resume. Meaning, you as a job seeker have less than 8 seconds to make an impression on them. Most job seekers want to share everything about themselves in their resume, therefore, their resume becomes cluttered and overwhelming for the recruiter. Moreover, the resume lacks a clear purpose making the recruiter confused about how a candidate’s skills will translate to the role in which they’re applying.
The career site discovered the resumes where recruiters spent the most time and focus had
an overview or mission statement at the top of the first page
a clear flow with title headers and marked sections supported by bulleted lists of accomplishments
relevant keywords presented in context throughout the resume
Here are six recruiter tips you can implement right away to get your resume seen and land a job.
Keep It Stupid Simple (K.I.S.S.) Recommended For You
Most of the time, the people hiring for the role have never worked in that position. For this reason, keep your resume simple and make sure it’s easily understood since they’ll be the ones reading it. To get noticed at a glance, Ben Lamarche, general manager of Lock Search Group, emphasized, “be sure to bullet point your most marketable skills and relevant management experiences. Don’t go into so much detail that a reader can’t form a quick mental picture of you as a candidate.”
Deepak Shukla, founder of Pearl Lemon, an SEO agency, said “cut out any fluff or experiences that are not relevant to the position. This puts greater emphasis on the information that actually matters to the recruiter.” Also, try to keep your resume to one page, but no more than two pages. David Reitman, Esq., owner of DLR Associates Recruiting, recommended to “focus on the past 5-10 years.” He said, “anything further in the past should simply be mentioned with no more than one line describing job duties.” Avoid repeating information. If your last job was similar to your current job, don’t restate everything you did; instead say, “duties substantially similar to..”
Job seekers often complain about not getting their resume past the applicant tracking system (ATS). The reason being is because the ATS looks for specific keywords that are already in the job description. As a job seeker, it’s important to tailor your resume to include those keywords that are relevant to your experience.
Yaffa Grace, founder of The Essential Resume, advises her clients to take a yellow highlighter and highlight words that come up multiple times in the job description. She said, make sure you only use those keywords if you have the experience reflected in that keyword. You can do this by supporting those keywords with professional experiences that demonstrate you’re knowledgable. The worst thing you could do is lie about or exaggerate your experience. The interview will uncover those lies. If the interview doesn’t, your performance on the job surely will.
Lastly, if you’re going to claim you are detail oriented, make sure to review your resume for mistakes and have someone else look it over too. The quickest way to land in the rejected pile is by contradicting what you claim.
Tailor Your Resume To The Position
Most job seekers have multiple resumes. Each resume is tailored specifically for the role in which they’re applying by using the keywords in that job description. If you have a broad background and are applying for various types of positions, it’s important you tailor your resume to speak to the skills of those positions. For example, if you’re applying to a developer position, you would want to move non-relevant positions to “Additional Experience”, personalize your summary and skills section as well as the bullet points from your current and previous positions.
Chris Waltenbaugh, payment processing expert at Payment Depot, explained “for me, the resumes that stand out are the ones that show the person has taken time to think about the position in which they’re applying and carefully crafted a document that demonstrates their understanding and what’s unique about them that will bring value to the job.”
Focus On Specific Accomplishments Rather Than Vague Responsibilities
Rather than listing out generic bullet points from the job description, use specific examples that demonstrates what you’ve accomplished not just what you did. For example, using a statement such as “Increased employee retention rate by 45%” is a stronger statement than “Improved the employee experience.” It not only hones in on a specific outcome but it demonstrates your success that can benefit the company in which you’re applying.
Petra Odak, chief marketing officer at Better Proposals, shared “one thing that is guaranteed to get my attention when I’m hiring, is samples. We hired for a lot of marketing positions recently and the candidates that stood out are those that supplied a sample of their work. Be it writing, design, marketing copy or something else. Those that went the extra mile and showed us what they can do are the ones that got an interview.” She added, “everyone can write a good resume and cover letter, but a sample shows that you can actually do the work.”
Take It To The Next Level
Grabbing a recruiters attention requires additional effort. Christy Noel, career expert, marketing executive and author of Your Personal Career Coach, expressed, “it’s not enough to solely rely on the job board or portal to submit your application. You should network to find someone who knows a person within the company that can be sent your resume to forward to the recruiter or hiring manager.” She explained “referrals have a 50% likelihood of getting an interview, non-referrals only have a 3% likelihood, so getting that person to submit your resume is critical to your job search.” LinkedIn is invaluable when it comes to networking with people at the company. Websites such as Rocket Reach and hunter.io help to find the email of specific people within the organization so you can send your resume and cover letter directly to them.
Another way to stand out is by being original in your approach. Andrew Taylor, director of Net Lawman, said “you can make your resume stand out by creating an infographic and including a video for your cover letter.”
Craft A Personalized Cover Letter
A personalized cover letter shows the employer you’re serious about the position in which you’re applying. Lawrence Calman-Grimsdale, marketing intelligence assistant at Jump, asserted, “it’s infinitely better to apply to three jobs with tailored cover letters than 100 without.” A cover letter should be well organized, concise and explain specific points from your resume that are relevant to the position. Furthermore, if you have gaps on your resume, make sure to give a brief explanation (health concerns, caring for a sick parent, etc…) so the recruiter isn’t left wondering.
To start, make sure to address the cover letter to the hiring manager in the organization. From there, each paragraph should be broken down into how you found the role and what made you want to apply, expanding on specific parts of your background that are relevant to the role and finally, a wrap up stating your excitement for the role, how they can contact you and thanking them for their time. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.
I’m a Leadership Coach & Workplace Culture Consultant at Heidi Lynne Consulting helping individuals and organizations gain the confidence to become better leaders for themselves and their teams. As a consultant, I deliver and implement strategies to develop current talent and create impactful and engaging employee experiences. Companies hire me to to speak, coach, consult and train their teams and organizations of all sizes. I’ve gained a breadth of knowledge working internationally in Europe, America and Asia. I use my global expertise to provide virtual and in-person consulting and leadership coaching to the students at Babson College, Ivy League students and my global network. I’m a black belt in Six Sigma, former Society of Human Resources (SHRM) President and domestic violence mentor. Learn more at http://www.heidilynneco.com or get in touch at Heidi@heidilynneco.com.
There has never been a more challenging time to be a recruiter than right now. The talent market is struggling and the misunderstanding between candidates and employers is getting worse and worse. There are many new skills that you need as a recruiter to ensure that you are doing your job correctly and excelling within your own career. Join Anne, Recruiter’s Marketing Whiz, as she points out the 5 skills all recruiters must have today. These pointers will not only help recruiters better themselves within their industry, but it will also show employers what they should be looking for in recruiters. Check out our website and Twitter for more career tips and tricks from Recruiter: https://www.recruiter.com/https://twitter.com/RecruiterDotCom
Everyone says it’s important to find a job you’re good at, but no-one tells you how to do so.The standard advice is to think about it for weeks and weeks until you “discover your talent”. To help, career advisers give you quizzes about your interests and preferences. Others recommend you go on a gap yah, reflect deeply, imagine different options, and try to figure out what truly motivates you…then chunder everywhere.
But as we saw in an earlier article, becoming really good at most things takes decades of practice. So to a large degree your abilities are built rather than “discovered”. Darwin, Lincoln, JK Rowling and Oprah all failed early in their career, then went on to completely dominate their fields. Albert Einstein’s 1895 schoolmaster’s report reads, “He will never amount to anything.”
Asking “what am I good at?” needlessly narrows your options. It’s better to ask: “what could I become good at?”
That aside, the bigger problem is that these methods don’t work. Plenty of research shows that it’s really hard to predict what you’ll be good at ahead of time, especially just by “going with your gut”, and it turns out career tests don’t work either.
Instead, the best way to find the right career for you is to go investigate – learn about and try out your options, looking outwards rather than inwards. Here we’ll explain why and how.
Your degree of personal fit in a job depends on your chances of excelling in the job, if you work at it. Personal fit is even more important than most people think, because it increases your impact, job satisfaction and career capital.
Research shows that it’s really hard to work out what you’re going to be good at ahead of time, especially through self-reflection.
Instead, go investigate. After an initial cut-down of your options, learn more and then try them out.
Minimise the costs of trying out your options by doing cheap tests first (usually start by speaking to people), then trying your options in the best order (e.g. business jobs before non-profit jobs).
Keep adapting your plan over time. Think like a scientist investigating a hypothesis.
Being good at your job is more important than you think
Everyone agrees that it’s important to find a job you’re good at. But we think it’s even more important than most people think, especially if you care about social impact.
First, the most successful people in a field account for a disproportionately large fraction of the impact. A landmark study of expert performers found that:1
A small percentage of the workers in any given domain is responsible for the bulk of the work. Generally, the top 10% of the most prolific elite can be credited with around 50% of all contributions, whereas the bottom 50% of the least productive workers can claim only 15% of the total work, and the most productive contributor is usually about 100 times more prolific than the least.
So, if you were to plot degree of success on a graph, it would look like this:
It’s the same spiked shape as the graphs we’ve seen several times before in this guide.
In the article on high impact jobs, we saw this in action with areas like research and advocacy. In research, for instance, the top 0.1% of papers receive 1,000 times more citations than the median.
These are areas where the outcomes are particularly skewed, but a major study still found that the best people in almost any field have significantly more output than the typical person. The more complex the domain, the more significant the effect, so it’s especially noticeable in professional jobs like management, sales, and medicine.
Now, some of these differences are just due to luck: even if everyone were an equally good fit, there could still be big differences in outcomes just because some people happen to get lucky while others don’t. However, some component is almost certainly due to skill, and this means that you’ll have much more impact if you choose an area where you enjoy the work and have good personal fit.
Second, even if you don’t want to contribute directly, being successful in your field gives you more career capital, which can open up high-impact options later. It also gives you influence and money, which can be used to promote good causes. Think of the example of Bono switching into advocacy for global poverty.
Third, being good at your job and gaining a sense of mastery is a vital component of being satisfied in your work. We covered this in the first article.
Fourth, as we saw earlier, the jobs that are least likely to be automated are those that involve high-level skills, and technology is increasing the rewards for being a top performer.
All this is why personal fit is one of the key factors to look for in a job. We think of “personal fit” as your chances of excelling at a job, if you work at it.
If we put together everything we’ve covered so far in the guide, this would be our formula for a perfect job:
If you’re comparing two career options, you can use these factors to make a side-by-side comparison (read more).
Personal fit is like a multiplier of everything else, and this means it’s probably more important than the other three factors. So, we’d never recommend taking a “high impact” job that you’d be bad at. But how can you figure out where you’ll have the best personal fit?
Hopefully you have some ideas for long-term options (from earlier in the guide). Now we’ll explain how to narrow them down, and find the right career for you.
(Advanced aside: if you’re working as part of a community, then your comparative advantage compared to other people in the community is also important. Read more.)
Why self-reflection, going with your gut and career tests don’t work
Note that after we wrote this article, an updated version of the meta-analysis we cite below was released. The results (in table 2) were similar except that work sample tests seem less promising (though ‘job tryout procedures’, ‘peer ratings’ and ‘job knowledge tests’ remain fairly good and are similar to work samples); and interviews seem more promising. This could suggest a somewhat greater focus on predicting your performance ahead of time by speaking to managers in the relevant path. We hope to do a more thorough review of this research in the future.
Performance is hard to predict ahead of time
When thinking about which career to take, our first instinct is often to turn inwards rather than outwards: “go with your gut” or “follow your heart”.
These approaches assume you can work out what you’re going to be good at ahead of time. But in fact, you can’t.
Here’s the best study we’ve been able to find so far on how to predict performance in different jobs. It’s a meta-analysis of selection tests used by employers, drawing on hundreds of studies performed over 85 years.2 Here are some of the results:
Type of selection test
Correlation with job performance (r)
Work sample tests
Job knowledge tests
Job tryout procedure
Years of education
None of the tests are very good. A correlation of 0.5 is pretty weak, so even if you try to predict using the best available techniques, you’re going to be “wrong” much of the time: candidates that look bad will often turn out good, and vice versa. Anyone who’s hired people before will tell you that’s exactly what happens, and there is some systematic evidence for this 3.
Because hiring is so expensive, employers really want to pick the best candidates and they know exactly what the job requires. If even they, using the best available tests, can’t figure out who’s going to perform best in advance, you probably don’t have much chance.
Don’t go with your gut
If you were to try to predict performance in advance, “going with your gut” isn’t the best way to do it. Research in the science of decision-making collected over several decades shows that intuitive decision-making only works in certain circumstances.
For instance, your gut instinct can tell you very rapidly if someone is angry with you. This is because our brain is biologically wired to rapidly warn us when in danger.
Your gut can also be amazingly accurate when trained. Chess masters have an astonishingly good intuition for the best moves, and this is because they’ve trained their intuition by playing lots of similar games, and built up a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
However, gut decision-making is poor when it comes to working out things like how fast a business will grow, who will win a football match, and what grades a student will receive. Earlier, we also saw that our intuition is poor at working out what will make us happy. This is all because our untrained gut instinct makes lots of mistakes, and in these situations it’s hard to train it to do better.
Career decision-making is more like these examples than being a chess grandmaster. It’s hard to train our gut instinct when:
The results of our decisions take a long time to arrive.
We have few opportunities to practice.
The situation keeps changing.
This is exactly the situation with career choices: we only make a couple of major career decisions in our life, it takes years to see the results, and the job market keeps changing.
This all means your gut can give you clues about the best career. It can tell you things like “I don’t trust this person” or “I’m not excited by this project”. But you can’t simply “go with your gut”.
Many career tests are built on “Holland types” or something similar. These tests classify you as one of six “Holland-types”, like “artistic” or “enterprising”. Then they recommend careers that match that type. However, we can see from the table that “Holland-type match” is very weakly correlated with performance. It’s also barely correlated with job satisfaction. So that’s why we don’t recommend traditional career tests.
What does work when finding out where you’ll excel? Trying things out.
In the table above, the tests that best predict performance are those that are closest to actually doing the work (with the interesting exception of IQ). This is probably what we should have expected.
A work sample test is simply doing some of the work, and having the results evaluated by someone experienced. Peer ratings measure what your peers think of your performance (and so can only be used for internal promotions). Job tryout procedures and job knowledge tests are what they sound like.
So if you’re choosing between several options, it’s helpful to do your research ahead of time. But eventually you need to actually try things. The closer you can get to actually doing the work, the better. For example, if you’re considering doing economics research, actually try some research and see how well you do, rather than just think about how much you enjoy studying it – studying a subject is very different from actually doing research.
This is true whether you’re at the start of your career or near the end, and whether you’re planning what to do long-term, comparing two offers, or considering quitting your job.
So, if there’s a job you’re interested in, see if there’s a way to try it out ahead of time. If you’re considering three long-term options and aren’t sure which to take, see if you can try out each of them over the coming years.
If you’re choosing which restaurant to eat at, the stakes aren’t high enough to warrant much research. But a career decision will influence decades of your life, so could easily be worth weeks or months of work.
In your early career, exploration is even more important
Early on you know relatively little about your strengths and options. Once you’ve spent a few years learning more, you’ll be able to make better decisions over the coming decades. It’s better to do this exploration early, if possible, so you can use the lessons later.
Also consider trying one or two wildcards to further broaden your experience. These are unusual options off the normal path, like living in a new country, pursuing an unusual side project or trying a sector you would have not normally have worked in (e.g. government, non-profits, social enterprise).
Many successful people did exactly that. Tony Blair worked as a rock music promoter before going into politics. As we saw, Condoleezza Rice was a classical musician before she entered politics, while Steve Jobs even spent a year in India on acid, and considered moving to Japan to become a zen monk. That’s some serious “exploration”.
Today, it’s widely accepted that many people will work in several sectors and roles across their lifetime. The typical 25 to 34-year-old changes jobs every three years,4 and changes are not uncommon later too.
Trying out lots of options can also help you avoid one of the biggest career mistakes: considering too few options. We’ve met lots of people who stumbled into paths like PhDs, medicine or law because they felt like the default at the time, but who, if they had considered more options, could easily have found something that fit them better. Pushing yourself to try out several areas will help you to avoid this mistake. Try to settle on a single goal too early, however, and you could miss a great option.
All this said, exploring can still be costly. Trying out a job can take several years, and changing job too often makes you look flaky. How can you explore, while keeping the costs low?
How to narrow down your options
You can’t try everything, so before you explore, we need to cut your long-term options down to a shortlist. How best to narrow down? Since gut decision making is unreliable, it helps to be a little systematic.
Many people turn to pro and con lists, but these have some weaknesses. First, there’s no guarantee that the pros and cons that come to mind will be the most important aspects of the decision. Second, pro and con lists don’t force you to look for disconfirming evidence or generate more options, and these are some of the most powerful ways to make better decisions. It’s easy to use lists of pros and cons to rationalise what you already believe.
Here’s the process we recommend for narrowing down. It’s based on a literature review of decision making science and what has worked well in one-on-one advising. You can also use it when you need to compare options to shortlist, or compare your current job against alternatives.
1. Make a big list of options.
Write out your initial list, including both what problem you want to focus on and what role you want e.g. economics researcher focusing on global health; marketing for a meat substitutes company, earning to give as a software engineer.
Then force yourself to come up with more. You can find ideas in our previousarticles. But here are some questions to help you think of more:
If you couldn’t take any of the options on your first list, what would you do?
If money were no object, what would you do?
What do your friends advise?
(If already with experience) how could you use your most valuable career capital?
Can you combine your options to make the best of both worlds?
Can you find any more opportunities through your connections?
2. Rank your options.
Start by making an initial guess of how they rank.
If you have more time, then score your options from one to five, based on:
Supportive conditions for job satisfaction
Any other factors that are important to you.
Career capital, if you’re considering options for the next few years (rather than your long-term aims).
Then, try to cut down to a shortlist. Eliminate the options that are worse on all factors than another (“dominated options”), and those that are very poor on one factor. You can add up all your scores to get a very rough ranking of options. If one of your results seems odd, try to understand why. For each option, ask “why might I be wrong?” and adjust your ranking. This is a very useful way to reduce bias.
3. Write out your key uncertainties
What information could most easily change your ranking? If you could get the answer to one question, which question would be most useful? Write these out. For instance, “Can I get a place on Teach for America?”, “Would I enjoy programming?” or “How pressing is global poverty compared to open science?”.
If you’re stuck, imagine you had to decide your career in just one weekend – what would you do in that time to make the right choice?
4. Do some initial research.
Can you quickly work out any of these key uncertainties? For instance, if you’re unsure whether you’d enjoy being a data scientist, can you go and talk to someone about what it’s like? Or is there something you could read, like one of our career reviews?
At this point, you might have a clear winner, in which case you can skip the next part. Most people, however, end up with a couple of alternatives that look pretty good. At that point, it’s time to explore. But how best to do that?
If you want a more detailed version of the process just above, try our decision tool:
We often find people who want to try out economics, so they go and apply for a Master’s course. But that’s a huge investment. Instead, think about how you can learn more with the least possible effort: “cheap tests”.
The aim is to get as close as possible to actually doing the work, but with the smallest possible investment of time.
You can think of making a “ladder” of tests. For instance, if you’re interested in policy advising, here are the steps you might take:
Read our relevant career reviews and do some Google searches to learn the basics (1-2h).
Then the next most useful thing you can usually do is to speak to someone in the area. The right person can give you far more up-to-date and personalised information than what you’ll be able to find written down (2h).
Speak to three more people who work in the area and read one or two books (20h). You could also consider speaking to a careers adviser who specialises in this area. During this, also find out the most effective way for you to enter the area, given your background. Bear in mind that when you’re talking to these people, they are also informally interviewing you – see our advice on preparing for interviews in a later article.
Now look for a project that might take 1-4 weeks of work, like volunteering on a political campaign, or starting a blog on the policy area you want to focus on. If you’ve done the previous step, you’ll know what’s best.
Only now consider taking on a 2-24 month commitment, like a short work placement, internship or graduate study. At this point, being offered a trial position with an organisation for a couple of months can actually be an advantage, because it means both parties will make an effort to quickly assess your fit.
At each point, you’d re-evaluate whether policy advising was one of your most promising options, and only continue to the next step if it was.
How to explore: order your options well
You can gain more opportunities to explore if you put your options in the right order.
1. Explore before graduate study rather than after
In the couple of years right after you graduate, people give you license to try out something more unusual – for example starting a business, living abroad or working at a non-profit. You’re not expected to have your career figured out right away.
If it doesn’t go well, you can use the “graduate school reset”: do a Masters, MBA, law degree, or PhD, then return to the traditional path.
We see lots of people rushing into graduate school or other conventional options right after they graduate, missing one of their best opportunities to explore.
In particular, it’s worth exploring before a PhD rather than after. At the end of a PhD it’s hard to leave academia. This is because going from a PhD to a post-doc, and then into a permanent academic position is very competitive, and it’s very unlikely you’ll succeed if you don’t focus 100% on research. So, if you’re unsure about academia, try out alternatives before your PhD if possible.
2. Put “reversible” options first
For instance, it’s easier to go from a position in business to a non-profit job than vice versa, so if you’re unsure between the two, take the business position first.
3. Choose options that let you experiment
An alternative approach is to take a job that lets you try out several areas by:
Letting you work in a variety of industries. Freelance and consulting positions are especially good.
Letting you practice many different skills. Jobs in small companies are often especially good on this front.
Giving you the free time and energy to explore other things outside of work.
4. Try on the side
If you’re already in a job, think of ways to try out a new option on the side. Could you do a short but relevant project in your spare time, or in your existing job? At the very least, speak to lots of people in the job.
If you’re a student, try to do as many internships and summer projects as possible. Your university holidays are one of the best opportunities in your life to explore.
“80,000 Hours has nothing short of revolutionised the way I think about my career.”
When Jess graduated from maths and philosophy a couple of years ago, she was interested in academia and leaned towards studying philosophy of mind, but was concerned that it would have little impact.
So the year after she graduated, she spent several months working in finance. She didn’t think she’d enjoy it, and she turned out to be right, so she felt confident eliminating that option. She also spent several months working in non-profits, and reading about different research areas.
Most importantly, she spoke to loads of people, especially in the areas of academia she was most interested in. This eventually led to her being offered to study a PhD in psychology, focused on how to improve decision-making by policy makers.
During her PhD, she did an internship at a leading evidence-based policy think tank, and started writing about psychology for an online newspaper. This meant that she was exploring the ‘public intellectual’ side of being an academic, and the option of going into policy.
At the end of her PhD, she can either continue in academia, or switch into policy or writing. She could also probably go back to finance or the non-profit sector. Most importantly, she’ll have a far better idea of which options are best.
Apply this to your own career: how to explore
Use the narrowing down process above to cut your options down to a shortlist of three to five.
For each option in your shortlist, write out one or two cheap tests that you could do over the next three months.
Then, if you wanted to try out your remaining top options, what would the best order be? Consider just spending several years trying out different areas.
When you need to make your final decision, you can use the narrowing down process again.
If you’d like to find out more about how to make good decisions and predictions, we recommend Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, and Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock.
We like to imagine we can work out what we’re good at through reflection, in a flash of insight. But that’s not how it works.
Just in time for Veterans’ Day, I led a negotiation workshop for female military veterans and military spouses, organized by American Corporate Partnes. ACP is a national non-profit that offers a broad array of career support to veterans and military spouses, so it’s worth checking out! Here are five job search negotiation questions that apply to both military and non-military job applicants:
1 – How do you address online applications that require a dollar figure and avoid being screened out?
Getting the salary question so early in the hiring process is one of the reasons to avoid online applications if you can help it. It’s hard to give a desired salary when you don’t know much about the job. The desired salary should always be about the job at hand, not what you were making before, what you hope to make, even what you think you deserve.
Therefore, if possible, try to get referred to someone and get a chance to speak with people to learn more specifics about the job before suggesting a salary. However, sometimes you don’t don’t have an existing connection into the company, and you want to apply before too many others apply. First, see if you can just skip the question or write a text response (such as “commensurate with responsibilities of the job”). If not, put a nonsensical number like $1 so that you can move past the question. If you get asked about the $1 response in the first interview, then you can mention that you need to learn more about the job fist before estimating the appropriate salary.
2 – How do you avoid mentioning a salary range during your first interview?
Related to the first question, another attendee wanted to avoid giving a salary range, not just at the application stage, but even in the first interview. While I agree that you want to have as much detail about the job as possible before quoting a desired salary, you don’t want to avoid discussing salary at all costs. Some recruiters don’t move forward with a candidate if they don’t have an idea of target salary because the candidate might be too expensive and it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Refusing to discuss salary may prevent you from moving forward.
Therefore, you don’t want to avoid mentioning a salary range at all – just avoid mentioning a salary target too soon. Too soon is when you’re not clear about the job. It’s also too soon to discuss salary if you have not researched the market and may underestimate or overestimate your value. For that reason, you should be researching salaries now, even before you get into an interview situation. You don’t want to be caught unprepared to discuss salary. Your lack of readiness is a problem for you, not the employer.
3 – When during the interview process do you start negotiating the job salary?
Ideally you don’t mention salary until you are clear about the scope of the job. That said, mentioning a salary target is not the same as negotiating that particular job’s salary. Sure, it puts a number or range of numbers out there as a starting point, but you’re not bound to it. If you learn different information during the interview process that changes your view of an appropriate salary for that job, then you can still negotiate a different salary.
But don’t start negotiating a particular job’s salary until the employer has given you an offer or confirms that an offer is being put-together. Until the point you know that an employer wants you, your salary talk is all hypothetical. The majority of your interviews should be spent on the scope and responsibilities of the job, not any part of compensation (whether that’s salary or other type of compensation, such as bonus, benefits, time off, etc). You want to demonstrate that you’re interested in the role and making a contribution to that company, not just the salary or whatever else is in it for you.
4 – How do you negotiate differently for public sector v. private sector jobs?
When you do negotiate a particular job’s compensation, your approach should always be customized to that job, in that company and in that industry. Change the job, and you change the compensation and therefore the negotiation. Similarly, go from public sector to private sector, and you change the compensation and therefore how you should approach the negotiation.
One important difference between public and private sector jobs, in particular, is how compensation may be structured differently. A private sector job may offer equity or profit-sharing potential. That type of ownership element is not possible with a public sector job. Knowing this, you may take a lower base salary at a private job that’s offering equity compared to a similar public sector job that won’t offer that. Understanding the different elements available to your potential employers enables you to negotiate on those different terms. Negotiations at different employers will be different because you need to do customized research for each opportunity, consider different compensation structures for each and possibly propose different terms. This is true, not just for public v. private sector, but also start-up v. established company or companies in different geographies. Change the job, the company, the industry or sector, and you change the compensation.
5 – How do you negotiate salary when returning to a corporate position after consulting independently for several years?
When you’re making a career change, in this case consulting to corporate (but it could also be one industry to another or one role to a different one), it should not impact the compensation you receive. Tie the compensation to the scope of the job. Your background enables you to land the job or not. Once you are the one they want, your compensation should be what makes sense for that job, even if you have an atypical background by virtue of your career change.
This requires, of course, that you know what the job should pay. When you have been consulting for several years, you may be out of the loop on what in-house compensation looks like. You need to do research on current compensation, including salary, benefits and other perks for being in-house.
Negotiating a corporate position after consulting for a while also requires that you’re willing to stand your ground and negotiate. If you are too anxious to land an in-house position and get out of consulting, you might settle for less. This is where research can help again — set an appropriate target and don’t underestimate yourself. Having multiple job leads in your pipeline will also help you stay confident in the negotiation.
Remember, you can negotiate
The exact strategy or approach to best negotiate a job offer varies based on what you want, the job at hand, where you are in the negotiation and who you are negotiating with. However, even these general tips show that there are many actions you can take during a negotiation. With some research and preparation, you do have influence on the compensation you receive.
During the ACP workshop, we covered even more questions. In the next post, I’ll answer five more negotiation questions, this time about career management:
How to negotiate for flexibility
How to renegotiate when you accepted a lower salary years ago
How to keep your salary competitive after years in the same job
How to negotiate for fairness when your boss plays favorites
How negotiation changes when you go from employee to business owner
As a longtime recruiter and now career coach, I share career tips from the employer’s perspective. My specialty is career change — fitting since I am a multiple-time career changer myself. My latest career adventures include running SixFigureStart, Costa Rica FIRE and FBC Films.