An Early Gift: More Companies Beginning to Hire

Executive job growth in the private sector might be the bright gem found among the lumps of coal in the most recent employment data from the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the employment trends ExecuNet monitors monthly, the percentage of expected new executive-level positions has been edging upward for 11 consecutive months, and recruiters have been steadily raising their confidence levels about the employment market this past year.

In November, our survey group of mostly retained search firm consultants forecast 26 percent of companies would add new executive-level positions in the next six months, with another 52 percent of companies expected to "trade up" or selectively replace existing senior managers with new talent. Better yet, fewer than two percent of companies are projected to have executive-level layoffs.

Additionally, 61 percent of the surveyed recruiters feel confident the executive employment market will improve in the next six months, leading 25 percent of them to hire staff in anticipation of new assignments.

So why are executive hiring and the mood of recruiters meaningful to you?

Since May 2003, we've surveyed executive recruiters every month about their confidence levels and views of the job market. They're the "canaries in the coalmines," so to speak, of the economy, as they are always some steps ahead of the marketplace, scanning the horizon for imminent activity in corporate hiring.

The BLS report is a lagging measurement and recruiters are the leading indicators of job market revival, acting as conduits between the unadvertised executive-level jobs and the right candidates, then executive hiring is the next signal of recovery. It's the corporate leadership who are expected to build teams of direct reports and drive job growth.

Within our own private executive membership network, we're seeing real-life progression of career management activity. In 2009, members were more reliant on our expert-led support, resources and information designed to guide them through job loss and to prepare them to launch a successful job search. Earlier this year, they were drawn to guidance on interviewing, negotiation and compensation as they began getting job offers; and lately, there has been increased news on members "landing" new positions.

Add two more positive tick marks: Our happily employed executive members are increasingly leveraging the insights and connections we're providing that helps them improve their professional performance; and our search firm and corporate recruiting members have extended their outreach to members by 55 percent this last year.

Couple these measures of employment positivity with the lift in GDP growth, consumer confidence, and a record-breaking e-commerce holiday season, and 2011 could be brightening. At the very least, we know this January won't be like last January.

While there's no guarantee the job on your wish list will be among your presents this holiday season, here are some shopping tips to help ensure you get what you want:

1. First, understand what you can uniquely do and the specific value you bring to organizations.
2. Research which companies can use your particular skills and expertise, and identify their pain points.
3. Make sure you have a solid and diverse network that can connect you to the decision-makers in those target companies.
4. Be able to clearly and consultatively communicate the value you bring and the problems you solve.

If you're looking for new opportunity, check companies in the $11 million to $500 million range; recruiters report that's the sweet spot with nearly 28 percent of small-to-medium-sized companies bringing on new senior-level leaders. Moreover, The National Federation of Independent Business saw growth among small business payrolls in November too.

In any economy, job search is never easy, nor can it be done independently. Always have access to market trend information that can help you make the right decisions; stay connected to a community of peers and experts who can provide business and career guidance; and be seen as a leader by companies and those who hire. Even if you're not in job search, it's important to prepare for opportunity before you need it - you never know when you might.