Look at trends. What is happening in the sector? Are processes becoming more computerized? Is there a focus on being 'green'? Are operations being outsourced internationally? Is social media playing a role? Find out what is going on in the sector and see how the changes may positively or negatively impact your ability to find a job.
Look at forecasts. Most labour market websites will provide occupational outlooks for each specific job. These outlooks estimate how many positions will be available in the occupation, and whether the occupation is expected to expand, decline, or stay the same. The forecasts are based on conditions that exist within the industry, such as demographics and technology, as well as the environment as a whole, such as social, economic, and political conditions.
Look at the skills, qualifications, and education that is in demand. Labour market research will be able to tell you what employers need. Are they looking for candidates with a specific certification? Would proficiency in a particular computer program make you a more attractive candidate? This information will allow you to develop yourself so that you are perfect fit for the employers' needs.
Look at the companies. Which companies are expanding and which companies are declining? Which companies have opportunities available for applicants with your skill set? By taking a closer look at specific companies, you can determine which ones to pursue, and which may be a waste of time.
Look at the average salaries. Labour market research will also provide you with information about the average salary level for each particular occupation, within a specific region. It is important that you know what salary level to expect from employers. They may ask you for your salary expectations in an interview, and if they aren't in line with the market rate, you risk appearing inexperienced or unreasonable. Also, when the employer makes you an offer, you want to be able to identify whether or not the salary that they are offering is fair.
Now that you know what information you are looking for, where can you find it? There are a variety of sources of labour market information:
Websites: Websites allow you to conduct customized searches for particular occupations within specific regions. They also offer a variety of other labour market information. Spend some time browsing around each website. Sometimes you can find the most useful information in the most unexpected places. Here are some websites to get you started:
LinkedIn groups: Through the LinkedIn groups, you can ask specific questions of people who are currently working in the industry. Most people are more than willing to demonstrate their expertise. This allows you to get useful information and make networking connections at the same time.
Information interviews: By conducting information interviews with people in your field, you can get inside information about the industry and about specific companies. Information interviews also give you the opportunity to showcase your knowledge, skills, and professionalism.
Professional associations: Professional associations are an excellent source of industry specific labour market information. Take a look at any reports or surveys that they may have available.
Networking: Sometimes you can get the most useful labour market information simply by asking people in your network. You may spend days researching to learn something that you could have learned from your next door neighbour. Talk to the people around you; you never know where you will find your next job lead.
Many job seekers jump blindly into their job search without doing any labour market research. While these job seekers may still get lucky, if they don't know which occupations are growing, which skills are in demand, and which companies are expanding, they are not in a good position to make strategic career choices.
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