Nearly two in five job seekers (37 percent) lack confidence that the job market will improve next year, according to a recent study conducted by the Career Advisory Board, established by DeVry University.
Hiring managers, however, disagree.
Eighty-seven percent of hiring managers think the job market will improve in 2014 according to findings from the 2013 Job Preparedness Indicator. While hiring managers may be optimistic about the job market, they also have a very clear message for job seekers: "Help us help you.
Only 15 percent of hiring managers said that nearly all or most job seekers have the skills and traits their organization is looking for in a candidate - a 2 percent decrease from the prior year.
Despite their negative perceptions of the job market, job seekers remain strangely - almost irrationally - sure of themselves. Seven in 10 job seekers (72 percent) are confident they know how to present their skills and experience to an interviewer and more than half (56 percent) are confident they know what employers are looking for in candidates today.
"Our research shows that two out of three hiring managers won't settle for a candidate without the perfect qualifications for the job," says Alexandra Levit, business and workplace consultant and Career Advisory Board member. "The good news is that there are steps candidates can take to give employers what they need and want."
Career Advisory Board members recommend the following strategies to help job seekers shift their mindsets and improve their marketability:
* Recognize the value of mentorship: Three out of four hiring managers say job seekers should have a mentor or career coach; yet only 40 percent of job seekers report having a similar professional resource. Cultivating relationships with-experienced and trusted advisers can help job seekers uncover job opportunities. Working with mentors can help you move your career forward and build your network. Mentors can also help you navigate potentially precarious business situations according to Krista Canfield, senior manager, corporate communications, LinkedIn.
* Learn how to tell your story: Fifty-six percent of job seekers use keywords from the job description when applying to a position, but hiring managers care more about a candidate's skill set and experience. Job seekers have the opportunity to stand out from the pack by telling stories that reinforce their personal brands during interviews. They should focus less on listing out past positions and more on saying, "this is what I've learned in my career and here's what it enables me to do today," says Jason Seiden, CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing.
* Constantly refresh your skills: Approximately two-thirds of hiring managers believe employees should be mostly responsible for developing the skills and traits needed to be successful in their jobs. Candidates need to take responsibility for enhancing their skillsets through on-the-job experiencing, networking, attending trainings and workshops, and pursuing professional certifications of value in their fields, says Kristin Machacek Leary, vice president of global talent, Quintiles.
* Demonstrate that you can adapt: Ninety-three percent of hiring managers say job seekers need to demonstrate flexibility to prove they can cope with the ever-changing workplace. Job seekers should be prepared to share how they have dealt with challenging situations on the fly or rethought an approach to an assignment when something was not working well, says J.T. O'Donnell, career strategist, workplace consultant and founder of CAREEREALISM.com.
For additional career advice and complete findings from the 2013 Job Preparedness Indicator, visit www.careeradvisoryboard.org.