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For those unhappy in their current role and exploring new opportunities, it may be worth the effort to look for a new job even in tougher economic times.francescoridolfi.com

There may be no better time for Canadians to switch jobs given record low unemployment and the tight labour market. Yet many workers worry about making a change as the economy slows and recession fears mount, bringing with it the increased risk of layoffs. The fear is becoming a victim of a ‘last one hired, first one fired’ scenario.

Still, for those unhappy in their current role, exploring new opportunities – and eventually landing a new role – may be worth the effort, even in tougher economic times, says Jill McDonough, co-founder of Upwardly Careers, a Calgary recruiting agency.

“It’s not really about whether it’s a recession or a boom time,” she says. “Typically, when someone is looking to change their job it’s because either they believe they’ve changed or the company they’re working for has changed, and they need a better fit.”

A recent survey by ADP Canada found 24 per cent of respondents were new in their current role. Of those still considering a move in the next six months, nearly nine in 10 indicated compensation as the most important driver, the survey found.

A good time to job hunt

The current environment may be as good as it gets when it comes to hunting for a new job, with unemployment at a record low of 4.9 per cent in Canada as of July.

“Labour markets are extremely tight,” says Carrie Freestone, an economist at RBC who tracks the job market in Canada. “Right now, we’re seeing a lot of postings with not enough available workers to fill them.”

These conditions often lead to higher wages. The downside is rising wages add to already high inflation, she says. “Eventually, these pressures will translate to a slowdown in hiring.”

She says the market already appears to be cooling, pointing to real-time data showing the number of online job postings is starting to fall.

RBC forecasts unemployment to increase over the next year, reaching 6 per cent by the end of 2023.

It’s still a fairly strong number, Ms. Freestone adds.

Upskill for your next gig

Workers who are unhappy in their current career path “should get curious” about possibilities they could be missing, despite the economic conditions, says Margaret Miyagishima, a Calgary career transition coach with Next Stage for You.

“While job hunting, you’re more aware of what’s happening in the workforce and [the] opportunities,” she says.

But before applying, she says workers need to consider what they want in a new job, if they have the appropriate skills, and what might be missing on their resume.

“If you haven’t been doing any professional development, start doing it,” Ms. Miyagishima says, to put your best foot forward to a potential new employer.

It’s a process many energy workers have gone through in recent years during the economic slump in that sector, notes Jeanette Sutherland, director EDGE UP, a short-term skills development program for mid-career oil and gas professionals.

She says more than 200 engineers, geoscientists and other professionals have gone through the program to boost their digital skills in particular, including data analytics, information technology project management and cybersecurity – all of which are in high demand across various sectors.

“A lot of new careers can be launched for individuals through short-term upskilling training while leveraging the skills they already have,” Ms. Sutherland says.

Ideally, workers should always be upskilling because it makes them more resilient in tougher economic times, adds Ms. McDonough. Digital skills are especially important in today’s economy, she says.

“You’re either keeping up, or you’re feeling intimidated and like you don’t fit in anymore,” she says.

Continuous networking for career success

Another strategy for individuals is joining online and local meet-up groups in their current field or one where they want to find work to network, developing relationships that could lead to future opportunities, she says.

While these steps may not lead to a new job in the near term, Ms. McDonough says they leave workers with a good “road map” showing them what they need to do to be more attractive to employers. She says this could be especially important if they lose their current job during a recession.

“Recession or not, you have an obligation first and foremost to yourself,” she says.

The extra legwork is also helpful to employees who stay in their current job, potentially strengthening their skills and standing within their current organization.

“And if they do switch, the trajectory for advancement can be great if they find that right match,” Ms. McDonough says.