Many economists say U.S. industry is headed into a recession. GDP growth is going negative, November’s ISM Manufacturing Index registered further contraction, and NFPA’s monthly statistics report continued decline in both fluid power shipments and orders.
Flying in the face of all the gloom, demand for fluid power specialists is still robust. Just about everyone who wants a job has one. And more importantly, someone who wants a better job, whether for more-challenging responsibilities, career advancement or simply more money, has a decent shot at getting one.
“The job market is still strong,” said Eric Bergsman, a certified personnel consultant at Marvel Consultants in Cleveland. “My board is filled with openings for bona fide qualified people.” Available positions run the gamut from generalists with limited experience to niche technical experts, from product and application engineers to sales and marketing executives.
And counter to conventional wisdom that holds for older workers, too. “I always get a chuckle out of people who are told to say they have no more than 10 or 15 years of experience, but it’s obvious once you look at their resume that they’ve been around a lot longer,” he said. “Particularly when it comes to fluid power and related industries, the talent pool is shrinking. I give NFPA and IFPS credit for trying to make our industry attractive to younger people. But it’s hard to find young, energetic people who are willing to work in fluid power right now.”
As a result, companies are more receptive to seasoned veterans. “Most clients feel if the person still has the desire, still has the juice and still wants to make an impact, they’ll get serious consideration. Compared to 10 years ago, there’s a newer perspective on that,” he said.
Do opportunities vary for men and women? “Absolutely not!” emphasized Bergsman. “I have not run into any difference and, in fact, a lot of these companies would welcome female talent because the industry is so predominantly old boy. They would absolutely embrace the diversity, and there is no salary disparity, none.”
Candidates, to some degree, have leverage right now, so businesses must actively compete for coveted workers or risk falling behind their peers, he continued. “I’ve seen employers with a lobby that looks like the set of I Love Lucy and they’re not about to change.” But most companies are concerned that they project a positive image and attract quality people by offering appropriate compensation and opportunities for advancement. And especially for younger workers, the stereotypical work-life balance — whether it’s extra vacation, flex time, or paternal leave. Firms need to react quickly, too. “This market is among the fastest moving that I’ve seen.” If a potential employer sees value in a candidate, don’t hesitate. Make them an offer or risk losing out and waiting another three to six months, he said.
Any advice for those looking, beyond updating resumes and social media? “Network with everyone, because your next lead could come from church, neighbors or friends. And don’t discount online job boards. I tell job seekers to do a little reflection and think about companies where you’d like to work, why, and how you could make a positive impact for them,” he said. “Compile a list, then approach someone like me or find out who’s the likely hiring manager. Don’t just send your resume to HR where it falls into the abyss. Contact that person and have a little elevator pitch ready. If you call 100 companies you may get 10 or 15 responses. All you need is one.”