The job hunt: Know the waters when casting your net

Theresa Mickelwait, assistant director of UK's Stuckert Career Center
Theresa Mickelwait, assistant director of UK's Stuckert Career Center

Editor's Note: Continuing our series of occasional columns by Central Kentucky business experts, Theresa Mickelwait and Lenroy Jones of the University of Kentucky's James W. Stuckert Career Center will write about the job hunt. Their columns will alternate and appear about once a month.

If you want to catch fish, you need to know where and when they'll be biting. Similarly, knowing the job market tells you where the opportunities are so you know where to focus your search.

Information about the market also can warn you of potential dangers. A few years ago, I told someone about a national retail chain that was about to close thousands of stores, which saved him from entering an unstable situation.

I make it my business to be tuned into the job market and assist others with their career paths, but anyone who is seeking employment or better opportunities should pay attention, too. There are two primary ways to go about this: You can research it yourself or you can seek the advice of a career professional.

How do you go about researching the job market? One way is to pay attention to news and press releases. If you've been up to date on news lately, you've heard some indications that Kentucky's job market is looking up. In March, the employment services firm Manpower ranked Lexington as the nation's No. 1 city for finding a job in the second quarter of the year.

The state government recently reported that the unemployment rate for February was down in 93 counties, with the lowest rate, 8.6 percent, in Fayette and Woodford counties. Lower unemployment rates might mean less competition for job openings in the area.

If there are particular companies you are interested in, watch for their press releases. If you know that company X is expanding or creating new products, then there might be increased job offerings on the horizon.

You also can find press releases from the government at and Several companies in Kentucky recently have announced they will be adding jobs in the next few years, such as call center Allconnect (220 jobs), manufacturer Hendrickson USA (160), defense contractor Lockheed Martin (224) and auto supplier Sequa Automotive (280).

Another way to gauge the job market is to look at employment projections. The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently projected the spring job outlook and suggested the number of job openings has nearly tripled. The organization estimated hiring will increase 19.3 percent and be higher than it has been since 2007.

Every two years, the federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts employment trends for the next decade, including job growth rates and total annual openings. These reports can be obtained at similar report for the state can be found at

The most recent Kentucky Occupational Outlook report suggests an increase of 148,700 jobs by 2018, with 25 percent of these occurring in administrative support and sales occupations. Growth rate estimates from these reports might help identify opportunities for advancement.

For example, I advised one person about growth in his industry, spurring him to seek better opportunities with a new company, which ultimately resulted in his promotion.

Right now, some of the fastest-growing occupations in Kentucky are predicted to be in health care and technology occupations.

Knowledge of the job market can help you target your search to prime areas, but try not to get overwhelmed or bogged down with all the data. It might be necessary to seek advice from a career counselor or coach. That person also can help you market your skills and strengths to maximize your search efforts, which is when branding yourself comes into play.

Check into the resources and services that might be available to you in your work place, community and educational institutions.

You also may email me at for a list of resources to help you find a career coach.

Remember, knowing where to look is only one part of the process. Once you know where the fish are, you need to select the right bait. In an upcoming column, I'll address how best to bait your hook by branding yourself.