Koula Vasilopoulos is district president of Robert Half in Calgary.
What’s the labour market like in Calgary since the recession?
Vasilopoulos: The market has been picking up gradually over the last few years, but in the past year specifically we’ve seen a notable increase in hiring for both contract and permanent positions. There’s certainly more out there in terms of roles and opportunities for workers since the recession.
What are the key industries that are looking for people in Calgary and in what kind of jobs?
Vasilopoulos: It’s not so much one specific industry that’s experiencing growth, but a very wide range, which is encouraging across the board. That said, two industries that have really been seeing growth would be oil and gas services companies and local technology firms – not just for IT roles, but positions overall. Both have increased hiring notably; a great sign for continued growth.
Looking at specific positions, we’ve seen a big pickup in the senior accounting space, as well as companies looking for financial analysts, supply chain and payroll professionals. Accounts payable professionals are also in consistently high demand. We’re also seeing a strong demand for HR professionals, recruiters, executive assistants, and senior-level administrative staff overall.
What’s your best advice for people who may have been laid off from the oil patch in recent years and having a tough time finding a job?
Vasilopoulos: The market is improving, so it’s important to stay positive.
If they haven’t already, professionals need to make more of a concerted effort when it comes to networking and connecting with people in their industry or field. They need to build their presence within the business community and also on social media and establish a professional brand for themselves and their skills; be sure to tell people that they’re on the hunt, and encourage them to ask their network if they know of opportunities.
Now may also be a good time for professionals to take a step back and consider if they really want to stay in the same industry, or if they might be open to new opportunities and positions. While a career change may seem intimidating at first, it may also prove an invigorating opportunity to broaden their network, skillset, and even paycheque (in time).
If workers are applying for something a bit outside of their comfort zone, they need to consider what they offer in terms of transferable skills, and emphasize their experience as a business professional. They may be lacking certain industry-specific experience but are well-versed with the ins and outs of the corporate world. They also likely have the soft skills necessary to navigate and adjust quickly to new teams and work preferences.
It also may be valuable to consider taking on consulting or contract work as they continue their transition. Many companies work with independent, experienced consultants to access on-demand subject matter expertise for help with corporate transitions and business process improvement efforts. Ultimately, it all comes down to being flexible on industry, positions and pay – the most important thing is getting your foot back in the door, and keeping an open mind when looking for jobs.
What are the key things in terms of skills and characteristics that employers are looking for in today’s employee?
Vasilopoulos: In terms of technical aptitude, for many accounting, finance and even admin professionals, advanced Excel skills continue to be essential. Alongside technical skills, company fit is becoming more important than it has been in the past.
Many companies are willing to flex on some specific skills, but not necessarily on fit. They’re truly looking for candidates who work well within the corporate culture, collaborate with their teams, are innovative, and who may not meet 100 per cent of the requirements, but can grow into the role. Hiring managers more often seek employees who are a ‘jack of all trades,’ they want them to be flexible and be able to learn quickly – companies are constantly evolving, and they need employees who are able to do that. They need people who can change as the economy changes.
How receptive are employers to different work arrangements for employees?
Vasilopoulos: While a traditional work environment is still dominant, companies are more open to having the conversation around perks and benefits such as telecommuting, flexible schedules, as a means of supporting improved work-life balance for their teams, and as a key recruitment/retention tool.
Companies that value the well-being of their employees are more likely to attract and retain skilled talent, especially considering job seekers are taking a more holistic view when assessing whether to look for a new position – it is much more than just salary – an aspect such as commute (or no commute) is one of the key factors that professionals consider when making career moves.
In fact, a recent Robert Half survey found that 65 per cent of Canadian professionals said they would be more likely to take a job if it had the option of telecommuting at least some of the time.
Companies that offer alternative work arrangements can help give employees more control over their schedules and better work-life balance. It also allows them to access a broader pool of talent if recruiting for remote workers and can help increase employee morale and even productivity, particularly through reduced travel times for staff who no longer have a commute, or who travel at off-peak times.
That said, businesses considering implementing remote or alternative working programs should first ensure that it fits with individual preferences, as well as with the specific requirements of the role, and then establish clear guidelines, expectations and productivity goals. Alternative work arrangements may not be feasible for every position, and employers should carefully monitor to make sure workers are communicating and collaborating efficiently, and deadlines don’t suffer.
– Mario Toneguzzi