The Washington Job Outlook

I’m spending this weekend at the country house of a good friend, Alex Orfinger, last year’s chairman of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and publisher of the Washington Business Journal. Below is the interview I conducted with him yesterday afternoon:

J.W. – What’s your outlook for the job market here in DC? 

A.O. – First of all, your readers should be particularly pleased to be here in D.C. which is the healthiest job market in the country. That’s not to say it’s not without its challenges. If you look out over the next decade there will still be enormous job growth. Our area’s largest employer, the federal government, will continue hiring, although at a reduced rate due to deficit reduction. Furthermore, the wave of baby boomer retirements that is just beginning will create many job openings. Outside of the federal government, there will be significant opportunities as Washington strengthens its position as a national and world business center (it’s important to note that less than a quarter of jobs in the D.C. area are in the federal government). Health care and education will continue to be strong sectors, in part due to government contracting, as will tourism. I’d also look at finance, H.R., and service-related businesses. In the short term, real estate sectors will be soft – architecture, construction) will be soft.

Tips for Enhancing Your Prospects

J.W. – What are the qualities that job applicants should emphasize in this market?

A.O. – First impressions are critically important. The decision about whether a prospect should even be considered is usually made in the first 5 seconds. Appropriate qualifications and skills are, of course necessary, but perhaps the most important factor is the perceived fit: will the candidate be a good member of the team? In terms of resume and interview emphasis, a job candidate should stress the value he or she will bring to the table. Enthusiasm about the company or organization and the job are essential, as is a general impression of confidence.

J.W. – What are the biggest turn-offs to a prospective employer?

A.O. – 1. A lack of knowledge and understanding of the company or organization’s mission,

2. ANY mistake in a resume or cover letter (grammatical or typographical).

3. Inappropriate attire or grooming

J.W. – So many of my clients apply for jobs and never hear back from the prospective employer. Any suggestions on how an applicant can get noticed and responded to?

A.O. – When you’re leaving an interview it’s perfectly appropriate to ask what the decision process is and to ask permission to follow up, as well as when a follow-up would be appropriate (e.g. “Would it be all right if I contacted you by the end of the month?”)

J.W. – What about the older worker looking for employment?

A.O. – First, take all age-related dates off your resume (graduation, early jobs). This is not to run from your age, but to ensure that you are not prematurely culled from the applicant pool. Second, adjust to the fact that you may well be interviewing with (and ultimately working for) someone 20 or 30 years younger than you. Third, energy and enthusiasm convey a youthful impression. Fourth, make sure you have Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, and that they are consistent (or at least not inconsistent with) your job search thrust. Last, emphasize that you bring to the table a combination of the wisdom honed from real-life experience and the maturity to deal calmly with potentially volatile situations.

J.W. – If you were advising an 18 or 20 or 24-year-old looking to choose a career path, what would you suggest doing?

A.O. – It’s not so much about selecting a career path as it is about following your passions and doing work you’ll be want to be engaged in. It sounds like a cliché, but time and again I’ve seen people starting their work life by doing something they loved which ultimately led to a great, fulfilling career for them.

J.W. – Who’s hiring right now?

A.O. Every week we (the Washington Business Journal) do in-depth profiles of companies that are expanding in the metropolitan area (e.g. Booz Allen Hamilton, Hilton, and Lockheed Martin. In a more traditional vein, go to:

click on the “CAREERS” tab, and then on “JOB SEEKERS”. There are dozens of great job listings posted there every week.

J.W. – Thanks, Alex!