We apologize, but Advice & Resources is currently only compatible with Internet Explorer 9 and above. Please upgrade or consider a more standards-compliant browser such as Firefox or Chrome

Using the improving economy to your advantage

As the economy improves, demand for qualified candidates increases, and job seekers stand to benefit.

The economy is rebounding strongly from the recession, and like a rising tide lifting all boats, economic growth is likely to benefit everyone – although not always in the same way. Job seekers in particular stand to gain much from the new economic climate.

Be picky

The most obvious perk for job seekers in a time of economic growth is the availability of jobs. A stronger economy means more employers looking to add headcount, which in turn means more new openings for you to pursue. In times of plenty, you can afford to hold out for the best opportunities rather than go with the first one to spring up.

"Now that it's [a] candidate-driven as opposed to employer-driven job market, job seekers can afford to be more selective," says Erin Engstrom, content marketing strategist with recruiting software firm Recruiterbox. "This applies to both the jobs they apply for and the jobs they accept. If the responsibilities of the role or the company culture aren't exactly what the candidate is looking for, there's no need to feel the same pressure to go for the job anyway. There's a high likelihood that a better match will come along quickly."

Negotiate salary

The improving economy may also give job seekers an upper hand at the negotiating table. The increased demand for workers means employers face more competition in landing qualified candidates. In order to beat the competition, they're often willing to offer more competitive salaries, better benefits and other perks.

"Wages are still relatively stagnant, but that doesn't mean that candidates shouldn't still negotiate," says Engstrom. "A good negotiator can frequently increase their starting salary by 5 to 10 percent. Now that companies aren't feeling the pinch as much and realize that the competition for candidates is higher than it was a few years ago, they're more likely to up their offers."

Get the raise

This boon to job seekers can even spill over to current employees as well. In a strong economy, employees are more likely to see opportunities outside of the company as not only feasible options, but in many cases better options.

"Pay raises have not kept up with the pay people are getting at new jobs," says Katie Donovan, founder of consulting firm Equal Pay Negotiations. "Those 1 percent, 2 percent and 3 percent raises the past few years after a steep pay cut and forced furloughs of the recession have not bounced you back to what people are getting paid as new employees."

Of course this doesn't mean you have to leave your current job to realize this potential financial upgrade. Opportunities outside the company can also be used as leverage in negotiating a raise with your current employer.

"Negotiate a raise if you want to keep doing what you are doing where you are doing it. The cost to replace you will be much more than the 10 percent or greater raise. It will be a bargain for your boss," adds Donovan.

Get the promotion

Similarly, for employees looking to advance their careers within their current organization, the improving economy presents a great opportunity to initiate that move.

"Expanding head count could mean more promotion opportunities for you," adds Donovan. "Your very flat organization may reintroduce some more layers. Now is the time to let your boss and your boss' boss know that you are looking for more responsibility. Ask them what you need to do to be ready for the next step within the organization. Then make sure you do it and let them know to improve your chances for the promotion."

Relocate

During times of growth, employers are willing to pay more for the right candidates, and even pay to bring the right candidates to them. "Moving is a major life event, and moving for a job can be a significant source of strain. Most companies realize this, and do what they can to make the move easier," says John Jersin, CEO and founder of Connectifier, a tech-focused recruiting software company. "Depending on the stage of the company you're working for, the remuneration may vary. Most companies, however, will offer to cover actual moving expenses as part of the relocation, and some will offer a flat moving bonus that covers moving expenses and then some."

Practice caution

Healthy economic times can be exciting for workers, but it's still important not to get carried away.

"The economy is like a game of musical chairs. Right now the music is playing," says Steve Gibson, director at online form builder JotForm. "During an 'up' economy it's very tempting to seek out the highest paying job at the most prestigious up and coming company." Sometimes this mentality can lead job seekers to disregard job security.

"The best strategy is and is always to pursue a job that you both enjoy and is within your career goals," says Gibson. "Always be learning, always be pushing forward, and you'll find yourself in charge of your career choices, not at the mercy of fluctuating market conditions."

A growing economy can be a major boon to your career, but don't expect it to do all the work for you. If you know your value as a worker and have a clear vision of your career goals, you're in a great position to benefit from the improving e