Are you thinking about changing jobs? The good news is that 2017 looks like a good year to take a leap. The big reason is a healthier job market.

Specifically, last month’s employment report marked the 76th straight month of job growth, the longest monthly streak since late 1930s. The overall unemployment rate is at 4.8 percent and the unemployment rate for Minnesota is 3.7 percent. A national survey found 53 percent of small businesses hiring or trying to hire, with 47 percent unable to find the skilled workers they need.

The best way to find work or a better job is by tapping into your network of friends, colleagues, acquaintances and mentors. A cottage industry of academic research and industry employment studies convincingly demonstrates that half or more of all jobs come through informal channels — your connections. Your network is your most valuable asset when it comes to finding work, especially a job you want. What’s more, many jobs are never posted, especially among smaller and medium-sized organizations. Your network might let you know who is hiring.

Keep in mind that a job transition often isn’t a one-and-done decision. When you change employers you will meet different people and learn new skills which, at some point, may open up other possibilities for you to pursue.

The potential opportunities opening up for workers in the current economy is an important reminder why savings matter. To be sure, savings is a buffer against trouble. For instance, a safe forecast is that another recession and bear market in stocks and bonds lies in our future. The timing is uncertain, however. (Don’t believe anyone who says they can pinpoint the exact date.) You can’t get rid of the uncertainty. Savings helps getting through difficult times whenever it happens.

Still, I want to emphasize the role savings plays in creating the kind of financial cushion that allows for job, career and lifestyle experimentation and risk-taking. In particular, you want to accumulate the kind of plain vanilla savings parked in an old-fashioned savings account, a blue chip money market fund, Treasury bills, or some combination of the three. Nothing fancy. No swinging for the financial fences. You want the savings to be there when you need it.

Personal finance is figuring out what is it you really want out of life. What kind of careers or careers do you want to have? What are your passions and interests? How do you want to spend your time? Savings is critical to turning those goals and desires into reality.

 

Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, “Marketplace,” commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.