I Have a Crystal Ball in My Office

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Actually, it’s a paper weight. That may be why–though I stared at it very hard for at least a minute–I was utterly unable to make any credible-sounding workplace predictions for 2007.

In this I feel lacking. It’s fashionable for those in the workplace arena to make forecasts for the coming year, judging by the newpaper articles and the press releases from recruiters and career coaches that claim to name upcoming office and career trends. I was tempted to just crib those lists, but most of the “forecasts” are so bland they belong in Chinese fortune cookies. Here, a few of the more interesting and/or potentially accurate predictions:

One in five workers will change jobs this year. This one’s from CareerBuilder.com:

48% of workers planning to leave their current positions in the next 12 months say they are looking for a job with better pay and/or career advancement opportunities. 11% are electing to change careers, 9% are retiring and 6% plan to start their own business.

Why will workers quit? Reason numero uno, of course, is moolah. A third cited dissatisfaction with their pay. Over a quarter of workers saw no raise in 2006, and, of those who did, one in five said their raise was a piddling 2% or less. Two thirds didn’t even land a bonus (which makes all that talk of Wall Street’s record paydays this year especially pukey).

But that’s not all we’re kvetching about. Many workers complained of feeling stalled in their climb up the old corporate ladder (85% didn’t get promoted in 2006, and 26% felt “overlooked”)–even as their workloads increased. Work-life balance? Fuggedaboudit. It’s a load of hooey, said a quarter.

This is the year you’ll finally have to open a MySpace account. Call it MyOfficeSpace. While most workers still hew to resumés on parchment, the tipping point is near for workers and recruiters alike to mine for jobs and job seekers on social networking sites. So says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an HR pro whose crystal ball is unusually accurate. He bets on LinkedIn, a professional networking site that’s still tiny–8.5 million users, compared to MySpace’s 67 million–but boasts customers including Microsoft and Target who pay up to $250,000 for access to its database of job hunters. (Want John Challenger to make your 2007 New Year’s career resolutions for you? Come back Monday.)

For us troglodytes who still lack real estate on any networking site, the basic idea is this: it’s a place on the web to which you can direct potential employers that acts as a colorful, online resumés. Most people don’t use them as such today, of course; it’s called social networking for a reason. And if you’ve already got MySpace space showcasing your collection of Chinese-character tattoos, Challenger suggests editing it a bit in case a recruiter comes a-poking. But if you’re unwilling to shut the beauty down, he adds, then open up another account on, say, LinkedIn just for professional use. (More MySpace- and tattoo-related tips from Challenger on Monday.)

Small businesses will go begging for workers. This isn’t so much as a crystal-ball forecast as a stark reality, at least according to Labor Department numbers. Here, from USA Today:

Small employers ramping up hiring plans to levels not seen in two years face a labor shortage that’s forcing many to increase wages and benefits. The pinch is tightest in 26 states with below-average jobless rates, new Labor Department data and private surveys show. More than half those states are especially dependent on small employers, those with fewer than 500 workers.

For you job hunters, this signals a trove of opportunities from mom-and-pops you may have overlooked in your search. The business proprietors quoted in the USAT piece mention adding great benefits and perks–think bonuses and paid sick leave–to compete with the big guys. Smaller shops can offer employees greater responsibility, more independence and chances to advance. Add to that the karmic rewards of helping a small enterprise explode, and suddenly that Fortune 500 offer isn’t looking like a no-brainer anymore.

This is the year Cullen will get an enormous raise with no additional responsibilities. That’s my own forecast. See? I told you my crystal ball was broken.