Attention, Top Employees: This Is Your Year!

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For the past few years, there’s been a banner hanging in Officeville, U.S.A. that says: You’re lucky to have a job.

Great news, cube-ians! It’s no longer a boss’s market. The tides are turning.

With the economy improving, company profits are growing and employees, beaten down by pay cuts and increased workloads, are feeling emboldened: A Manpower survey late last year showed 84 percent of employees plan to look for a new job in 2011.

Businesses, which know when it’s time to put up or shut up, are taking the cue and making retaining and attracting top talent a top priority this year.

“Companies are sitting up and paying attention to the fact that the job market is opening up and that top talent have choices again,” said Julie Jansen, a career coach and author of books including “I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This.”

Jansen said right now, the shift is gradual — it’s not like a switch suddenly flipped. But the ball is definitely in motion: According to a recent PayScale survey, 67 percent of employers plan to make performance-based pay increases a priority this year.

Now, this is the part where you listen up, top talent! The operative word is “gradual,” so don’t go flipping off the boss, walking out the front door in a blaze of self-inflicted glory.

This is meant to give you encouragement. It's not an invitation to recreate a scene out of “Die Hard.”

20th Century Fox

Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland school of business, may have said it best after an encouraging February jobs report on Friday: “It is still early to break out the champagne.”

So, hold the champagne, hold the dramatic walk-out-and-the-building-blows-up-behind you scenes.

Jansen advises employees—even those at the top of their game—to remain cautious and keep working on improving the company’s bottom line while waiting for a raise and/or looking for another job. And, perhaps her most important point: Don’t jump on the first offer that comes your way.

This is the beginning of the jobs recovery, not the end, so pace yourself.

Still, one little “Yippee-ki-yay!” under your breath is understandable — and even encouraged!

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Contact Pony Blog

  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.