Sunday, February 28, 2010

What Employed People Need to Know

Even though you are employed today, you probably know people who are not. You could be in the ranks of the unemployed one day. Are you prepared? There are things you should be doing now to make the job transition easier.

The Realities of the New Job Market

The first thing you need to do to be prepared for a job transition is understand how the job market has changed. Job seekers can only be successful if they adapt.
One of the truths about the new job market is that your next job will not be your last. People will average 13 jobs and 4 careers in a lifetime. There are not many industries left that are safe from reductions in force (RIFs).

To read more about the realities of the new job market, click this link:

Develop New Contacts and Maintain Your Existing Ones

Since networking is the number one way to find that next opportunity, now is the time to develop and maintain your network. In addition to developing contacts where you work, develop and maintain contacts within the industry. To do this, be active in industry networking groups, stay in touch with every contact at least once a year, and keep your Linked In profile current.

Maintain Your Marketable Skills

Do not let your skills get stale. If your company offers training, take it. If they don’t offer training, take it anyway by investing in yourself. Be sure the first training you take increases your marketability before you take training that is of general interest.

Maintain a List of Your Accomplishments

Every day, or at a minimum every week, record your accomplishments, the training you have taken (including webinars), and the technical skills you have developed.
There are two uses for this information. First, you will have a record of your accomplishments to use to update your resume and to use in answering behavioral interview questions. Second, you can offer a copy of the list to your manager before it is time for your performance review. Downplay the list (“I do this for me; if this is helpful to you, great”) and the manager, if he /she is smart, will appreciate having the details of this information. You may even get a better review out of it.

Keep Up on Your Industry

Keep up on the industry. If there is something new in your industry, get training in that new area and then offer to your management to teach your peers what you have learned about the subject, setting you up as the subject matter expert. Also keep an eye on the industry so you know when the industry is starting to falter and change jobs before everyone else does.

Grow or Go

Jim Collins, the author of the wonderful book Good to Great said at a seminar luncheon, “Do not spend 5 years getting 2 years worth of experience”. If you are not growing in your current position, offer to take on new tasks or move into a different group to serve in a new role that will increase your marketability. If there is no place to move to in the existing company where you can continue to grow, you need to move to another company where you can. You do not want to let your skills stagnate, making you less marketable.

Save Between 8 and 12 Months of Ready Cash

Experts are now saying we should have between 8 and 12 months of cash available in the event of a job transition; that is the money needed to cover the time you may be looking for the next opportunity. If you do not have 8 months of cash saved, begin saving what you can until you do.

Keep Up Your Appearance

If there are any areas you want to address before you need to go on an interview, whether it is your weight, your haircut or hair color, or your wardrobe, now is the time. Be sure you are confident enough in your appearance that you would not hesitate to go on an interview should the call come tomorrow.

Assist Others

One day you will want and need the assistance of others to network into a company or to provide information through an informational interview so you can land that next job. This is a great time to be the kind of person you want others to be and do the things you will want others to do when you need them.

• Make time to meet with job seekers when they want to ask questions about the company you work for.

To learn more about the informational interview, check out these links.

• Offer to give the hiring manager a copy of a job seeker’s resume (Note: there is a different between referring someone and recommending someone).

• Volunteer to mentor a job seeker who is in the same industry.

• Volunteer at a job networking group.

Do for others what you hope they will do for you one day.

Your current job, even your next job, will not be your last. Start today preparing for the transition.

Friday, February 19, 2010

To Friends, Spouses, and Parents of Job Seekers Part 3 – Tips for Being Supportive of Your Job Seeker

This multiple part series is not addressed to job seekers. Instead it is directed to the friends, spouses, and parents of job seekers. They want to help their job seeker loved ones and just do not know where to start or, with the kindest intentions, are doing the wrong thing.

Job seekers: Do yourself a favor, and to your circle of support, by forwarding the link or giving a hard copy of this series to your friends, spouse, and / or parents so they will know how to support you in your job search.

Dear friends, spouse, and parents of a current job seeker:

Nothing feels as helpless as wanting to help a loved one in a job search and not knowing where to begin. In the case of the spouse, the job transition impacts you directly as well. Knowledge is strength.

Part 1 shared the realities of the new job market that the job seeker is facing. The job market has drastically changed and the job seeker must adapt in order to successfully land that next job.

Part 2 covered the various approaches used in finding a job and the success rate for each so you know what is required of the job seeker.

In this third and final part, we share ideas on how to (and how not to) be supportive of your job seeker.

Step 1 – Understand the New Realities

The very first thing a person who wants to be supportive of a job seeker needs to know is the new realities of the job market. If you are of the Baby Boomer generation or older, or have not been on the job market recently, you would be shocked how much it has changed. The job seeker didn’t do anything to create this change. It happened and to be successful the job seeker must adapt to the new job market.

Without understanding the reality the job seeker is facing, you cannot really be supportive. Read up on the new realities of the market as outlined in Part 1 of this series.

Step 2 – Understand What the Job Seeker Considers as Supportive

It is important to understand what your job seeker considers supportive. Even though the golden rule is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, people want and need different things. As a senior manager in Information Technology, I learned that the people working for me are all individuals and I could not use the same approach to motivate them all. Some wanted recognition and others would rather die than get public recognition. The same is true of all people. Each person has something that makes him / her feel loved.

A fabulous book on this topic is Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. The basic principle of the book is that we each have our own “currency” or ways for feeling loved and appreciated.

The five currencies or love languages from Mr Chapman’s book are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. If you have not read his book, I highly suggest you do. The concepts outlined in this book are helpful in all close relationships, business or otherwise.

If your job seeker’s “currency” is not service, your offer to help does not mean as much to him. It would be like offering Monopoly money to someone who is not playing the game. You should determine his “currency”.

Spouses: you have your own “currency” too and the job search impacts you directly. Read The Five Love Languages book together and identify each of your love languages; more on this later.

Tips for Being Supportive

The following are a few ideas on how you can be supportive. We also listed actions that are counterproductive to your job seeker.

There is no shame being in a job transition. In this new job market, most of us will be in a job transition again. Statistically people will have 13+ jobs in a lifetime and 4 careers.

Be intentional about keeping in touch with your job seeker as often, if not more than ever before, while he is in a job transition. There is no shame in being in a job transition so friends and family should not act as if anything is wrong. Do not let any slight discomfort you feel keep you from being a good friend. Your turn to be in a job transition will come and you will realize how important friends and family are.

The RightChanges’ article titled “There is no Shame in Being Unemployed” can be found at:

How to handle finances during the job search. Job seekers need to make adjustments in their spending while they are not bringing in an income. Once a person enters the job transition, the spouse should sit down with the job seeker and develop a financial plan.

When planning events, friends and family should keep in mind that job seekers cannot spend like they did previously. You do not need to pay for the job seeker’s dinners or tickets; instead plan events that do not cost as much or find ways where the job seeker can be responsible for an aspect of the event, like doing the driving.

There may come a time when the job seeker needs help keeping the roof over the head, food on the table, or the car in the driveway. There are organizations that exist to help. You would not hesitate to call 911 if your place was on fire. Even a firefighter would not hesitate to call for help if her place was on fire because we all know there are times we need the help of others. The number 211 is the phone number for the United Way. The United Way has a network of organizations, such as food banks who provide meals and churches who provide rent assistance, to help those who need it. Be sure your job seekers knows about the 211 number and encourage them to call the United Way as soon as they realize they will need assistance. They should not wait until they are desperate; there are more options available for assistance the earlier in the process that they call.

It is important to know how to ask a job seeker how she is doing. Over the years, many job seekers have shared with me that they wished people would simply ask “how are you?” or “how is your day going” or “how can I help you with job leads or contacts?”

Although intending well, asking details about the job search may put the job seeker in the position of feeling like a failure by having to share updates that are less than positive. “Have you had any interviews?”, “Why is it taking so long to find a job?, “How is the job search going?” can be dreaded questions to someone in the job search. It is the equivalent of asking a single person “why aren’t you married yet?” which can be interpreted as “what is wrong with you?” And never show pity in your tone when you ask.

Give them what they need. Going back to The Five Love Languages mentioned above, it is important to give the job seeker what he needs.

If the “currency” is affirmation, bring up previous accomplishments (turning flattery into a sincere compliment) and assure him that even thought the job market is very different and tough, he will find that job and the company will be lucky to have him.

If the “currency” is receiving gifts, a gift card for gas or groceries will probably be appreciated. Another idea for a gift is a gift certificate for dinner for two, for the job seeker and spouse, and offering to sit their kids.

If quality time is the “currency”, schedule some time on the weekend to do something you both consider fun, allowing the job seeker to get away from the job search and get out enjoying the day.

For job seekers who have the “currency” of physical touch, a reassuring touch on the arm, a hug, or a pat on the back will be appreciated.

Nagging, pushing, ordering, and applying guilt are negative approaches used to get someone to do something. For job seekers, who may already feel bad about themselves, these approaches add something negative to an already negative moment in their lives. It takes a good attitude to land that job; doing anything that makes the job seeker feel worse is counterproductive.

Assist but do not take over. I have seen family members, spouses, and friends take over the job search. In a couple of instances the person took the job seeker to a networking meeting and then asked all of the questions, gathered all of the handouts, and did all of the talking. This does not help the job seeker’s self confidence.

Another example happened at a meeting where I was the guest speaker. A job seeker handed me her business card and when I noticed it was printed askew, I asked if she knew about a company that provides professional business cards for free (other than the price of shipping). She said she knew of the company but her boyfriend wanted to help her job search and created the cards for her. Having unprofessional cards does not help.

Remind the job seeker of previous accomplishments and unique skills. In order to sell their talents and get hired, job seekers must identify their competitive advantage: the traits, skills, and prior accomplishments that make them unique.
As humans, we all tend to minimize the skills and traits that come easy to us. We think because it is easy for us, it can’t be anything special. The truth is that others admire us for these skills and wish we were as good at them.

It will help your job seeker by reminding her of her unique skills, abilities, and previous accomplishments. You do not have to wait to be asked before offering up this information; it will help the job seeker’s self confidence to be reminded of them.

Accomplishments should be formatted in STAR format. STAR stands for Situation or Task that you faced, the Actions you took, and the Results you received. For more about capturing STARs, go to:

Actively help the job seeker connect with people you know. You may not have a job to offer but you do know people. You may not even realize that people you know can help or a person they know can. Get from the job seeker his marketing plan which includes the titles of the jobs and the target companies he is pursuing. Place the marketing plan on your refrigerator or someplace where you will see it frequently. When you are at parties or other events, find out if anyone there has a contact at any of the target companies. Even if your contact does not work in the same field the job seeker is pursuing, it is still helpful for them to meet so the job seeker can gather information that will be helpful in the search. This meeting is referred to as an informational interview.

For more information about the marketing plan, go to:

For more information about the informational interview, go to:


Spouses: Job seekers must go to network meetings to develop contacts through which they will get job leads. These networking meetings are essential for the search (see Part 2 of this series if you haven’t already). The downside is that these meetings take away from valuable time with you and the family. It is important to realize and remember that the job search is a temporary situation. Do not make negative comments or show negative body language when your spouse mentions or leaves for these events.

One mistake I saw a spouse make was to accompany the job seeker to a meeting with a young child in tow. The child was disruptive to the meeting for everyone. If the future hiring manager was in attendance, the job seeker blew a chance at getting employed.

As the job seeker’s partner, you need to feel loved as well. Now that you know what your love language is, negotiate for it. For instance, if your “currency” is quality time, then pick a night when there are no important networking meetings and create a date night. There are many special things you, as a couple, can do that do not cost a lot. Realize that during this transition, you will need to give more to your job seeking spouse than you receive. Once the job has been landed, then it is your turn to be the receiver.

What to do when your loved one is not getting results in the job search. It takes longer to find a job during this recession than it did when the economy was booming (or appeared to be booming but ended up busting). When a job seeker has been in a job search for more than a year though, it is usually as a result of one of the following three reasons:

1) The job seeker does not have a good attitude. The job seeker may not have had a good attitude initially before starting the search. Job seekers have to take the time to go through the grieving process and get to the point of acceptance and even get excited about the opportunities that could lie ahead.
The job seeker may have started with a good attitude. If he is not conducting the search correctly, a bad attitude can result from the lack of results.

2) The job seeker has not taken an inventory of his skills, abilities, and accomplishments and learned to articulate his competitive advantage. You would not think about selling a product without knowing the product, how it works, and why it is better than your competition’s. A job seeker can’t sell themselves either without knowing how a company will benefit by hiring him.

3) The job seeker is using the wrong approach in searching for the job. As stated in part 2 of this series, networking is the best approach for finding the job lead and getting the interview. Too many job seekers instead rely on applying for jobs on the internet. Not only is that approach unproductive, it causes the job seeker to spend too much time at home. The job seeker is then cut off from contact with others; he does not get the sunshine he needs to stay positive (vitamin D), and the lack of response from the applications only cause further depression. After a while the job seeker will become immobilized by this depression.

We have already said you can’t do the search for them without further negatively affecting their self confidence. If the depression is so deep it becomes clinical, a professional may need to be consulted. Otherwise, there are a few things you can do.

1) Assure them that the reason they are not having success is not because of them. Let them know that you have discovered how much the job market has changed. Give them the following link so they can read for themselves that they need to adapt a new approach.

2) Your job seeker may need to consult a job search expert. No one would enter a championship round of a sporting event without the right equipment, without a coach for feedback, and without practicing. Yet many people go into a job search, where a livelihood is on the line, without the right equipment (a list of prior accomplishments and powerful marketing materials) and without practicing (interviews). You may consider offering to hire a job search coach to give them that expert assistance and they can arrange to pay you back once they are employed if they prefer.

Your job seeker loved-one needs your support during the job transition and, with the information provided in this series, you can provide the right type of support.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

To Friends, Spouses, and Parents of Job Seekers Part 2 – Approaches to Finding a Job

This multiple part series is not addressed to job seekers. Instead it is directed to the friends, spouses, and parents of job seekers. They want to help their job seeker loved ones and just do not know where to start or, with the kindest intentions, are doing the wrong thing.

Job seekers: Do yourself a favor and to your circle of support by forwarding the link or giving a hard copy of this series to your friends, spouse, and / or parents so they will know how to support you in your job search.

Dear friends, spouse, and parents of a current job seeker:

Nothing feels as helpless as wanting to help a loved one in a job search and not knowing where to begin. In the case of the spouse, the job transition impacts you directly as well. Knowledge is strength.

Part 1 shared the realities of the new job market that the job seeker is facing. The job market has drastically changed and the job seeker must adapt to successfully land that next job.

Part 2 covers the various approaches used in finding a job and the success rate for each so you know what is required of the job seeker.

In Part 3 we will share ideas on how to (and how not to) be supportive of your job seeker.

Approaches to Finding a Job
There are a number of approaches that a job seeker can employ to find a job opportunity. The following details each one.

Job Fairs

Television news, newspapers, and other media frequently announce job fairs that are being held in town. Each job fair is sponsored by a company, governmental agency, or a job fair organizer. There is usually no charge to job seekers for attending these events. There may, though, be a fee to the employers for hosting booths / tables in order to participate at the event. These fees are used to help offset the costs associated with sponsoring the fair; rarely are the fees sufficient to make a profit.

To make the most of job fairs, the job seeker should contact the fair sponsor and get a list of hiring companies that will be participating at the event and the total number and types of jobs these employers will be hiring for.

In today’s job market, there are many more people looking for jobs than there are jobs so there is no shortage of resumes coming into the company from other sources. It usually isn’t necessary, or the best use of an employers’ money and their employees’ time, to host booths at job fairs. The biggest benefit is the good will the company generates by taking part in such an event.

Many jobs seekers know firsthand that at such events, the companies’ representatives do not have time to speak to each and every candidate that approaches the booth. Usually the employees take a copy of the candidate’s resume, adding it to a pile of others, and encourage every candidate to apply on-line.

Many job fairs are staffed by universities, technical schools, and outplacement firms to sell their services. The military sometimes has a presence with the goal to recruit and government agencies are there to attract candidates that otherwise would not have considered a government job. It is a great idea for job seekers to supplement their skills or to get assistance with the job search if needed. The military is a great place to have a career, to get training and experience. A Job seeker just doesn’t have to stand in line and wade through crowds of people to consider those options or to be told to apply on-line. The time might be better spent using other approaches.

School Career Fairs

A corporate recruiter told me that her company hires more frequently from school / university career fairs then normal job fairs. Recent graduates have training on the latest technologies or techniques. By being recent graduates without a lot of job experience, they do not cost the company as much as job seekers with years of job experience and higher salary expectations.

Even if the job seeker is not a recent graduate, he can still contact his school to get information about upcoming career fairs and, unless otherwise specified, can make use of the opportunity by attending. He should still request a list of participating companies and the number and types of jobs they will be hiring for.

Newspaper Ads

Newspapers used to be a key method of identifying companies who are hiring and the positions that are open. Watch any old TV show or movie and the want ads were the first place job seekers turned to for this information. Those days are over. Companies are deploying other methods (such as the on-line job boards) to get the word out. What used to be page after page of “Help Wanted” ads, now in some papers barely takes up two columns.

The Internet Job Boards

The positions that used to be posted in the newspaper are now posted on the commercial job boards (ex. Monster, CareerBuilder) or on individual company web sites. There are listing aggregators (ex. that scan other sites including on-line newspaper postings and compile a comprehensive list of open positions.

Many companies are now utilizing software that scans resumes for certain keywords. If a resume does not have the acceptable percentage of keywords, the resume is disregarded. Of the remaining qualified resumes, the person responsible for selecting candidates for an interview may take the resumes from the top of the pile, or from the middle to review. It can be pure chance that a resume is selected for review even if it passed the scanning software.


Some companies pay recruiting firms to help identify qualified candidates. Since the company pays for this service, there is no charge to the job seeker.

Note: there are some recruiting firms that charge a fee, usually a substantial one, to job seekers and say they guarantee they will find them a job. No one can make the claim that they can guarantee the person will get a job unless the recruiting firm hires them; that would be the only jobs they control. They usually mean a portion of the fee is refundable if the candidate does not find a job. Many consumer advocates and job search experts suggest staying clear of this type of recruiter.

Before the advent of resume scanning software, companies leveraged recruiters to help weed through the flood of resumes to find the best candidate for the job. Recruiters then present a number of candidates that fit the bill. The recruiter doesn’t really care which of the candidates are eventually hired; they just want a happy customer – the company. When a job seeker uses a recruiter exclusively to find her a job, she is putting the job search in the hands of someone whose interest is not that of the candidate’s but instead the company’s who is paying for their services.


I had to fight the impulse to call networking a new approach to finding a job. In fact, networking has been around since the dawn of man (and woman). Networking is not complicated. It is merely having a friend or contact who knows and likes the job seeker suggest that they talk to another person the contact knows who is looking for a person with those skills or qualities. Whether it is a family member, a friend of a friend, or a new contact, many jobs were and are found going through someone who knows someone.

Comparing Approaches

In order to make a wise decision about which approach the job seeker should use, we should look at the success rates associated with each. Job seekers are successful finding jobs using each of these approaches. Knowing the success rates for each will help job seekers know where to spend the bulk of their time.

We have already discussed how job fairs yield low results because candidates have very little time with company representatives, their resumes are added to a pile of others, and are directed to apply on-line which they could have done without attending.

School career fairs yield a bit more success than regular job fairs yet since these are only scheduled periodically, the job seeker doesn’t want to count on that approach solely for finding a job.

The biggest problem with newspaper ads and the internet job boards is that only 15% of the available jobs are listed. Many companies do not post all of their available jobs. The 85% of the jobs not posted is referred to as the “hidden” job market.

In part, the hidden job market is because some companies would rather have employee referrals as the method to bring in qualified candidates instead of posting the position and getting flooded with resumes where many of the applicants are not anywhere near qualified. Why would a job seeker apply for a position they are not qualified for? They are under the misguided concept that Human Resources (HR) or the hiring manager will look at the resume and take the time to find another position for them within the company.

In some cases a position is not posted because there is a person serving in that role already who is about to be let go for performance reasons and, if the position was posted, the existing employee may see it and tip the company’s hand.

Another reason a position may not be posted is that the company knows what skills they need, they are just not ready yet to start the laborious process of receiving resumes and fielding phone calls.

Whatever the reason, the majority of open positions will not be found in the paper or on the internet.

The most frequently quoted statics for people who are successful getting a job by applying to ads from newspapers or on-line on the internet is less than 10% and remember only 15% of the jobs are posted. Not good odds.

15% is the success rate most frequently quoted for people finding a job through recruiters and the recruiter’s goal is to make the company happy, not necessarily to find a job for a particular candidate.

The best success rate by approach for finding a job is through networking. 75% of job seekers find job opportunities through networking and it is through networking that the job seeker will find the hidden job market.

Are we suggesting that job seekers not go to job or school career fairs, not apply to ads, and not use recruiters? Not at all. What is recommended is that job seekers spend a proportional amount of time using a particular approach based on its success rate. Therefore 75% or more of a job seeker’s time should be spent on networking and no more than 10% of their time applying to on-line ads.

Too many job seekers limit themselves to applying on-line and months or years later are still baffled that they have not found a job. Is it the easiest way to apply for a job? Certainly! It just is not the most effective approach and could greatly lengthen the time it takes to find a job. A person can drive a horse and buggy on the interstate and eventually get to where he is going; he will just not get there as fast as he would if he drove a car.

Where to Network

As we discussed, networking is the most successful approach to finding job opportunities. Developing and leveraging contacts is the key.

Level 1 Contacts – Level 1 contacts are those that the job seeker knows well. This is family, friends, former co-workers etc.

Level 2 Contacts – Level 2 contacts are those that level 1 contacts know or people the job seeker knows, just not as well. These include friends and contacts of parents, the spouse, and friends of friends, as well as the job seeker’s doctor, dentist, hair stylist / barber, or people from clubs, associations, and activities in which the job seeker is involved.

It is typical for a job seeker to leverage her level 1 & 2 contacts and not get a qualified lead. For many reasons, it is beneficial for the job seeker to increase her contacts. That is true even once she has landed that new job – but we will cover that in the next article after this series.

There are a number of ways to develop new contacts.

Job Networking Groups

In almost every city there are numerous job networking groups. Many are church based; others are not. Crossroads Career Network is one nationwide job networking group. I am affiliated with Crossroads and lead the chapter at my church.

In addition to developing new contacts, the benefits of a job networking group include:

* Learning new job search tips
* Sharing experiences with other job seekers
* Receiving encouragement during the job search

Job seekers should not limit themselves to job networking groups though because most of the people in attendance are also in a job transition. Although they usually have information about companies that are hiring, they are not the hiring managers.

Industry Networking Groups

Networking groups, whether based on skills (PMI for Project manager, IIBA for Business analyst for instance) or based on industry (SHRM for HR) are target rich environments for networking. Most of the people in attendance are employed and may include hiring managers or employees looking for people to refer for one of the positions in their company.

Job seekers in Atlanta GA are fortunate to have a guide published by the Atlanta Business Chronicle titled The Book of Organizations (not to be confused with the Book of Lists). The Book of Organizations contains the industry networking groups in the metro Atlanta area. I did not find another city’s Business Journal that published a similar list. (If you know of any, let me know by sending an e-mail to

Other Contacts

Every daily interaction is an opportunity to develop a new contact. It just requires the job seeker to get out of the house and interact with others.

Volunteerism is a great way to establish contacts while helping others. It may also be an opportunity to hone existing skills or develop new ones.

Job seekers need to make a calendar of events to attend in the coming weeks. The plan gives them a goal as well as a sense of accomplishment as they mark things complete. Getting from behind the computer and getting out with other people also helps the job seeker feel connected and not as alone in the job search.

Especially for spouses, it is hard to understand why the job seeking spouse must be away in the evenings after going out so often to meet someone for coffee or lunch. The fact is that most networking events are held before or after work. In the case of the industry network meetings, that is because most of the attendees work and therefore the events have to be held during non-work times. Although job networking groups are attended primarily by people in a job transition, the volunteers usually are employed and therefore have to hold the meetings before or after they go to work. Either way it takes away valuable family time. Understand it is necessary that the job seeker attend such events. In Part 3, I’ll share some ideas on how to find a balance in the schedule, time for networking and time for family or the spouse.

We have discussed how different the job market is than ever before. Just like the home phone, the job market has gone through a metamorphosis and there is no looking back. It changed, we didn’t get a vote. We just have to learn how it changed so the job seeker and those who support and encourage them can adapt to it.

We discussed the various approaches your loved one has to find the job opportunities and the success rates associated with each.

Now that you have an understanding of the new job market and what it requires, in Part 3 we’ll discuss various ways you (the friend, spouse, or parent of a job seeker) can be supportive and helpful to your loved one in the job search process. We will also caution against some pitfalls that well intentioned supporters fall into when trying to be helpful that actually hurt more than help.

Copyright RightChanges, LLC.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

To Friends, Spouses, and Parents of Job Seekers Part 1 – The New Job Market

This multiple part series is not addressed to job seekers. Instead it is directed to the friends, spouses, and parents of job seekers. They want to help their job seeker loved ones and just do not know where to start or, with the kindest intentions, are doing the wrong thing. Job seekers: Do yourself a favor and to your circle of support by forwarding or giving a copy of this series to your friends, spouse, and / or parents so they will know how to support you in your job search.

Dear friends, spouse, and parents of a current job seeker:

Nothing feels as helpless as wanting to help a loved one in a job search and not knowing where to begin. I have heard this from a number of family members that I have met at events at which I have spoken and in my one-on-one coaching. In the case of the spouse, the job transition impacts you directly as well. Knowledge is strength. The following will give you information about the new job market and later in the series ideas on how to (and how not to) be supportive of the job seeker.

The New Job Market

If you have not been on the job market recently, you would not recognize it. Not only has the whole market changed, the approaches to successfully find the job have changed as well. Understanding the realities of the new job market will help you realize what job seekers are experiencing.

Not knowing how the new job market operates is like a job seeker walking into a pitch black warehouse and being told he has to walk to the other side. The job seeker can’t even see his hand in front of his face. Not only can he not see where the other side of the warehouse is, he can’t see the obstacles that are in his way. He can work as hard as possible but without knowing where the other side is, he has no way to measure progress. Knowing the realities of the new job market is like turning on the lights. Even though it is not a pretty place to be, the job seeker can see where he needs to go and what obstacles he needs to overcome and only then can he make the progress he needs to make.

Gone are the days of the gold watch retirement. Where companies used to only lay off bad performers, today positions are eliminated regardless of the person’s performance. Where good performers could expect employment for life at a single company, today workers can expect to have over 13 jobs and up to 4 careers in a lifetime. Where companies used to offer pension and benefits, today most companies do not offer a pension and many are discontinuing the 401K match and cutting back on benefits. Where companies used to have a majority of full-time workers, today companies are looking at a contingent and part-time work force. Where companies used to handle all functions in-house, today many companies outsource many, if not most, aspects of the work. Where in the past larger companies offered the most stability, today smaller companies seem to be more agile and therefore more stable. Where people used to plan to retire at 62, today workers are looking at the possibility of working the rest of their lives in one capacity or another.

What caused this new market? Many things contributed to reshaping it to what it is today including but not limited to the following:

Dot com and telecom busts
Export of jobs
Gas prices
Housing, banking, and auto industries
Travel and hospitality industry troubles
Corporate mergers
Stock market “correction” and the recession
9/11, war, and conflicts
Natural disasters (floods, Katrina, Haiti, fires) and global diseases (SARS, H1N1)

The results are:

Layoff of highly skilled employees. You could form a company with the talent that is in any job networking meeting at any one time.

Unprecedented unemployment. When you hear the high unemployment number (10.3 % in GA), realize it is greatly understated. The only way the DOL has to measure the number of unemployed is by counting the number of checks they send out each week. Therefore the number does not include those who are out of a job but do not qualify for unemployment (like contractors); it does not include those who have expired their benefits nor the job seekers who have given up looking. It does not include those who are looking for a job but are still on severance and it does not include those who did not apply out of some illogical sense of shame.

Reluctance to spend. Even those who are employed are reluctant to spend money because their house and stocks are not worth what they used to be and people need or want to increase their retirement fund. This reluctance to spend results in the closing of more businesses.

Delayed retirement. The natural attrition that would occur due to a generation of people retiring is not occurring because the money needed for retirement isn’t there anymore. Exasperating the problem is that some people who were retired are coming out of retirement because their house & stocks have lost value or their retirement benefits have been taken away and they must now work to cover their living expenses.

Companies are not knocking on job seekers’ doors and recruiters are not readily returning phone calls. In certain industries before the market changed, companies actively pursued people with certain skills. Following the dot com bust in 2001, the phones of Information Technology workers did not ring like they used to. This is true of other industries as well.

For years, recruiters used to be the main source of finding a job. That was true at least until the invention of internet job boards. Recruiters are working a smaller number of job openings yet receiving tons of resumes and phone calls from job seekers.

Today workers need to be “Me, Incorporated”. They need to think of themselves as a self contained unit, not dependant on a particular company for job security or sole source of benefits.

To illustrate how workers need to view themselves, I use the analogy of the residential phone and how it changed with time. Think back to the old phones that were shown in the TV shows Lassie and Leave It To Beaver. There was one phone in each house in a central location, whether in the kitchen or at the bottom of the stairs, and the phone was hard-wired into the wall. If the phone was removed, it would leave a hole in the wall and loose wires. Today if people even have a home phone at all, it is modular and there is a modular plug in almost every room. We plug the modular phone in and it works well. We can easily and cleanly remove the phone and plug it into another modular outlet where it works equally well. The job seeker must be like the modular phone; plug into a company and work well but at the company’s discretion or the worker’s, unplug themselves cleanly and plug in elsewhere and function equally well there.

This is the reality of the new job market.

In part 2 of the series we’ll discuss the approach that the job seeker must use to successfully find a job.

Copyright RightChanges, LLC.