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. www.RightChanges.biz


  1. I'm sure looking forward to the next part of this series. Lovely piece

  2. Wow, what a great posting. I look forward to reading your next edition!

  3. Thank you. We know our loved ones have the best intentions, but just don't know the new job market as you describe it. Therefore they can't really understand when you try to nod and smile at their suggestions, knowing it's like being told to battle a forest fire with a bottle of soda.