I have been out of the job market for more than forty years except for a couple of part-time jobs more than twenty years ago. You can imagine my surprise when a priesthood leader asked me to serve in the local Employment Resource Center. The world has greatly changed since I worked as a secretary on military bases. At that time we typed letters on typewriters with multiple copies made with carbon paper. It was okay until a mistake was made; then the erasures had to be done on sometimes as many as six copies. I have not been back in any military office since my oldest child was born in 1972, but I suppose most employees do their own work on computers and send their own letters to the printer.
At any rate, I accepted the assignment to help people find jobs. Little by little, I have learned much about how to write a resume, how to prepare for interviews, the importance of writing “thank you” letters, etc. I was recently asked – again – to get prepared to teach the Career Workshop taught by the resource center.
I came across an interesting book that seems to be way ahead of the crowd on employment matters. The book was written by Richard N. Bolles and is entitled What Color Is Your Parachute? It has the sub-title of “A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers.” It is also “revised and updated annually.” Time Magazine claimed that it is “one of the All-Time 100 Best Nonfiction Books.”
In his opening chapter, Bolles gave “The Two-Minute Crash Course on Today’s Job-Market.” In his crash course he explains how the rules of finding jobs have changed since 2008 when the United States entered “the so-called Great Recession, the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression in 1929.” Here are Bolles’ seven ways of how the job-hunt has changed since 2008:
1. “Employers don’t stay the same. They change their tactics. When times are good, employers often have difficulty filling their vacancies, so they will typically cater to the job-hunter’s preferences in such a season. We like resumes, so they will take the trouble to solicit, look at, and read our resumes. We like job-postings, so they will post their vacancies where we can find them: on their own site or on job-boards, typically.”
In tough times “when employers are find it much easier to fill a vacancy, many – though not all – of them change their tactics.” They stop doing the above noted things and wait for the job hunters to find them. Thus, people think there are no jobs because employers are not responding as they previously did.
2. “Many employers are holding out for the Dream Employee.” Now that more people are looking for employment, “there is a large pool of applicants,” and employers can be more selective. “Thus, in one way or another many employers now reject candidates they would have cheerfully hired eight years ago. Reason: with the recovery still unsteady and slow, employers are more averse than ever to taking risks, so they keep thinking that now with all those unemployed out there, maybe somebody better will come along next week. Of course, this ideal employee … may not even exist.”
3. “The length of the average job-hunt has increased dramatically. From 1994 through 2008, roughly half of all unemployed job-seekers found jobs within five weeks. After 2008, a far greater proportion – 30% of all unemployed persons in the U.S. – spent and are still spending more than a year looking for work. Before 2008 that figure was just 10%.”
4. “The length of time the average job lasts has decreased dramatically. There has been a great increase in the number of temp or part-time workers, since 2008. That number stands at 2,800,000 as I write, and that includes independent contractors, consultants, and freelancers. In a related figure, the number of people with part-time jobs who really want to work full-time is 7,400,000 currently. The reason for this rise in temporary hiring, not surprisingly, is employers’ desire to keep their costs down….”
5. “Job hunting is increasingly becoming a repetitive activity in the lives of many of us. … Our typical work history now is going to be three careers over our lifetime, and at least eight jobs. This puts a premium on every one of us becoming masters of the job-hunt, in its post-2008 form.
6. “Job-hunting has moved more and more online since 2008. … As social media and other sites have become more and more popular – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, WhatsApp, e-mail, Skype, YouTube, etc. – job-hunters and employers alike have figured out how to use them in the job-hunt. Now, ever-larger portions of the job-hunt can be done online. And the future is coming face! The future is that more and more will be done on mobile devices, rather than laptops. If you have a particular issue, and you just don’t know how to find the appropriate social site, do a search on Google….
“If you are out of work for any length of time, and you do not have the skills of knowing how to use a computer or how to access the Internet, you will be wise beyond your years if you go take some computer courses….”
7. “Increasingly job-hunters and employers speak two different languages. What has gotten worse since 2008 is the fact that employers and job-hunters speak two entirely different languages, though often using the same words. Take the word `skills.’ When we’re job-hunting, you get turned down because – some employers say - `You don’t have the skills we’re looking for.’ You think they’re referring to such things as analyzing, research, communicating, etc. No, they really mean `experience,’ though they use the word `skills.’ …
“You should assume that the employers’ world is like a foreign country; you must learn their language, and their customs, before you visit….”
If you or your loved one or friend is out of work or expecting to be out of work, I encourage you or them to get the current copy of What Color Is Your Parachute? There is much information in this book that can help you with your job search. I was so impressed with the book that I considered buying a copy for each of my children even though all of them are currently working!
Since I have been working at the resource center, I have noticed a few things about the people who come for help. We see very few professionals – doctors, dentists, engineers, accountants, etc. When they are out of work, most of them already have the knowledge and skills to find another job even though it might take some time. If they contact us, they need very little assistance. They usually have plenty of skills and training. Their resumes are usually well done. They may need some practice interviewing or networking, but they usually have everything under control.
Most of the people we see in the office have an “issue” of some kind. They may be older. They may have been out of the job market for a long time. They may have no skills or training. They may have legal issues. Some of them have never written a resume or filled out job applications. Some of them come to our office with the idea that we have jobs to give them; we do not.
We invite everyone to attend our Career Workshop, either to learn job-hunting skills or to polish them. I took the Career Workshop twice even though I do not intend to look for work, and I was very impressed with the offerings. I believe that every teenager should attend the workshop where they can learn life skills. Now I am preparing to teach the workshop – me, a woman who has not worked outside the home for over forty years!
The very first thing we ask attendees to do is to evaluate their talents, interests, and values; we then ask them to set goals and develop a plan to achieve those goals. This is the part of the workshop that I believe could help every young person greatly before they go to college. The next unit is about identifying and developing the resources needed to reach the goals. The third unit is about interacting with resources, and the fourth unit teaches how to negotiate, grow in the new position, and how to advance in a career. All of these are covered well in What Color Is Your Parachute? The book, however, lacks the ability to give personal assistance and networking, both of which is available in the workshop.
Our nation – and particularly our state – is not in a recovering economy, but there are jobs for those people who know how to find them. I encourage all of you – both those with jobs and those without – to determine what you need to do in order to be fully employed and capable of taking care of yourselves and your families.