01 September 2012

The Search for Work

"It's not about who you know, it's about who knows you." 

--Jeffrey Gitomer

The first Monday of September is set aside in the United States to celebrate "Labor Day." Countries as diverse as Australia, India, and Norway, all have their own way of honoring the contributions of "labour."  

An official holiday in most places, Labor Day is designed to focus on the achievement of workers and is related to the "eight-hour" movement which proposed giving workers 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation, and 8 hours of rest. This effort, which began with the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain in the 19th century, was adopted in the U.S. in 1938 as part of the New Deal's Fair Labor Standards Act.

Unfortunately, too many households are again on the sidelines and will not be participating in this year's parade.

Who's missing?

There are nearly 24 million adults in the U. S. who are either unemployed, marginally attached to the labor force, or employed part-time for economic reasons. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

When you put these three groups together the underemployment rate is 15%. This is almost 7 points higher than the official 8.3% unemployment rate as of the end of July 2012.

While the private sector created 4.2 million jobs in the past 27 months, the American workforce is down nearly 5 million jobs since the Great Recession started almost five years ago in December of 2007. This most recent recession ended in June 2009 when the National Bureau of Economic Research declared it to be over. Even so, the lingering effects of the severe downturn continue for many households.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, economist Edward Lazear observed, "What distinguishes this labor market recovery is not that jobs are finally being created but rather the rate of growth is so slow it will be 2016 before we return to pre-recession employment levels."

The country needs about 250,000 to 300,000 net new jobs monthly to begin pushing down the unemployment rate over the longer term.  From December 2011 through February 2012, jobs increased at an average rate of 252,000 per month. During the last three months, that average has fallen to 75,000.

Geography may be destiny

U. S.-based firms that are multinational companies are hiring--overseas. These companies increased their workforces at home by 0.1% in 2010 while expanding internationally by 1.5% according to the Commerce Department.

The entrepreneurial spirit is still around. The Kauffman Foundation reported earlier this year that 320 out of every 100,000 adults in the U. S. started businesses in 2011, one of the highest formation rates in the past 16 years. The problem is that fewer new firms are hiring workers. People now start a business and run it by themselves or with a smaller staff.  

Where are new businesses being created? Nevada, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, California, Louisiana, and Florida, Kauffman stated. 

The best way to find work

With more than 12 million unemployed going after 4 million openings, how does anyone find the better job?

The way they always have--by word of mouth.

Those looking for a job should think about separating themselves in a crowded field. Not by using the latest fad in resume-writing, but through a credible third-party referral. The importance of someone speaking, making a call, or writing on an applicant's behalf cannot be overstated. This is the way for those unemployed, especially longer-term or older individuals, to gain an advantage.   

There are scores of experienced individuals ready to prove themselves to those looking for good workers with strong character and the right skills.  To make that steady paycheck a reality job seekers should consider increasing their networking (70%) and spending less time on job boards (30%)

With human resources departments understaffed and overworked, it's no wonder some recruiters only spend an average of 6.25 seconds before deciding if the candidate is a potential fit. This disturbing finding is based on research by the job-search site, TheLadders. 

Who you know is not good enough today. It's who knows you that can make a difference.

Coaching can help

Here are some things we've learned over the past four decades in responding to requests for help that may be important to you or someone you know who is in search of work:

For the job seeker:

  • Never tell yourself "no." Don't assume the job you want is out of reach.
  • Remember that part-time jobs and internships can lead to permanent positions.  The goal is to get inside the organization--go from there.
  • Let as many people as possible know you are in the market for a job. An overlooked and highly effective part of the search process is using the Internet to contact family,  friends, and even alumni networks on Linkedin.
For the helper:
  • Never promise a job, only that you will assist in the process.
  • Be careful vouching for someone you don't know well.
  • Make the intervention but let the job seeker do the rest.
The next chapter

Work is not just having a job.  It's also a calling or sense of purpose in one's life. What can you do to help someone achieve those aims? How about offering hope through some form of engagement? A small investment of time can make a big difference in getting the right employer and employee together.

Consider acting on behalf of a friend, neighbor, recent college graduate, or former associate in the coming days. Your efforts could help make it possible for someone currently unemployed to be part of next year's Labor Day celebration.


© Bredholt & Co.