Archive for July 2011
According to an article in today’s New York Times, “some job postings online exclude the long-term job applicant”. Most of us already know those holes in our employment histories mean we’re less likely to obtain a new job; the longer you are unemployed, the less likely it is your job skills will be sharp and the harder it will be for you to re-adjust to the 9-to-5 grind, and so are less attractive to prospective employers. But these are hurdles easily (more or less) overcome by seeking volunteer positions or part-time gigs to show we’re still “in the game”. In an increasing number of cases, these job history “patches” are no longer valid.
According to Catherine Rampell, author of the Times article, “. . .job vacancy postings on popular sites like Monster.com, Careerbuilder and Craigslist revealed hundreds that said employers would consider . . . only people currently employed or just recently laid off.” Again, nothing new, we’re all aware of the fact it’s easier to get a job when you have a job. But that fact was tempered by the knowledge (if you were unemployed) you would at least have the opportunity to sell yourself to an employer. Once again, this line of thought is no longer valid. We all knew finding employment after losing (for whatever reason) a job was an uphill battle. We’ve known — or should have known — employers were, more often than not, promoting or hiring from within their organizations rather than recruiting from outside. Now we know what some of us have suspected for some time is true; if you’ve been unemployed for some time (the national average is nine months), it’s more than likely your resumé will go no further than the “circular file”. This is not an “industry specific” phenomenon, it’s market-wide; from small business to corporate giant, from high-tech to fast food. And there isn’t a helluva lot to be done about it. It doesn’t come under the heading of discrimination; unlike age, gender, religion and sexual orientation, the jobless are not a protected class of citizen (but then we’ve known that for years, right?). So what are we supposed to do?
“Job counselors”, again quoting the Times article, “often encourage the long-term jobless to go back to school or volunteer to demonstrate they are still productive, engaged members of society. But absent the actual acquisition of marketable skills — which many retraining programs do not provide — it’s not clear such efforts improve the chances of being hired.” (Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to sign up at one of those for-profit vocational schools. They ain’t cheap!)
So what’s a person to do? How do we drag ourselves out of this quagmire without shredding every bit of our personal integrity and self-respect? Well, the good news is there is a way. It isn’t easy, in fact, it’s downright scary. But it can be done. And I’ll talk about it in my next (several) posts.
Until then, remember: Never give up! Never settle! Keep on keepin’ on.
“Why did you stay so long?” the interviewer asked, looking up from my resume. It wasn’t a question I was prepared for. I’d spent several hours the night before going over possible questions and answers in preparation for the interview. Why had I stayed so long in those jobs? I enjoyed the work. The money wasn’t astronomical but it was sufficient to my needs. The benefit package was excellent; as it turned out, I needed the benefits more than the money. Besides, to my way of thinking I hadn’t been there “so long”; ten years at one job, twelve at the other.
The interviewer looked at me expectantly. “I enjoyed the work. The money and benfits were good. I really didn’t see any reason or need to change jobs,” I said. I had heard or read somewhere, probably one of the trade magazines, that restaurant chefs usually changed locations every two or three years. From a professional standpoint it was likely a prudent thing to do; the goal of most professional chefs being to open their own restaurant. Banks and finance companies, on the other hand, didn’t share that particular view; a “job-hopper” was a poor risk, not likely to maintain a steady payment (or repayment) schedule and, therefore, not likely to receive a loan or car financing. I didn’t say any of those things.
The interviewer asked one or two “softball” questions, easily answered and, after a few more minutes, the interview ended with the usual comments; “We have several other candidates to interview.” “You should hear something by the end of next week.” “Thank you for coming in.” I had a good feeling about the interview and felt as though I had a really good chance of being offered the position. But after not hearing anything for about ten days, I began to worry. I called the company and asked about the status of my application. “I’m sorry. The position has been filled.” I was disappointed but not crushed. I still had other options to explore.
There was a time, not too long ago it seems, when longevity in the workplace was commonplace; workers with years of seniority and the skills that went with those years were valued and entrusted with passing those skills on to those who would take their places. No longer. Businesses are now run on “lean” models that change every year or two because change is seen as a good thing, (change for the sake of change?) and the skills associated with the former model don’t fit with the new. So what was once valued is now suspect and the long time employee is seen not as an asset but a liability, unable or unwilling to change with the times.
The good news in all this is, it’s not too late to change, to adapt to this new environment. We can acquire, not necessarily “new” skills but enhanced skills. Take some computer courses if that’s what’s needed, brush up on the math or learn a new language. Take a part-time job to keep your existing skills sharp. By adding to your skills sets, enhancing those skills you already possess, you “repackage” yourself for a new business reality. Whatever course you choose to follow, it’s up to you to decide. It isn’t going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to be hard, damned hard, and probably scary, in the beginning. But then you’ve never been one to back down from a challenge. So, what’s it gonna be? You decide.