The level of unemployment in our nation is at one of the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Although the official “unemployment rate” cited by the government and media continues to hover around 8% of the national workforce, it is well documented that this is almost assuredly an underestimate of those who would like to be working if they could. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the actual number of adults not currently employed full-time who want to be is 23.1 million individuals (12.5 unemployed, 2.6 million who have quit looking for work and 8 million who are working because they can’t find full-time work). [FYI, there are supposedly 154.6 million individuals in the civilian labor force.]
Regardless of one’s political views or affiliation, this are disturbing facts. We have 23 million people who would like to be working full-time, if they could find a job. And this obviously impacts adolescents (both high school and college students) and young adults who are looking for work as well, including part-time work.
Over the past several months, I have been engaged in career coaching with a number of young adults (and older ones!) who are having difficulty finding jobs. And they have had repeated success in finding jobs, usually within a few weeks.
Let me share with you some of the factors that I think have been important for them being able to find jobs.
- Successful job finders understand what they are really doing when they are looking for a job. One of the first things I do with my career coaching clients is to share my model for understanding career development. One of the foundational facts is that work is the process of providing goods or services to those who need (or want) them and are willing to pay for them. When you are looking for a job, the issue is the same – you are looking for an opportunity to meet a need an employer has, and that they are willing to pay for.
- Successful job finders begin to think about and look for “needs” in the marketplace. What do employers (or potential customers) need that they can’t find? For example, in the lower end job market, employers and managers of restaurants, hotels, retail stores are looking for employees who will show up regularly, show up on time, follow directions, and not quit after 2-3 weeks. So the way to get a job in these settings is to be able to convince the hirer that you can and will meet their needs. See my previous blog on the importance of being willing to take “negative” characteristics in a job in order to find a job opening.
- Successful job finders give up (for now) the ideal that they are looking for a meaningful, “fun” (however, they may define that) job. The task is not to find something you want to do for the rest of your life (or even the next 5 years.) The goal is to land a job so you can start to earn a paycheck, get some practical work experience, and to learn what you like and don’t like about work settings. (In fact, I’ve developed a Work Expectations Inventory I give to high school and college-aged clients.) I tell my clients – “You want to avoid getting into a financially desperate situation. Why? Because most of us tend to make poor decisions when we are desperate.” To keep from being desperate, some cash flow (almost regardless of how low it is) is helpful. Once you get cash flow going, then you can start to look for a job that more closely matches what you want to do long term.
- Successful job finders develop a specific plan which includes identifying potential friends and family members to contact. The biggest error I find job seekers make is not understanding the true purpose of networking – you are not trying to talk to someone who can hire you. (The likelihood of that is quite small.) You are trying to talk to people who may know people who have a need that isn’t being met. Focus on others’ needs and whether you can meet those needs – not on finding a job and clearly don’t focus on “what you want to do”. Being blunt, nobody is the world of work cares about what you want to do — unless you can meet a need they have. You may want to see my prior posts on networking.
- Successful job finders begin to work their plan (with ongoing short-term “touch points” built into the plan.) No plan of any kind (losing weight, learning to speak a second language, finding a job) is successful without starting to implement the plan. Secondly, when starting out, it is important to have a short time frame for monitoring and accountability. I let the client set the time frame – they know better than I their schedule and by when they can get the actions completed. But then I follow-up with them and see what steps they have actually taken.
Finally, let me share one very practical step that we have found to be extremely helpful – and that most younger workers often don’t think of. More and more, employers use temporary agencies to find potential employees. There are many practical reasons for this, from an employer’s point of view:
a) the temporary employment agency does the work of screening applicants;
b) a temporary position allows the employer to “try out” an employee for a while and see whether they meet the need the employer has;
c) the process avoids many (potentially expensive) legal issues around hiring and firing.
It is important to know that there are many types of temporary employment agencies (especially in larger cities) that focus on specific types of jobs – construction, clerical, accounting, etc. So if you have a specific skill set you might try to find an agency that matches your skills. Many “temporary” workers are often asked to apply for full-time employment if they demonstrate they have the capability to perform the job well. (Note: don’t let your parents dissuade you from this approach. Their view of temporary agencies from the past and the world of temp agencies today are probably extremely different.)
If you know a young adult looking for work, consider forwarding this to them. Given the difficult time managers and business owners tell me that they have in finding good workers, even in this time of high unemployment, there are jobs available.
Go find one!
p.s. If you want to learn how to help entrepreneurs in the Third World and help a local business / organizational leader learn how to encourage their staff, please take a look at this opportunity.