All I want for Christmas is job – seems like an easy enough wish, right? Unfortunately, I was greeted this morning by the news that unemployment in NC was up to 9.7% in November. The forecast for the unemployed, in particular the long-term unemployed, is about as cold as the winter weather.
Last week’s article in the New York Times – “Unemployed and Likely to Stay That Way” – heralds in the new age of unemployment. Whether we like it or not, whether it is fair or not, being unemployed means you are less likely to get an interview, let alone a job.
When CNN ran a story earlier this year – “Unemployed Need Not Apply” – there was a swift backlash against of the companies in the report for their discrimination towards those out of work. But in hindsight, I have to admire them for at least being up front that they weren’t looking at applicants who were out of work (even though closer scrutiny by the press made Latro Consulting and Sony Erricson cease running the comment in their advertising).
The grim fact is that HR departments and recruiters, whether they are telling you or not, are using unemployment status to filter out candidates for the positions they have open. What is worse, the press is arguing that companies are justified in using such practices.
Here’s the harsh reality of unemployment today:
You aren’t going to get the interview – unless you can network your way in to the hiring manager and get them to talk to you, you aren’t going to get the interview. Companies today are informing their staff that they aren’t to interview the unemployed.
No amount of training or retraining is going to get you the job, let alone the interview – the belief that unemployed workers are not current on their skills is often used as justification why not to interview a candidate. However, even if you go back to school to get current training, or retrain for a new career, because you don’t have applicable experience – and that is experience where you are earning a wage, not volunteering, not unpaid work – you are going to be screened out of the interview process.
Don’t get sucked into paying for schooling that will leave you in debt and still without a job. Do your research and look at the placement figures before going back to school. There is a flood of people with advance degrees in the job market today, many of whom have to “dumb down” their resume to get a recruiter to look at them.
Companies don’t care about transferable skills – for many workers who are laid off, they are told to make an inventory of transferable skills that carry from one job to another, from one career path to another. Companies don’t care – they are not going to spend the time to train you for the job they want to fill. They want people with the exact match of skills and experience to fill the few openings they have – and in this market they can find them.
You aren’t going to get paid anywhere near what you made before – I think this might be the hardest medicine to swallow, especially for older workers. Early on in my search I asked what was a realistic cut in pay to take when pursuing a job in this market. The professionals I asked hemmed and hawed and no one gave me a straight answer (I should have taken that as a sign). It is very rare that you will get the same rate of pay and benefits you had previously.
So amongst this doom and gloom, in this week of hope, is there any bright light?
Not really, but I have some advice.
Take a job – any job. Do your best to get the best job you can, but get out there and work – you are far more likely to get an interview if you are already working. A recent blog entry identified 10 companies that pay benefits to part time workers – at least there’s a place to start. You may be underemployed, but it’s one less nail in the coffin and one less excuse not to interview you.
Hang out your shingle. If you have a profession where you can set yourself up as a consultant, do so. All that uncompensated work you do as an unpaid intern/volunteer/good egg? Put that under your umbrella of being an independent consultant. And start charging for your time – others need to learn and see your value.
Lie - well, okay, maybe don’t lie. But approach the process of pursing a job like being cross-examined on Law & Order. Give only the minimum amount of information necessary. Don’t provide the opportunity to lead to questioning that might put you in a poor light. Your judge and jury – your potential employers – need to see you as a reliable witness, uh, candidate.
Take charge of your career and stop allowing people blame you for being unemployed. I think the most frustrating thing I hear over and over again is that there must be something wrong with the people who are unemployed otherwise they wouldn’t be unemployed. That’s a crock. There are good people and there are bad people in every situation, but when there are 5 times as many qualified people for every job the blame shouldn’t be on the people who are seeking to work.
The most damaging thing I read and hear reported is that it is inevitable that people who are unemployed today will never return to work. The Press continue to perpetuate this idea as acceptable. It isn’t.
A lot has been made of the recent deal between the White House and Republicans. There are people in both the Democratic and Republican camps that grumble for different reasons. But the underlying issue of the unemployment problem is something both sides can agree upon – there aren’t enough jobs and jobs are not being created at a fast enough pace to offset the number of people seeking employment.
Regardless of which side of the fence you are on – Democrat or Republican, recruiter or candidate – I’m here to tell you that not interviewing someone because they are out of work is bad business. In fact, not hiring someone who is unemployed is bad for the economy.
Now I’m not a renowned economist, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if the only people being hired are people are already employed the unemployment numbers aren’t going to decrease. And, if there is any true hope for recovery, people who are unemployed are going to have to go back to work or they will continue to be a drain on the federal budget and the economy will continue to stagnate.
If just one brave soul were actually to hire someone who was unemployed – and I think I’ve been clear there are plenty of smart, qualified people eager to work out there – then we all would reap the benefits.
By employing the unemployed you reduce the number of people collecting unemployment benefits – that makes sense, right? But more than that, and especially for the long-term unemployed, there is associated reduction of burden on federal and state programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and welfare. There is a reduction of people defaulting on loans, having homes go into foreclosure, and the associated spiraling effects on financial markets and institutions. Cashing out 401ks and IRAs drains investments in stocks and bonds and tightens the funds available to make improvements to city, state and federal infrastructure and spur new business growth – all of which means there is less happening to create new jobs.
When the unemployed become employed once again, they become part of the economy. They are paying taxes; they are buying goods. They start consuming things from basics like clothing and gas and cars to cable tv and phone service. They go to the doctor more regularly and take preventative care measures to make themselves more healthy. They are putting money back in their 401ks and saving for retirement. All those things people give up when they don’t have a job and disposable income. Well, Americans like their creature comforts, and they want them back.
All I want for Christmas is job? All I really want for Christmas is for people who are unemployed to be treated like people who are employed. Wouldn’t that be nice?