Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

An open letter to jobseekers about long term changes in the job market and employability – 2

Posted in career development, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on October 6, 2012

On September 29, 2012 I posted the first half of an open letter concerning long-term and permanent changes in the job market and employability. I discussed job seeker education levels and how the job market is changing in what level of education is being looked for as an acceptable minimum in a new hire, and across the economy and at least collectively considering all industries.

I parsed out the overall population of working age Americans in Part 1 of this letter according to levels of formal degree-certified education achieved and noted that when you look at prospective job candidates with no college education, and even for those with high school educations and diplomas, the Great Recession has never really ended – it is difficult to find benefit in a recovery when you do not have a job and are not bringing in pay checks, and when you have run out of unemployment benefits. On the other extreme I wrote in that first part to this open letter about how people with at least a Bachelor’s degree have seen a real recovery with their overall employment rate going up by approximately 5% since the official end of the recession – and this education cohort never actually saw significant job loss rates through most of the recession either, and certainly when compared to those experienced by their less educated neighbors.

I would start this by noting that there are industries where having less formal education has become a much more severe handicap and career barrier than overall national workforce numbers would indicate, and that there are also industries where this is less of a problem for job seekers with less education. But I note that even in industries most willing to hire workers with less education, that still carries real challenges for these members of the workforce.

• It can be expected that even if hired, less educated employees will face greater challenges in obtaining promotions and advancement and certainly to positions that carry any management-level responsibilities.
• It can be expected that lower education levels will impact upon overall lifetime earnings and with all of the quality of life issues that raises during a person’s overall work life, and for workers and their families.
• And reduced lifetime earnings also impact strongly on retirement planning and on ability to afford to retire with age, and regardless of willingness to save and invest for long term needs.
• And it has to be a concern that less educated employees will be more vulnerable to being laid off or downsized. Higher levels of education do not guarantee job security and certainly on an individual employee basis, and less educated employees are not necessarily going to be the first let go if anyone is, but on average and across the workforce as a whole, less educated employees can be expected to see reduced job stability – and even if this trend towards employers requiring more education as a minimum employability requirement does not continue to advance.

And this brings me to the question that I ended Part 1 of this letter with:

• What should a job seeker do who finds themselves not getting interviews, or getting them but not getting hired when they are concerned that their education level might be a reason?

Think and plan, and follow through with an explicit goal of finding the right door and of getting through it – look for a “foot in the door” job opportunity. And look in that search to identify:

• Where businesses might be hiring and for what,
• What types of certification training would increase the chance of a job candidate being hired for that,
• And what types of certification might be available at low or no cost to the student.

Here, I note that professional certification training is often covered in part or even in whole up to some dollar amount as part of unemployment benefits – but that many people collecting unemployment checks fail to take full advantage of this too, as they seek a path back into the workforce.

• What are employers looking for in the immediate here and now as hands-on skills? Look to the larger jobs sites such as to see who is hiring and where, and what types of positions they are hiring for. Look to see what they look for in candidates, and for specific skills that might be obtainable through certification programs covered by your unemployment benefits program. (Also look as appropriate at more specialized job search sites such as the tech career site:
• Of those positions and those skills requirements for which certification training would be available, which look to be available to more entry level employees where lengthy on the job experience using those skills might not be required?

I am writing here explicitly about securing a “foot in the door” job and as such, I am explicitly including entry level positions, and even for more experienced workers – who find their now former career path gone.

I am sorry to be so blunt here, but pride is your enemy. Job seekers with long careers now gone, and with compensation package histories that they cannot simply continue from in the here-and-now have to be willing to set pride aside and begin again. Once you have your foot in a door, and perhaps with an entirely new career in a new work area, then you can begin thinking and planning about advancement along that new career path. And you can look for further skills development and for hands-on work experience in that to stay relevant and necessary for your new employer.

And if you do not have any college education, once you are working again look to your local community colleges to at least explore the possibility of studying part-time to get an Associate’s degree. If you do not have a high school diploma get a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) to make you less vulnerable to job loss and more readily employable if you do find yourself looking again. If your education level is a barrier to you, look for opportunities to address that, that you could pursue while looking for work and that you could follow through upon while working. And get certified and licensed where that would bolster your credentials and make you a more attractive hire and a more valuable employee to keep on in your new career.

As a final thought here, I have written extensively in this blog about Plan B job searches for when you have been looking but without success, and I recommend you review my series on that. I systematically go through the entire Plan B job search process in that series, with hands-on exercises at each step that if followed, constitute a strategically planned out job search in and of themselves (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 56-72 for Parts 1-17.) I followed that with a series on starting a new job and getting back into the workforce again, and from day one through to your first performance review at the end of your new hire probationary period (see same directory, postings 73-88 for Parts 1-15.)

You can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and also see my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development as cited above.

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