I don’t have to read the data to know the answer. I just listen to person after person tell me one story after another:
Viviana, I have an Ivy League degree under my belt. Once I switched from electrical engineering to public service, I haven’t been able to get a job. I’m trying to stop this free fall.
Viviana, I have three masters, the last one in International Relations from Johns Hopkins. I graduated in the dark days of the recession–Spring of 2009. Since then, I’ve had one 3 month contract.
Viviana, I beat stage 4 breast cancer. But I can’t beat the hole in my resume from my illness that raises HR software red flags and seems to automatically eliminate me.
The next time someone touts our declining unemployment rate or boast that we’ve added X hundred thousand new jobs, I need to ask her if lately, she’s stepped outside her cocoon.
Indeed, the unemployment rate has gone down since the belly of the recession at the end of 2008/early 2009. The economy is adding jobs. But millions of Americans continue to be without work, they’ve given up because of the constant rejection, or are “gigging” without benefits or an upwards career and wealth building trajectory. Many have been out of a job for more than 6 months, what economists call The Long-Term Unemployed aka The Long-Term Screwed. These types of workers were the topic of my round table discussion on MSNBC Live before President Obama announced from his bully pulpit that 300 American companies are re-vamping their human resources practices to help hire more long-term unemployed.
Most of the unemployed have been out of work for 6 or more months which is also when your job prospects fall off a cliff, to less than 15% according to a report by the social and economic policy research think tank The Urban Institute. Contrary to my anecdotes, they tend to be less educated, single parents, of color, and disabled. The competition is fierce: 3 applicants for every job opening.
I am a regular on MSNBC and I have never seen my Twitter light up as it did during this panel discussion on January 31, 2014. People tweeted me about their personal experiences: some HR software such as Taleo forcing people to enter their graduation dates. One job title to match one job description with only one field for dates.
Immediately, the blind spots emerge. Not quite ageism or anti-entrepreneurialism for those working how-many-part-time-jobs. But definitely a sign that companies are relying on software that isn’t flexible to see the candidate as a whole, as opposed to the sum of parts (to not say, application fields).
If you’ve been in Washington and connected to politics, you know initiatives come and go, vanishing even faster with our daily dose of media over-saturation. After hearing story after story on social media and in person, we need the good idea of hiring The Long-Term Unemployed become a great business practice, in fact a Country Best Business Practice, where government leads in full partnership with industry and local community groups. Until then, some new guidelines for companies and job seekers.
- Diversity as a Best Business Practice: Do companies realize that in addition to doing the right thing, diversity is a best business practice given that our country is becoming more mixed as confirmed by the Census data? As mentioned earlier, the long-term unemployed are single parents, disabled, of color. How is leadership, human resources, and hiring managers harnessing flexible work schedules or insights into new markets these candidates bring to create a competitive advantage?
- HR Hiring Culture Change That Is More Akin to College Admissions: One of my favorite activities is interviewing prospective freshman which helps the Admissions Office see a total picture of a student, not just grade point average and SAT scores. Taking a cue from universities, HR departments should also look at candidates as a whole whole, trading the overreliance on software for the input of trained HR professionals who are evaluating candidates’ applications, phone and/or in-person interviews.
- Invincibles: Get an “Old” Long-Term Unemployed Mentor and Long-Term Unemployed Oldie, Get a Millennial Mentor: Recently a hiring manager friend shared over cocktails how difficult it was to interview millennial candidates because they were “uninterested”–conveying an attitude of: I can take this job or leave it (I couldn’t believe my ears). These “whatevs” prospectives lost out to an older worker with more experience and eager to work. From millennials, older workers can learn to be more fearless, resourceful, and flexible.
These ideas are not meant to address serious economic structural issues such as a mismatch between candidates’ skills and those required for available jobs such as computer programming. It also doesn’t address globalization, specifically capital’s flight overseas, bringing countless jobs once performed by Americans to countries with cheaper labor. Rather, the cultural, institutional, and economic changes needed to significantly grow the economy and individual’s wealth can take years to take root and flourish. Until then, I hope these pointers can help companies and unemployed workers make some easy changes today to help our country and themselves get back to work.
Click on Career and 6 Minute Career Climb to read and see videos with practical tips to help you in your job search or turbo-charge your career, ranging from effective networking, resume writing to career advancement.These pointers are a starting point. Can you add your tips?