What if a young person doesn’t work between the ages of 16-24? AP reports that 15% of Americans in this age group are unemployed and have little prospect of finding work anytime soon. The report notes that people who don’t work during this period fail to learn skills that they will need later in life. I would take this problem to a more basic level: These young people will not have the opportunity to learn how to work. While I preach the importance of skills, there are more fundamental elements involved in working: getting up in the morning, getting to work on time, listening to the boss, and putting out a good effort. We learn our work ethic early, and too many young Americans are not having the opportunity to learn how to work.
What should be done? The best answer is that we need more good jobs for adults, so young people can work lower level jobs while they are in school. While some manufacturing is coming back to the U.S., it’s too little, too slow. The next best alternative would be some kind of government sponsored program, which were common just a few years ago. Again, this solution seems impossible in a political era that is captivated by the idea of cutting spending rather than growing an economy by investing in the country and its people. What is the solution? I don’t know. It almost feels like our leaders want young people to fail. They care more about what is owed to banks and investors today than what we out to the generations that will be leaders tomorrow. To me, that is the true definition of bankruptcy – moral bankruptcy.
In a recent post, I described a client who is being laid off because of a trend to make employees buy their trucks and routes. We could debate this managerial strategy. As I wrote, I’m not a fan of making employees carry most of the risk. However, my client faced a different, more immediate problem. He needed a job.
My client assumed that that all trucking companies were following the same model. Maybe more are, but not all. We quickly identified four companies that pay drivers as employees and do not require that they own their trucks. I also talked to him about other ways he could use his skill as a driver to earn a living.
My client’s initial problem was that he faced a career roadblock without thinking about alternatives, ways to work around a problem. In the face of job loss, most of us go through a similar type of despair or denial.
What should you do if you or a friend are facing a career roadblock? First, analyze the situation calmly and rationally. Ask this question: What kind of employers need my skills? Make a detailed list of your professional skills and start thinking about what kind of industries and companies employee people with those skills
Another good way to get around road blocks is to talk with people you’ve worked with in the past, especially supervisors or managers who appreciated your work. Don’t ask them to help you get a job. That’s a big turn off. Instead, ask them for advice. What skills do they see as your strongest? Where do they think you should look for work? Do they have any insight about how you might change careers? Humans love to give advice (especially bloggers). Take advantage of that resource.
There are other ways around career roadblocks, too many to list here. The key is to recognize that you are stuck and find a way to move forward. Keep a positive attitude and stay open to new ideas. For many successful professionals, a career roadblock offers an opportunity to find a new, better job. The first step is always to believe in yourself and know that you can move forward.
A cover letter should introduce your resume. It should be clear and concise without going into the kind of detail used in the resume. At the same time, it should give employers a little meat to chew on. One way I do this is to include a sentence that highlights skills that will interest the employer.
Here are a few examples followed by the kind of job sought in parenthesis.
My duties have included maintaining schedules/calendars, travel arrangements, correspondence, and meeting planning. (Executive Assistant)
My duties included vendor management, negotiation, inventory control, and coordination of delivery and special orders. (Purchasing)
My duties have included store operations, event sales, recruiting, and training. (Retail Manager)
My duties have included all aspects of classroom instruction as well as extracurricular activities that encourage academic and personal development. (Teacher)
These are just a few examples of how a set of skills can be packaged in one sentence. Using this kind of sentence is one way you can keep you cover letter specific and concise.