The news that the U.S. economy added 280,000 jobs sounds great. Bloomberg offer charts that show a more mixed situation. Yes, job growth is up. However, the unemployment rate went up because more people have entered the job market. Similarly, average hourly earnings is up, but that measure has moved like a yo-yo over the past year. The best news is that long-term unemployment is moving steadily down. If you’re thinking about looking for a new job or asking your boss for a raise, this could be a good time to act. Even if the news is mixed, the job market is much better than it was five years ago.
Common Dream offers a summary of several progressive writers who are not happy with the “Fiscal Cliff” solution. A common point among the writers is that the compromise solution still did much more to help wealthy people than it did to help working people.
There is one point that I disagree with. Some critics condemn the roll back of President Obama’s temporary 2.6% cut in Social Security payroll taxes. While this is a bad time to raise taxes on working people, this ugly move had to be made. If we value Social Security, we need to pay for it.
On the positive side, the deal did extend long term unemployment. Not every state takes advantage of this program, but for those that do, it will give a little more security to those who have had the hardest time finding a job.
The next phase in this debate will be even more important: What will be cut in the name of “saving” that will hurt working people and the poor? That question has been left open for now.
Many American have suffered through long-term unemployment. Their challenge is to find a way to restart their job search in the face of depressing market news. If you are one of these people, the first step is to stop listening to such news. Focus on your career and what you need to do to get a job. Once you start looking for a job, don’t stop.
Collect 5-10 postings for the kind of jobs you want to pursue, and then shape your resume so it speaks to the needs of those employers. The next step is simple to say and hard to do: Start networking and applying to jobs until you get hired. Don’t stop.
Be realistic. An average job search takes at least 3-6 months of persistent, concentrated activity. Too many people kill their job search by starting and stopping (and stopping for longer and longer periods). Stay focused on your goals. Don’t stop.
Today’s New York Times reports on long term unemployment and how it affects job seekers. More people in the U.S. have been unemployed for 6 months or more than at any time in history. The article explores several reasons why this group has not been able to find jobs. Both experts and the unemployed say that “gaps” on resume will be a problem that will make it even harder for the unemployed to find work. The upshot of the article seems to be that there is no hope for these people. The government can’t or won’t create jobs as it did in the 1930s. The market sector sheds jobs as quickly as it makes them. There seems to be no hope.
I’m not so pessimistic. While I do believe that we need to work on the manufacturing sector and negotiate some fair trade (not free trade) treaties, the service sector continues to grow. Technology creates new jobs that we did not imagine could exist. In 2009 a small company in Chicago called Groupon had 35 employees. Less than two years later, it has more than 900 employees.
Innovation can drive a new economy. However, the constant drum beat of negative news and negative thinking doesn’t encourage risk taking or entrepreneurship. We need to have faith and hope – and patience. Sadly, our experts and media pundits have found that it’s easier to go negative. Hope will have to come from companies like Groupon, good ideas that drive sales – and create a need to hire workers.
The longer a person remains jobless, the more she starts to think that she will never work again. With many people out of work for 99 weeks or more, this problem faces many Americans. Worse still, it saps the confidence they need to pursue opportunities and make a good impression at interviews. How can people facing long term unemployment maintain confidence?
There is no easy answer. However, a client recently told me about a managerial strategy that can be adapted to help people who have been unemployed for long periods. Rather than focusing simply on negative results (no responses to resumes, no call backs after interviews), look behind the result to beliefs and experiences. We act based on our beliefs. Those beliefs are usually shaped by our experiences.
When we feel confident, we believe we can do anything. Turn the coin around. Constant failure chokes confidence, which is what the long-term unemployed face. Here is one tactic for dealing with that attitude: tell a new story. Rather than say, “I’m a loser who will never work again,” look at your experience. You are not the only one facing this problem. You are not alone. The new story becomes a challenge: “How will I find a job?” You have found jobs before, probably in difficult employment markets. You can do it again.
Those words alone won’t change your beliefs, give you more confidence, or help you get a job. The next step is persistent action. Assess your skills and the kind of work you want to do. What employers need those skills? If the list is too limited, look at your skills again. What else can you do? Don’t limit yourself. Be open to trying something new.
Doors will still close in your face – that’s part of the process of getting a job. But if you can stay focused on what employers need and how you can be the solution to their problem, you will find a job. It might not be your ideal job at first. But there is no law that prevents you from looking for a new job at any time. Know your goal and let it drive your career. Remind yourself of the ways you have been an asset to your employers. Be able to present your value to potential employers. If you can stay focused on what good things you bring to an employer, you will have resources to maintain confidence and persist even in a difficult job search. It’s all about believing in the right things. Look in the mirror and smile. That’s the starting point.