The real jobs shortage

The real jobs shortage

 

Low unemployment isn’t worth much if the jobs barely pay

Source: Brookings Institution

jobs shortage

Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its Employment Situation report (better known as the “jobs report”) to outline the latest state of the nation’s economy. And with it, of late, have been plenty of positive headlines. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Are these jobs any good? How much do they pay? Do workers make enough to live on? Here, the story is less rosy.

In a recent analysis, we found that 53 million workers ages 18 to 64—or 44% of all workers—earn barely enough to live on. Their median earnings are $10.22 per hour, and about $18,000 per year. Other research suggests that there are not enough decent-paying jobs for people without bachelor’s degrees. This matters—workers without bachelor’s degrees make up not just the majority of the low-wage workforce but the majority of the labor force as a whole, so the shortage of such jobs has wide-ranging consequences. Even with sunny job statistics, the nation’s economy is simply not working well for tens of millions of people.

 

Jobs Shortage: Nick’s take

While the feds and the media cheer “the great jobs numbers,” the dirty little secret is wages. Brookings scrapes the lipstick off the pig, and all that’s left is a pig. There’s no talent shortage; there’s a good-paying jobs shortage. Brookings focuses on the 44% of all workers who make barely enough to live on — and that’s troubling enough. What Brookings misses is more highly educated workers who are earning less than they used to.

Which one are you?

What’s your take?

Are you earning as much as you used to? What category in the Brookings report do you fall into? Are there really more good-paying jobs than there is talent to fill them? How many lower-paying jobs would you need to have at once, to earn what you once earned?

See also B.S. on the jobs numbers euphoria.


 

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Help this college kid get a job

Help this college kid get a job

In the January 14, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a college student worries that not doing enough homework might hurt chances of getting a job.

Question

collegeI have a year to go until I graduate from college. I’m not the best student, but I do pretty well. I’m here to learn, but there is a lot more to college and I take advantage of it. But now I’m a little worried. My grades could be better. I could spend a little less time at the pub, and more on academics. However, homework seems like a redundancy to me. I learn in lectures, in section classes and in assigned readings. Don’t misunderstand, I crank out the papers and I get ready for tests. But doing homework? It has nothing to do with preparing you for the real world. Even people who work long hours leave the office behind at the end of the day.

I know my school has a good career center, and companies recruit there all the time. The purpose of the center is to attract good companies and jobs. My “job” is to interview well and get hired. I don’t think I’m that different from most students. I just want a good job when I get out of here. But something is nagging at me, and I’m worried as graduation gets nearer. I’m afraid I’ll get lost in the system or the system won’t work for me. I’m afraid I won’t get a good job. There, I said it. So what should I do?

Nick’s Reply

People with jobs do homework all the time — at work, if not at home. Homework means studying extra material and practicing new skills, often on your own time. You may be able to avoid this, but not if you want your grades to be better. While I don’t advocate regularly taking work home from a job, or working 60-hour weeks, I also know that the more I invest in my skills and knowledge, the better I’ll perform at my job and the more successful I will be in my career.

College, jobs & homework

I agree that college is not just about academics — you should enjoy everything it has to offer. But those boring friends of yours who are cracking the books while you’re at the pub are probably several steps ahead of you. They aren’t waiting for someone to lecture to them, or to assign readings — they take the initiative to study more on their own. (I didn’t miss that you do read, and you write papers. That’s homework, but it seems you may be realizing you’re not doing enough of it.)

Life and work require lots of homework. The same is true about getting a good job. The purpose of your school’s career center may be “to attract good companies and jobs,” just like your professor’s job is to teach you through lectures. But you’re not going to be a successful student by consuming just what your professor delivers. Nor will you find a good job by waiting for your career center to deliver it. “The system” isn’t going to “work for you.”

Please hand-write this on a piece of paper 10 times:

“Finding and winning a good job is my own challenge. No one will do it for me. I will do the extra homework myself without excuses or I will fail.”

Sign it. Tack it to the wall in front of your desk. Every time you rely on the job listings at your career center, read what you wrote. Then do the homework of looking for a job yourself.

Job-hunting homework?

There’s lots of study and preparation that goes into getting a good job. Every step of job hunting and being successful at work requires doing homework.

  1. Finding a good job requires homework. (Pursue companies, not jobs)
  2. Getting a good manager’s attention requires homework. (Some tips.)
  3. Learning what a manager’s or company’s problems are requires homework.
  4. Preparing something useful to say to the manager requires homework.
  5. Figuring out whether a job is for you requires homework.
  6. Deciding whether to accept a job offer requires homework. (Protect yourself from exploding job offers.)
  7. Showing up Day #1 ready to impress your new employer requires homework.
  8. Doing the job well requires homework.
  9. Getting better at it requires homework.
  10. Keeping your job requires homework.
  11. Being successful requires becoming a master at your work. That requires constant homework.

In fact, your ability to do homework well — to study, learn, and practice — is what a company is paying for when it hires you after graduation. In the list above, I’ve provided a few tips to help you, but I’m going to leave it to other Ask The Headhunter readers to suggest examples of what kinds of homework will help you achieve each objective. Please check the comments below.

Don’t get lost in the system

Please read this article to learn how good managers hire people: Manager goes around HR to recruit and hire. It suggests that the “system” you’ve been told will get you a job isn’t sufficient. The manager in that article isn’t waiting for resumes to appear in e-mail. He’s doing his own homework to meet people who’ve done the necessary extra work to get his attention.

If you wait for a career center or a company recruiter to do the homework for you, you’re right — you’ll get lost in the system. So spend this year honing your homework skills. Start applying them to the job search that you ought to start today, a year before you graduate. Yes, it will take that long if you do it right. This doesn’t mean you can’t go to pubs.

How much fun you make it is up to you. I wish you the best!

Okay, folks! Help me help this college kid get a job. Please review the 11 objectives above that I think require considerable homework. (Feel free to add more.) Then, for each objective, please list one good example of “homework” our young friend needs to do to achieve it. We could be creating a new college course! Thanks for your help!

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Warren Buffett: It’s the people, Stupid

Warren Buffett: It’s the people, Stupid

Warren Buffett

 

Money is important, but not the most important thing.

Source: Inc.

Warren Buffett

In a 1998 lecture to University of Florida MBA students, business magnate Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, fielded a host of questions on investments and valuations before a thoughtful student asked, “What would you do to live a happier life if you could live over again?” According to the Oracle of Omaha, “The way to do it is to play out the game and do something you enjoy all your life and be associated with people you like. I work only with people I like.

 

Nick’s take

This article quoting Warren Buffett has an extremely high ratio of wisdom to words:

  • “I work only with people I like” (See also Never work with jerks.)
  • “you will move in the direction of the people that you associate with”
  • “associate with people who are better than yourself”
  • “you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”
  • “not having close friends is just as bad for your health as smoking”
  • “if you’re still putting up with people you don’t like just for a paycheck, it’s time to make a change”

What’s your take?

Do you agree? Do you walk Buffett’s talk? Or is this easier said than done?

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Caregiver faces resume gap & reference risk

Caregiver faces resume gap & reference risk

In the January 7, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader takes time to be Mom’s caregiver and worries about a resume gap and references.

Question

caregiverI left my job of 16 years with two weeks’ notice and a cordial thank you to my boss. My boss was bitter that I decided to move on and it was very apparent my last day. I worry that if an employer calls and asks to speak with him he would not give me a good recommendation even after 16 years of service. I had assumed that most companies are just allowed to verify employment. What if they contact my former boss directly?

The next problem is why I left that job: My mother had a stroke and I became her full-time caregiver. This was much harder than any job I’ve ever had. I am adding a simple bullet point on my resume listing this time as “Primary caregiver for ill immediate family member.” Is this how I should account for this time gap?

Nick’s Reply

The very best job applicant can be sunk when employers rely on information that the applicant has no opportunity to explain. If your old boss gives a negative reference and you have no chance to refute it, you’re done. If an employer is troubled by a gap on your resume because you were a caregiver and you’re not there to explain it, you lose. You’ll never know what happened in either case.

The problem here isn’t your old boss or your resume — or that you took time off to be Mom’s caregiver. The problem is that you’re allowing someone (an unexpected reference) or something (your resume) to represent you. Why not be represented to your advantage by someone the employer trusts?

Caregiver resume gap

Explaining work gaps is always iffy – so much depends on the attitude of the employer reading that resume. This is why I advocate not using a resume to introduce yourself to a company. A resume cannot defend you.

A resume that raises questions you are not present to answer can easily hurt you. A gap on your resume might trigger a quick, thoughtless rejection. Situations like yours make it risky to rely on a resume as the way to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know who does not know you.

Reference risk

You need to head off concerns by helping the hiring manager learn about you from a source more reliable than a resume. You need someone to paint you as a desirable job candidate before any questions are raised.

Try to wrangle a personal introduction to the hiring manager through a mutual contact — someone who does know you and who can speak up for you to answer an employer’s concerns about the caregiver gap, and who can parry a negative reference that’s not under your control. Check these ideas from other readers about how to network your way to a great introduction.

Send an advance party

You may have to work hard to find and cultivate that mutual contact – but it’s really the only way to get a hiring manager’s serious attention and to counteract worries about your gap. Send an advance party. In other words, you need someone to tell the hiring manager you’re worth hiring before they find a (silly) reason to reject you. (See How to get to the hiring manager.)

If you must use a resume, I agree that you should probably include a short note about the caregiving. But managers and HR get so many resumes that they look first for a reason to reject an applicant. Don’t give them that reason. A preemptive personal referral or introduction from someone the employer trusts can make all the difference.

The truth about references

It’s improper for an employer to contact your old boss without your permission for a reference. I think most companies honor this. An HR department that’s called for a reference should provide nothing more than verification of past employment. But managers and HR have their own back channels – their own trusted network that will talk to them off the record. So you can never tell what they will learn about you.

For all these reasons, a trusted personal recommendation is the best way to offset any concerns an employer might have about a resume gap or about one poor reference. Don’t wait for problems to arise. Cultivate personal contacts to get you in the door and to preempt objections a resume might trigger. For more about this, please see Get Hired: No resume, no interview, no joke. I admire you for stepping in to help your mom. I wish you both the best.

Have you ever been hurt by a work gap on your resume? Or by a bitter old boss? How did you explain it? How would you advise this reader?

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