WARNING! Unsolicited career advice forthcoming:
I was attending a professional conference today. There, a number of workshop speakers were talking about the current crisis in the labor market.
“Crisis? But I thought unemployment was low.”
It is. And that’s the crisis from an employers’ standpoint. Labor pools are thin. Trying to attract new employees to your organization is extremely difficult. Employers are having to pay a premium right now to attract qualified employees (and you see this reflected in the rising wages across the US).
IF YOU’RE UNEMPLOYED OR UNDEREMPLOYED AND NOT GETTING INTERVIEWS FOR JOBS ONE OF THREE SCENARIOS IS LIKELY TRUE:
- Something is wrong with your resume.
- Something is wrong with your digital footprint
- You are applying for jobs you’re not remotely qualified for
Now, how can we fix this?
And how do you know which one applies to you?
Read on, young Jedi.
FIRST: You should get a second set of eyes on your resume (ideally from a friend or a connection who will both be honest and knows the qualifications of the role you’re looking for).
NOTE: Your spouse/significant other doesn’t count as a second set of eyes.
You need someone who will be a jackass to you and tell you the unvarnished truth about how you’re coming across on your resume. If someone says, “Everything looks great!” without giving you any suggestion for improvement, they’re lying (this is no fault of theirs–it’s really difficult to be honest with your friends). Keep going until you find someone who will be honest.
When someone gives you honest feedback, thank them. Better yet, hug their neck and weep for joy!
Honesty is extremely rare. They may have just saved you six months of frustration. Or six years.
“The person who loves correction loves knowledge, but anyone who hates a rebuke is stupid.” – Proverbs 12:1
So, don’t be dumb.
This was my problem when I was trying to get a job in 2012. My resume sucked. I applied to what seemed like hundreds of jobs without an interview. Then, my brother John rewrote my resume. Five applications later I had a job.
SECOND: Find out if your digital footprint is scaring employers off.
I don’t have a stat here, but I imagine most hiring managers will at least Google your name prior to interviewing you. There, they will find interesting things online, mostly on your social media platforms.
Now, to understand why this is important, we’ve got to talk about risk.
I recently heard a Wharton Business School professor say that people will pay for a good or service in direct proportion to the risk you remove from them. Applying this to employment, less risk results in people paying more money.
When you’re getting hired, you represent a HUGE amount of risk to a company.
You could get the company into legal trouble if you’re not ethical. You could make the hiring manager look incompetent if you prove to be incompetent. You could party too hard at the company Chrismas party and embarrass your boss. You could be a job-hopper who will cost the company a lot of money to train and not return any value. You could be a rude and judgmental person who ruins the office culture. You could be a toxic know-it-all. You could be a millennial that wants to be CEO in a week. (Note: If you’re a millennial and the word “ambitious” is in your goal statement on your resume, that’s why you’re not getting the interview.)
Extracting from what the Wharton Business School professor said, the key to getting hired for a job and then maximizing your income is this:
PROVE TO THEM YOU ARE NOT A RISK.
Your social media should reflect this. Your social media profiles should reflect you as being an honest, hard-working, competent, thoughtful, and educated person who is able to view multiple sides of any given argument. If your profile is filled with rantings and ravings against political parties, religious groups, etc., you will certainly be passed over. If you’re constantly sharing articles that indicate a lack of critical thought, you’re going to get passed over. If your social media profile picture is of you doing a keg stand, you will get passed over.
And you should.
Because you’re risky.
Always think of yourself as an objective third person would. Make yourself the least risky candidate, and you’ll probably get the job.
THIRD: If you’re applying to jobs you’re not qualified for, you’ll know it quickly.
How? Because you will have resolved the first two items on here and still not be getting interviews. This almost certainly means you’re not qualified.
If you’re trying to compete for jobs in the knowledge economy and you don’t at least have a bachelor’s degree, you’re going to have a hell of a time. This is like trying to box with one hand tied behind your back. You may win a round or two, but you’re going to get beat at some point. Not a question of if but when.
Now, you can still get jobs without a college degree. But the jobs you get will have capped potential until you get this completed.
“But WAIT!” you say. “BILL GATES DIDN’T HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE!”
Yes, but you’re not Bill Gates. Or Steve Jobs. Or John D. Rockefeller.
So, go get that bachelor’s degree.
Your punk rock attitude isn’t helping.
Your anti-authoritarian blustering about how it’s not fair and how a college degree doesn’t mean anything is what’s gotten you to this point. The thing that’s going to take you beyond here is changing your behavior. And some of this means playing “the game.” And “the game” may not make sense or seem fair. But that doesn’t change the rules.
While you’re getting your degree (part-time and at night and at a pace you can handle), you should get skills. Skills are what employers pay for. You can get skills from anywhere: YouTube, Lynda, etc. But you need skills.
If you want something of value, you need to have something valuable to trade.
If you want a good job that pays well, you need valuable skills to trade for that.
Go get some quick and dirty skills now. A few good areas to focus: Data analytics, SQL, Excel, programming, etc. These are fairly easy to learn online (if you’re willing to put in work), and the IT world tends to be more meritocratic than most.
While your academic credentials may be years away, getting the right skills for today’s labor markets could be a few weekends of intense study online. And, if I’m wrong, you’ll at least have learned something.
Most of what I’ve been discussing here has to do with getting an interview. If you’re getting interviews consistently and never getting an offer, you’re probably qualified and don’t need to worry about the three items listed above. The problem likely has everything to do with how you present and carry yourself. Once more, practicing is key. You need a friend to give you honest, brutal feedback (perhaps the same friend who gave you feedback on your resume). Listen to the tone of your voice in a recording. Get feedback on your handshake. Take a video and watch for your shoulders to dip.
Concluding note: I’ve tried to strike a light-hearted tone here on a serious matter. Unemployment sucks. I’m sensitive to that. But I hope that you’ll realize this one important thing: You can control all of the factors that improve the likelihood of you landing the job you want. You’re not a victim of a bad economy—the economy is roaring. You may need to make some changes that will be difficult and hard. But you CAN make those changes. And, when you do, you’ll likely be rewarded in the marketplace.
Employers are looking for employees everywhere right now, especially in skilled industries. They’re paying top dollar.
Go get you some of that.