Tuesday, January 4, 2011

We Challenge a Few Widely Held Perceptions About the Job Market.

The New York Times recently featured an article about employers’ rising preferences for temporary over full-time employees.  The article included a quote from Jonas Prising, president of the Americas at Manpower.  He said of the present and future job market, “[workers] need to expect that their lives and jobs will change much more often than they have in the past.”

Many may find Prising’s comment presumptuous (we may or may not be among those who do).  And while we can’t argue with Prising’s prediction, we’d like to correct some bad trends we see in Prising’s, the media’s, and often our own perceptions.

Here’s the truth we’ve found among the misconceptions.

1. We can no longer rely upon the same set of employers.   Many of those companies are either not hiring or adjusting their hiring practices to suit new industry demands.  Where one industry dies, another one is born, and new industries need workers. So why all the talk about whether or not companies are hiring? Let’s talk about what needs to be done to make our country better, and what sort of companies will organically be created to get it done.

2. We can no longer rely upon the same set of jobs!  Not only are industry demands changing; machines are taking the place of humans in many cases.  We lament it; yet, why do we consider smart machines – like self check-out, for example – a bad thing? A smart machine does not condemn a human to unemployment.  A smart machine frees up a human being so he can contribute somewhere else, where he is needed.  Machines allow us to do more; they do not force us to do less.

3. You are not a statistic.  We hear so many personal stories about individuals who, for example, applied to 700 jobs and didn’t hear back from one.  Don’t pay attention to these stories.  There are too many variables.  Consider that someone who applies to 700 jobs may not be efficiently using his time.  Did he consider changing his strategy or approach after application number 50?  Or did he just plow ahead with no reevaluation?  One accurately targeted application is better than 700 shots in the dark.  Forget the bad news.  You are an innovative, creative individual who can find a way to secure employment.  You will do what it takes.  Others’ stories do not represent your own fate.

We don’t deny certain barriers to equal opportunity that are worth looking into.  For example, it would behoove us all to pay close attention to increasingly skewed distribution of wealth in the United States and abroad.  What are the reasons behind this, and what can we do about it?

Our point is – contrary to what Prising’s comment and the talk these days seems to suggest – you are not a casualty of change, and you needn’t sit back and “expect” anything. Instead, you should be doing your part to create change… to ask what you can do.

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