Home Job Search Job Seekers AND Employers Losing the Battle: Square-Pegged Workers in a Round-Holed Workplace

Job Seekers AND Employers Losing the Battle: Square-Pegged Workers in a Round-Holed Workplace

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By J.T. O’Donnell

Job Seekers, I’ve got news for you: your skills are outdated, your experience doesn’t apply and you don’t fit the company culture…welcome to the current state-of-affairs in job search.

Don’t worry Employers, I’ve got news for you too: your standards are too high, the time and expense you spend in recruiting is too great and you are looking for talent that doesn’t exist…welcome to the current state-of-affairs in talent acquisition.

Don’t believe me? Then read this BusinessWeek article. FACT: We’ve got 13M+ people out of work and 3M+ open jobs – and climbing. Why? Because our talent doesn’t match the job openings:

“…it’s evidence of an emerging structural shift in the U.S. economy that has created serious mismatches between workers and employers. People thrown out of shrinking sectors such as construction, finance, and retail lack the skills and training for openings in growing fields including education, accounting, health care, and government.”

But wait, there’s more:

“As bad as it is now, the mismatch will create bigger problems when the economy begins to expand again. First, the unemployment rate is likely to remain distressingly high because many people who want jobs will lack the appropriate qualifications. Second inflation could pick up sooner than expected if employers are forced into bidding wars to recruit the few people who are qualified for the work…”

The article goes on to explain a new index to measure the challenges in the labor market. Referred to as the ‘Jobs Misery Index’ (I’m not kidding!), it is the sum of the unemployment rate and the jobs openings rate. Why should you care? Well, historically, this number has hung at 8%. But last spring, it started a steep ascent and is now over 10% and some suggest it could stay there, even when the economy starts to recover. One potential reason for it to stay high is the fact that many Americans won’t take jobs they feel are beneath them.  Another is the inability (or desire) for talent to relocate i.e. job seekers with homes they can’t (or won’t) sell keep them stuck in a certain place. Yet, while the pride of workers and the immobility of talent hurts job placement rates for sure, the overwhelming factor remains that we’ve got a large pool of square-pegged job seekers who can’t fit into a round-holed workplace. Here’s an example:

Graduation season is approaching and soon millions of diploma-holding job seekers will start looking for work. Yet, without any practical work experience (a 2007 survey indicates that less than 30% of high school and college students work while in school, and those that do are rarely employed in professional settings), these job seekers will find it tough to get hired into corporate America. The ‘Catch 22’ of needing experience to get experience will leave many of these new grads in a professional stall pattern. And, when the economy rebounds, if companies aren’t willing to train them, the road to a satisfying career could be a long one.

Where does this leave us?

Well, I agree with the article’s reality check. Two things will need to occur:

1) Job seekers are going to need to take lesser-paying jobs as part of a ‘course correction’ for their career paths that will eventually lead to better pay and longer-term employability.

2) Companies are going to need to expand and improve their on-the-job training and succession planning so they can hire talent which are a 50% fit and develop them instead holding out for the 90% fit that will never knock on their door.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Job seekers and employers reading this are both saying, “Why me?” The answer: Because to get what you really want, you’ve got to put some skin in the game. It’s not sacrifice, it’s investment in a better future. As the article closing argument states:

“A mismatch of work and workers is never a good thing. But smart policy – combined with realism on the part of the employers and job seekers – can minimize the disruption.”

Agreed. BOTH sides have to proactively step it up. But, will they?

So, let me ask you job seekers: What are you doing to make yourself employable long-term?

And, employers: How are you changing your approach to talent selection and development?


Share what you are doing to battle the Jobs Misery Index below.

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