This article is part of an exclusive month-long program on CAREEREALISM to help readers break free of The Golden Handcuff Effect. Click HERE to learn more about the Professional Emancipation Project, a.k.a. The P.E.P. Talk. I talk to job seekers every day, and they have strikingly similar attitudes. They feel frustrated that the market remains so poor. Whether they are at junior, mid-, or senior levels, they find that the jobs just aren’t out there. And, as a career adviser, I'm in the unenviable position of telling them that they’re wrong. In fact, many organizations are hiring in droves. As much as job seekers would like to think the problem is the market, and they’re perfectly qualified, that simply isn’t the case. Candidates are failing at their job search because they don’t have the skills that employers want, plain and simple. Companies across the country report having increasing difficulty finding qualified workers, and some economists believe this skills gap is nearing a crisis. A recent national survey, the Job Preparedness Indicator, conducted by the Career Advisory Board and Harris Interactive, polled hundreds of hiring managers at top companies and hundreds of job seekers looking for work. The survey found that only 17% of the hiring managers felt the candidates they had seen had met their qualifications for open positions.
Honing In On Skills With The Widest GapAs part of an effort to close the critical divide between what candidates have and what employers need, the Job Preparedness Indicator assessed the value of key skills across entry, mid-, and senior levels by determining what attributes employers consider most important but are rarely seen in candidates. Skills rated most important by employers but least common among job seekers were assigned the highest score. Examples of skills with significant gaps are strategic thinking and global perspective. The implication is that the U.S. has already started experiencing the brain drain that was expected to begin in 2010 when baby boomers first entered retirement. Many boomers have left or are leaving their traditional corporate jobs, and businesses don’t have access to the talent to replace them. Furthermore, much of their institutional knowledge isn’t being properly transferred.
Demonstrate Mastery Of Critical SkillsThere are three primary ways job seekers can use this research to help their careers. First, if you’re seeking employment, you should carefully examine your level of the skills and traits with the highest indicator scores, and develop marketing materials that showcase your mastery of these skills and traits. For example, if you’re going into a new field at the entry-level, you might create a skills-based resume that highlights team building, since this is a skill that is perceived as rare among entry-level candidates. In the resume, and subsequently in the interview, discuss quantifiable results you achieved as part of team building efforts. A statement to this effect might be:
Organized and served as the leader of 25-member cross-functional innovation team, resolving internal differences and mining knowledge that resulted in the launch of four new profit-generating services.Statements like that can assure a hiring manager that you have the ability to work diplomatically with different groups, a skill that is apparently rare at the entry-level.