Unemployment and the new (old) job market
Like many people, my stay-at-home days have been filled with Zoom meetings, weird cooking experiments, and online entertainment and education. One of the latest elements in this mix was a webinar* on managing your career during and after the Covid-19 crisis. When you push aside the terrifying headlines, much of the job search process remains the same, despite the added technology-based bells and whistles.
The United States is seeing record unemployment (14.7% in April 2020) which brings to mind comparisons to the Great Depression of the 1930s. [There are record numbers of people lining up for assistance at food banks as well.] We also know that because of the way calculations for these numbers are handled, there are probably thousands of unemployed, under-employed, and discouraged workers who also need work who are not being counted. This is a global crisis the likes of which haven’t been seen in 100 years, and yet, some things in the job market remain the same.
Some companies are hiring now. Many of these jobs are front-line, often demanding and relatively low paying, in retail and operations. For example, grocery stores, those previously neglected hubs of survival, are hiring workers. Warehouses and transportation to keep those shelves filled means jobs too. Healthcare, as always, is a field with available jobs. Hard to fill specialties like finance and sales are still bright spots of opportunity, if you have the needed skills and education.
Speaking of skills, employers now (and probably in the future) are hoping for the same skills in candidates. They want employees with up-to-date tech skills, organization skills, and the ability to problem solve. Abilities in the areas of communication, critical thinking, and leadership are now, and always will be, in demand. It’s up to job seekers to continually develop these skills and to convey their experience and expertise in resumes, cover letters, and interviews.
The job-seeking and application process remains the same in a couple of key ways. First, though it’s almost impossible to prove, older workers continue to face discrimination in the market. This is especially distressing as I’ve heard in personal and professional settings that many older workers are facing the reality that they need to work. Society may be ready for them to step aside, but their bank accounts are not. In addition, remaining active and productive is essential for sustained mental health.
Another part of the journey to landing a job that hasn’t changed – networking. Depending on which expert you talk to, anywhere from 70% to 90% of job seekers find a job through a networking contact. In other words, they know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who can make a hiring decision. This means that although a lot of our reality has changed, the importance of making and nurturing relationships is evergreen. In a world where F2F networking events are currently out of the question and spontaneous coffee dates a trial, networking will be very different. And then there’s the reality of remote work becoming a huge part of our new normal too, and needing to network in the online world. Perhaps that’s a topic to expand on another day. *PS: I posted this as a mid-life piece because the last expert webinar I listened to on the topic was from AARP.