Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Recession Has Reshaped the Current Job Market: The Skills Employers Are Looking For In Job Seekers

Written by Debbie A. Duran, MBA.
November 11th, 2010

Millions of Americans are unemployed. If you are not in this situation, at least you know or have a relative or friend in this predicament. Some people have been in this situation for more than over a year; and yet the employment conditions continue to look grim. So it is clear that the recession has significantly impacted the job market and reshaped it as well. It is not the conventional job market as we once knew it. Companies are not hiring, state governments are in huge deficits, and layoffs persist as a way of balancing budgets and improving efficiency. While there are minimum job openings, the total number of these available job openings remains relatively low, estimated at 3.2 million and prior to the recession, it was approximately 4.4 million. Although the number of job openings surged to 37% in the past year, the unemployment rate continues to rise or remain stagnant.
Despite the poor economic state, some companies are keen on hiring but they are finding it hard to fill positions and the reason is simple. Most job applicants lack the required skills and competencies that many of these companies seriously need.
According to Quintcareers (2010) most of the skills we acquire over our careers are transferable and can be placed into five broad skill areas, which are then sub-divided into more specific job skills:
1. Communication covers skillful expression, transmission and interpretation of knowledge and ideas:
 Speaking effectively
 Writing concisely
 Listening attentively
 Providing feedback
 Negotiating
 Interviewing

2. Research and Planning covers the search for specific knowledge and the ability to conceptualize future needs and solutions for meeting said needs:
 Forecasting ,predicting
 Identifying problems
 Identifying resources
 Gathering information
 Solving problems
 Analyzing
 Developing strategies

3. Human Relations covers the use of interpersonal skills for resolving conflict, relating to people:
 Listening effectively
 Being Sensitive
 Motivating
 Giving credit and acknowledgment
4. Management and Leadership covers the ability to supervise, direct and guide individuals and groups in the completion of task and fulfillment of goals:
 Being proactive and taking the initiative
 Managing groups
 Delegation responsibilities
 Teaching/ Coaching
 Promoting and facilitating change
 Managing conflict
5. Work Survival- covers the day-to-day skills that assist in promoting productivity and work satisfaction:
 Being punctual and managing time
 Organizing and prioritizing
 Meeting goals
 Accepting responsibility
 Cooperating with others

One of the reasons the above mentioned problem exists and persists is simply because employees are now expected to have more than one skill set in order to do more work. For example, a supervisor may now have to deal with his/her own conflict among employees, oppose to sending the employees to the HR department to see the HR manager. Layoffs may have caused the HR manager to assume more HR responsibilities; consequently, certain minor HR functions are now being delegated to the department managers and supervisors to handle. In this scenario, a typical supervisor or manager now needs to have conflict resolution skills.
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has recently released some post recession job statistics, indicating that the Manufacturing and Construction industries are the two hardest hit industries during the recession. The industries that are currently hiring full-time employees at a high percentage are: The Federal Gov; High Technology; State & Local Government; and the highest is the Health Industry. (SHRM, 2010)

There are not many specialized jobs or a great Division of Labor in the workforce anymore. A single person is now tasked with doing the work of two or three people, and if you refuse, there is always at least ten people, willing and able to take your place in this economic climate. The bottom line, there are jobs available (not as many as before) however; higher skill levels are needed to assume these roles. For example, if you are a File Clerk, you may want to go back to school to learn to type and use the computer more effectively and efficiently. If you are a Supervisor, you may want to learn how to effectively resolve conflict, lead and motivate employees as well as increase your knowledge on technology.
Have you ever looked at a Job Description and say “I am not even going to bother apply”, the truth is, if you realistically meet some components of the job criteria, then by all means, you should apply for the job. A Job Description is merely the minimum qualifications, skills, and ability to do the job, but as a candidate, you may have some other “transferable skills” that can be substituted. For example, you may have been working as an Accountant for years, and you were laid off, and you are having a tough time getting a job in your area of expertise, you have to sometimes think and go outside the box, and this means that you can transfer your number crunching, analytical skills to another field. For instance, you could look for employment in the Federal government or State/Local government as a Policy Analyst or any type of analytical position that requires high analysis of data or numbers. Who knows, you may like this new area and choose to stay after the economy rebounds or you may choose to return to your field.

In summation, the job market is not what it used to be, where we could march out there with qualifications and get a job. We have to be innovative and prepared to reinvent ourselves repeatedly in order to get a job. Technology has revolutionized how we live our lives and the recession has reshaped our workforce and to remain competitive, we have to think outside the box to stay in the employment game.
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  1. There is an interesting debate in the blogosphere exploring the reasons for the persistent high unemployment rates in the US and elsewhere. Conservatives lay the blame on the structural skills mismatch and argue that this cannot be resolved through any stimulus spending measures. Liberals claim that the massive slump in aggregate demand from the boom, means that there are massive idling resources which can be brought to work with an appropriately structured stimulus program.

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  2. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading your post and read the comments. Really a nice post here!

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