Tag Archives: Unemployment

An Often Overlooked Component of Job Searching: Finding The Right Fit

When you’re out of work, finding a job can be tough. After you’ve mined your network, attended numerous job fairs, and applied to countless jobs online, there’s a good chance that you’re starting to lose hope. Well, I’m here to tell you, don’t. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope.

Believe it or not, finding a job is not just about you. It’s as much about the jobs that are available as the skills you have to offer. Meaning, you might have just the right skills to be a network developer for a technology company, but if the technology company that you’re looking at doesn’t have any openings, then you may begin to question your abilities and skills as a network developer. You may begin to think that you might not be as good at what you do as you thought you were. The key part of that equation is that the technology company that you’re targeting doesn’t have an opening… but another technology company might.

If you’d like a more concrete example, we can look to professional sports. Since I was born and raised in Toronto, I’m a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s currently the preseason, so there are more players “on the team” than there will be in a couple of weeks when the season starts. That is, there are a number of players who are still “trying out” for the team. One of the players who is currently trying out with the Maple Leafs is Mason Raymond, who played with the Vancouver Canucks for the last six seasons.

At the end of last season, the Canucks chose not to re-sign Raymond. As a result, Raymond was able to sign with any team. To start the preseason, Raymond decided to tryout for the Maple Leafs. Given his skill, he likely could have tried out for a number of different NHL teams, but he chose the Leafs. Now, some could point to the popularity of the Leafs as a reason that Raymond chose them, but others could point to the current roster for the Leafs. That is, on paper, Raymond certainly seems to fill a role that the Leafs don’t currently have. As a result, Raymond stands a good chance of making the team.

After the first few preseason games, it certainly seems that Raymond is well on his way to making the team, too. In fact, now there may be some concern among the management of the Leafs that Raymond might be signed away by another team (Raymond’s not technically under contract with the Leafs for the season — he’s just trying out).

My point in sharing this story about Mason Raymond is that when the Canucks decided not to re-sign Raymond at the end of last season, it may have been a rather sad day for him. He might have gotten down on himself and thought that his NHL career was over. A few months later and he’s playing great for the Leafs in the preseason, which will (likely) assure him an opportunity, if not on the Leafs, on some other team.

You may feel like you’re down and out right now (like Raymond might have felt after last season), so it’s important to remember: finding a job is as much about finding the right fit as it is about putting yourself out there.

UPDATE: When I wrote this last week, Mason Raymond was still on a tryout with the Maple Leafs. This past Monday, he signed a 1-year contract. It just goes to show how important finding the right fit can be.

If You Want a Successful and Sustainable Company, Focus on the Workforce

Several months ago in one of those posts where I write about a bunch of ideas, but don’t flesh any of them out, I wrote the following:

Focus on Labor — I’ve never been the CEO or a highly placed Vice President of a company, but from an outsider’s perspective, I always have a hard time understanding the lack of focus on the labor force. At times, it really looks like labor is the key to success. If the labor force is well taken care of, production and profits tend to do well. It reminds me of that post I did about sustainability and pitchers. The relation here is that when management takes care of the labor force, it is with an eye towards long-term sustainability.

I still believe that this is an important idea. Without the workforce, where would a company’s profits be? Without the workforce, where would the economy be? Even after the rise of the robots, I still think it’ll be really important for companies to take care of their workforce. It turns out, I’m not the only one with this opinion.

From Henry Blodget, CEO and and Editor of Business Insider:

If you watch TV, you’ll be led to believe that the problem with the U.S. economy is that one political team or the other is ruining the country.

A sharp drop in government spending this year is, in fact, temporarily hurting economic growth, but that’s not the real problem.

The real problem is that American corporations, which are richer and more profitable than they have ever been in history (see chart below), have become so obsessed with “maximizing short-term profits” that they are no longer investing in their future, their people, and the country.

This short-term greed can be seen in many aspects of corporate behavior, from scrimping on investment to obsessing about quarterly earnings to fretting about daily fluctuations in stock prices. But it is most visible in the general cultural attitude toward average employees.

Employees are human beings. They devote their lives to creating value for customers, shareholders, and colleagues. And, in return, at least in theory, they share in the rewards of the value created by their team.

In theory.

In practice, American business culture has become so obsessed with maximizing short-term profits that employees aren’t regarded as people who are members of a team.

Rather, they are regarded as “costs.”

And “costs,” as we all know, are supposed to be reduced as much as is humanly possible (except the “costs” of the salaries of senior management and investors–those are supposed to be increased).

Bingo! Mr. Blodget hits the nail on the head. Regarding employees as costs is a fundamental mistake in thinking. As we know, our words are important. Not only for ourselves, but for those around us. He continues:

Whenever you suggest to folks that it doesn’t have to be this way, that some companies can and do balance the interests of shareholders with the interests of customers and employees–and, in so doing, create a symbiotic relationship that supports all of these constituencies–folks call you a “socialist.”

This is a strange insult, because the government has nothing to do with this. But, nevertheless, “socialist” is the label you get branded with if you suggest that the senior managers and owners of America’s corporations should share more of their vast wealth with the employees who create it.

This view of capitalism is that it is a sort of Lord-Of-The-Flies economic system in which the only consideration should be “every man for himself.” In this style of capitalism, leaders do not manage teams and organizations in a way that creates value for everyone–customers, shareholders, and employees. Rather, in this style of capitalism, a handful of winners extract as much value as they can from hapless losers who don’t have the skills, knowledge, or time necessary to “demand a raise” or “go get a better job.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

There is no capitalist law that says companies have to view employees as “costs” and pay them as little as possible.

Senior managers and owners can choose to share more of a company’s wealth with the people who generate it. They can choose to make only reasonable profits, while still generating compelling financial returns. And they can choose to pay their team-mates living wages instead of viewing them as “costs” and extracting every penny of possible value from them.

If American corporations were struggling to earn money these days, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

But they aren’t.

American corporations have the highest profits and profit margins in history.

American corporations can afford to pay their employees better, hire more employees, and invest more in their future and the country’s future.

But American corporations aren’t doing that.

Instead, American corporations are choosing to divert as much of their value as possible to their owners and senior managers.

Doing this is not a law of capitalism.

It’s a choice.

And it is a choice, unfortunately, that is destroying America’s middle class, robbing American consumers (a.k.a., “employees”) of spending power, and, ironically, hurting the growth of the same corporations that are making this choice.

If your customers are strapped, your company can’t grow.

And, right now, American companies are choosing to impoverish their customers (employees), while skimming off as much wealth as possible for themselves.

The idea of viewing employees as costs is perfectly in keeping with the idea that the US doesn’t require any paid vacation daysWhat kind of a company do you want to work for: one that treats its employees as assets or one that treats its employees as liabilities?

You’re Not Supposed to Hate Work

About a month ago, there was a rather disturbing headline that came as a result of a Gallup study: “70% of americans hate their job.” When I first read that, I thought, that can’t be right, can it? 70%!? That means for every person who likes their job, there are at least 2 people who hate their job. Do you like your job? That means that 2 of your friends hate their job.

Even now, reflecting on this, I find it hard to believe that this many people would stay at a job they don’t like. There would have to be an overwhelmingly compelling reason to stay at a job that one hates. A few things that come to mind: mortgage, children’s college fund, student loans, etc. I suppose we could talk about some of these big-ticket items weigh on the minds of people, but I’d rather talk about work. Why is it that we can’t all be doing something that we like to do?

Assuming that there are as many jobs out there as there are people, couldn’t we reach some sort of Nash equilibrium where everyone’s doing something that they like to do and no one’s doing anything they don’t? Part of the problem with reaching Nash equilibrium would be that some people are motivated by different things or are coming from different situations. So, I might really like construction, but I’m not very good at the things that you need to work in construction. If I have a degree in accounting, I might become an accountant, even though I’d rather be working in construction. There may be someone who’s in just the opposite situation, too. If we could switch jobs, we’d both be moving from miserable situations to desirable situations.

I haven’t really touched on the health implications of hating your job, but that’s an important factor to consider, too:

‘Our analysis clearly established that there was no difference in the rates of common mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression, between those who were unemployed and those who were in the poorest quality jobs.’

I think it’s a misnomer to say that work is supposed to “suck.” Why can’t we do what we love? Maybe for some folks, they don’t do what they love “full-time,” but they can gradually work their way into doing what they love full-time. Ken Robinson, noted TEDTalk speaker, wrote a great book a few years ago about finding your passion. If you’re working in a job that you hate (and statistics would tell us that you probably do) or you know someone who is, I’d recommend taking a look at Ken’s book. It just might change your life…

10 Things That I Can Do to Help Someone Else

It’s no secret that humans need each other to survive. With the way that our society is designed, we depend on each other for sustenance, love, friendship, and a whole host of other things. It’s not just in the big ways, though, too. Sometimes, we need someone to hold the door open for us because we have our hands full. Sometimes, we need someone to bail us out of a sticky situation. Maybe a nice stranger gives up the aisle seat on a transatlantic flight, so that it’ll be easier for you to walk around the plane with your newborn. There are lots of ways we can help each other out on this journey through life. As a result, I thought I’d list a few ideas about how I [you] can help someone else.

1. Ask, “What can I do to help you today?” Sometimes the simplest ways of helping [asking], can have the biggest impact.

2. Help someone find a job. If you have an unemployed friend, think about the people you know and if you might be able to connect your friend with a new opportunity.

3. Smile at a stranger. It’s contagious.

4. Do a chore that isn’t yours. It can be something small like washing the dishes or sweeping the kitchen. It could also be something big like doing the research for that trip to Tahiti or cutting the lawn.

5. Teach someone only something you know. The gifts you have in this world might not be realized until you share them with the world.

6. Let someone teaching you something. It’s also a great gift to let someone teach you something. Remember to keep an open mind

7. Be passionate about something. Maybe more than smiling, passion is contagious. Watching someone be really excited about something reminds us that we, too, have something that excites us in a similar way.

8. Listen — REALLY listen. It might come as no surprise to you how often conversations are really just about “waiting for your time to speak.” The next time someone is talking to you, really listen to what they have to say. It might shock you how the conversational dynamic changes.

9. Forgive him/her. Is holding that grudge really worth it?

10. Write a letter, send an email, and/or make a phone call to someone who has made a difference in your life. These little drops of gratitude can go a long way. I can guarantee you that hearing they made in a difference in your life will greatly brighten that person’s day.

What is “the Economy,” Anyway?

Earlier this morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published a bunch of figures, which collectively is known as the jobs report. The consensus around the numbers seems to be that the news is ‘positive’ for the economy. Hooray! Within the last hour, the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 14,000 for the first time in almost 6 years. Hooray again! After hearing about these two bits of news, I went on a bit of a rant on Twitter about “the economy.”

At times, this can be a bit bothering — listening to someone opine about the economy when they’re not really specifically pointing to the part of the economy that’s disturbing to them. Part of me wonders if this is because the person doesn’t know what they’re talking about and they’re just repeating the headlines they’ve read in the paper that day or something they heard the newsman say on TV).

The economy is vast — really vast. Let’s just look at the definition on Wikipedia for a moment:

An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the laborcapital, and land resources; and the manufacturingproductiontradedistribution, and consumption ofgoods and services of that area.

Labor, capital, land resources, manufacturing, production, trade, distribution, and consumption — that’s a lot of areas rolled into one! My guess is that when most people talk about the economy, they’re usually referring to that first part: labor. Their perspective on the economy is viewed through the lens of “do I have a job, do my friends have jobs, do other people have jobs, etc.” In this way, when unemployment is high, the economy is “down” or not doing so well.

The ironic part here is that today, with unemployment at 7.9%, the economy could be seen as doing quite well. I mentioned in the tweets above (and earlier in the post) that the Dow broke the 14,000 barrier for the first time in nearly 6 years. That’s pretty substantial as many other folks use the Dow as a proxy for how the economy is doing. “Is the stock market up, then the economy must be doing well…”

Just like unemployment is one facet of the “labor” area of the economy, the stock market could be seen as one facet of the “capital” area of the economy. Another important facet of the “capital” area of the economy: liquidity (cash).

A couple of days ago, Ezra Klein at the Washington Post had an important graph showing the rise in liquid assets over the last 20 years or so. The chart shows a steady (and quick!) rise in liquidity. In fact, liquidity has nearly tripled in the last 20 years! Why does this matter? Well, all that cash on the balance sheet of corporation’s doesn’t do any good for “the economy” nor does it do any good for the unemployment number of 7.9%. If it were up to me, I think that Congress needs to do something to incentivize the corporations for spending all that cash, which represents 11.3% of GDP! While I understand the Keynesian argument for stimulus spending, to me, it appears that coaxing all of that money back into the economy would be the most effective form of stimulus.

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While it may seem that I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, I just wanted to illustrate that “the economy” can represent a number of things to a number of people. The next time you hear someone talking to you about the economy, double-check with them the part of the economy they’re referencing.