My post about the past two years of a friend’s adventure from getting laid off to looking for a job resulted in different kinds of comments in the blogosphere when it was featured on a few different sites. Comments ranged everywhere from agreement that it was her fault that she was still unemployed, to me being a horrible friend, me having an elitist attitude and looking down on unemployed people, etc. I understand and welcome everyone’s perspective, but can’t agree with them all.
These comments did make me think about all of the people who are actively seeking and having a hard time finding employment. As I mentioned in one of my responses to a comment on the other post, I know what it is like to try finding a job in the current environment. Between my mom’s home and mine, I am the only person that if fully employed. That’s between 6 working age adults. My mom is currently on disability, so I don’t count her. My step-father has been on a work slowdown since the factory that he works in will close in January after something like 80 years in operation. He’s a 57 year old blue collar worker. How easy do you think it will be for him to find a job? Due to efficiencies that I am currently working on to automate much of my own job responsibilities, I predict that I’ll probably be out of work within 5 months or so. Yes, I know, I’m making it easy for my employer to let me go by helping them to automate my work and outsource the rest. But what choice do I have? The job market here is brutally hard, especially if you are a blue collar worker, or if you work in the financial industry. But the fact still remains that while it is hard to find a job, it is not impossible.
With all that said, I am the first to recognize that there are a multitude of factors that are beyond our control that will make it very hard to find employment within a reasonable amount of time. While I won’t say that these reasons are excuses, they can help to explain why the official unemployment rate is hovering around 10% and why the country will never be the same again.
- The Rise Of The Third World
Access to technology; improved educational resources; a globally entwined economy and financial system; and cash infusion from countries and large global conglomerates seeking access to natural resources have all combined to help developing countries rapidly emerge and evolve. Many countries no longer need the U.S. to supply goods and services that they may now be able to produce.
- Manufacturing Shifts From The U.S. To Overseas
The industrial revolution changed the economy in the U.S. from one of farming based to one based on manufacturing and producing items for the entire world. That time has long passed as manufacturing has shifted primarily to Asia where raw materials are available, and labor is stunningly cheap. President Obama thinks that the next driving force for the U.S. economy should lie with green jobs. With China surpassing the U.S. as a leading supplier of photovoltaic cells used in the production of solar panels, that remains to be seen.
- Faltering Education System Within The U.S.
The U.S. spends more than almost any other developed country in the world on educating students (behind only Switzerland and Norway) yet ranks 28th in math and 22 in science out of 39 countries studied for PISA’s (Program for International Student Assessment) 2007 ranking of students in math and science. This lags behind countries like Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Liechtenstein, and ahead of just nine other countries when it comes to education in math and science. As more and more businesses turn towards technology, an emerging workforce that is knowledgeable in the sciences will help to keep jobs based in those key areas in this country. Countries like China and India are able to crank out tens of thousands of well-educated students that are knowledgeable in these areas every year. This had led to the phenomena of #4.
Yes, outsourcing is leeching jobs from this country. Areas such as programming, customer service phone banks and manufacturing have moved in large scale to countries that have a well educated work force that commands relatively low wages.
- Cost of Doing Business Within The U.S.
We don’t like to admit it, but while starting a business in this country is easy, keeping one going is hard. In NY there seems to be more rules than there are people about running your business. Did you know that if you sell a bagel whole it is not taxed, but once you slice it, the NY government considers it a sandwich which makes it subject to taxes? There are lots of rules to follow, which, if broken, can lead to excessive fines. Taxes on employing workers, health care costs, and retirement costs are pricing us out of the international work force.
People will get angry with me for this, but the wages that Americans command relative to the rest of the world is high. I’m not saying that we are living high on the hog, or that you can really raise a family on $7.50 an hour. What I am saying is that companies like Nike can get away with paying $7.50 a DAY in another country instead of paying $7.50 an HOUR here. It’s not right, but they can do it.
With everything listed above and more going against the American worker, it’s no wonder that finding a job a hard. But that’s the key; it’s hard, but not impossible. As American workers, we have to change with the times or we will all be left behind. Below are some industries that are actually hiring, and will be hard if not impossible to outsource in the future.
You probably already knew this, but as the baby boomer generation ages, there will be a need to people to help take care of them. This is at all levels from Home Health Attendants to doctors specializing in geriatric care.
- Personal/Executive Assistants
You do not have to have a business background to be an assistant. My undergraduate degree with in biology and I was an assistant for 3 years at an investment bank in their healthcare department. They needed someone that was both personable and knew some of the medical terminology that was used in the deal books. Assistants can work in any industry.
- Language Specialist/Linguists/Translators
If you can learn or speak multiple languages fluently, especially Arabic, Chinese and Spanish, you can be in hot demand. As companies become more globalized, there is a need for individuals that are able to speak multiple languages to deal with people across the globe. Even the armed forces need individuals with language skills.
The CIA, the FBI and ICE are all hiring people with lots of different backgrounds. No, you do not have to be a spy to qualify for positions within these government agencies. They need people with backgrounds in everything from logistics to large scale operations
- Green Collar Skilled Labor
Yes, President Obama did have something right. There is a need for people that can work on green jobs. This ranges in everything from electricians that can wire homes to new technologies, LEED construction specialists, recyclers, and green construction managers. If you’ve worked with your hands in the past, chances are that the green version of your former job needs you.
Beyond looking towards new industries, we must also change the way that we approach job searches. Yes, you can tap your social network to see if someone is hiring, but your network might be all tapped out. We must change our minds about what we are willing to do. One mistake my friend made was that she refused to work longer than 9 to 5. I am sorry to say that those jobs are rare. The standard work day in this city is now 9 to 6 or 8 to 5.
We also have to consider jobs that we might not have looked at before. Someone mentioned in the comments that I will be saying that we should do migrant farm work. I would not say anything so extreme, but if you have been out of work for a long time, is delivering pizzas to make ends meet or to pay off debts so bad? Many people are doing just that right now.
We also have to rethink what our positions are worth. This is perhaps the hardest pill to swallow. Employers have the upper hand now, and they know it. I am sure that there are hundreds of people applying for every single job opening, so employers can have their pick of the litter. This means that they can hire someone that is clearly overqualified and pay them less to perform the functions of a job than they would have in the past. This is simply because they know that there are lots of people – nay, hundreds, willing to take any open position. It’s the hard truth, but it is the truth. Employers are resetting pay rates and it sucks, but that means that we might have to scale our own lifestyles down.
So, in a few months’ time when I get my walking papers (although I certainly hope not) I have a plan in action ready to execute to find a job. I’m realistic about how much pay I might be able to command, and how long it will take to find something. When I factor in everything that I have said above, I know that it will be hard to find a job, but it won’t be impossible to do so. Just watch me!
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