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192,000 Jobs Filled and (Reasons) Why You're Not One of Them

07 March
by Careerminds
5 minute read

Monthly Job Numbers Editorial

 Each month, Careerminds' VP and Partner Justin Schakelman offers his reaction to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) employment report and how it impacts job seekers.

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I'm always eager to see how the job numbers shake out at the top of each month. It's like a new movie at the box office that you can't wait to see. In the forty-eight hours leading up to the sanctified first Friday of the month, economists, politicians, critics, the media, and seers do their best to prefigure whether our nation added or shed jobs. Then the holy number arrives from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). February's tally—a 192,000 net gain. Not bad, but not all that good either. Sure, businesses added some 222,000 jobs but government shed more than 30,000. By the way, the U.S. needs to create and fill around 200,000 positions every thirty days just to keep up with new entrants to the workforce.

Then comes the post-analysis. The same economists, politicians, critics, media figures, and seers swoop down and take sides on the effect of adding 192,000 jobs. Some hail it as a sign that things are picking up for job seekers, others crow that it's not enough and more needs to be done to get people back to work.

The reality is that the number 192,000 is meaningless if you're one of the 13,700,000 people who haven't found a job or have given up on looking for gainful employment. I argue that the lion's share of economists, politicians, critics, the media, and seers tend to grouse and squabble over 192,000 from the wrong perspective.

A couple of months ago I appeared on a CBS morning talk show where I spoke to the issue of the ailing economy and its effect on joblessness. The well-known interviewer surprised me when she asked, 'What should job seekers be doing right now to better position themselves to find work?'

To me, that's the quintessential question. How do we empower job seekers with the tools they need in order to deal with the reality of only 192,000 jobs created? The meaning of 192,000 to a fifteen-year IT professional who's been out of work for six months isn't found in fiscal policy or political debate, but in answering the question: how does he or she land a job within this sagging economy?

In other words, how can I become one of the 192,000?

It isn't dumb luck to be on the winning side of the monthly BLS statistic. The reality is savvy job seekers have considerable control over how to land an opportunity if they know how to stand out in the crowd. I don't want to give false hope, here, either. After all, 192,000 represents only one percent of the unemployment pool who landed a job in February 2011. Nonetheless, there are ways to significantly boost the odds that an employer will consider one applicant's resume over another.

Here are the top four suggestions that well-qualified—but jobless—professionals can and should take to heart as they stare 192,000 in the face.

#1 Take a good, long look at your professional brand

The concept of a professional 'brand' is essential in today's job market. With more than 13 million unemployed Americans looking for work, the signal-to-noise ratio for hiring managers and HR professionals is deafening. A resume gets an average of fifteen seconds of attention. So, the top twenty percent of a resume needs to communicate clearly and quickly the value that a person can bring to the organization. This is where a well-defined professional brand comes in handy. Hint: don't waste time telling the resume reader that you're a 'team player' or have 'outstanding communication skills'—everyone has that stuff. A brand is what makes the job seeker unique. To win, one must be provocative, harness his or her differentiation, and grab the reader's attention with a bravery to be bold. Amazingly, very few resumes do this well.

#2 How well are you networking?

Probably not well at all. The 192,000 are likely, on average, doing it better than most. Some seventy percent of all jobs are found through referrals, while the remaining thirty percent of jobs are filled though direct application. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of job seekers apply to jobs through direct application. To be blunt, this is largely a waste of time. Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and countless other job boards can be helpful as a starting point. The real power behind getting a job rests squarely on the shoulders of who the applicant knows. Do you want to make better use of job-search time? Stop with the job boards and get on a professional networking site. Try LinkedIn to start. Research shows that getting referred by to the right person by someone who knows you can be up to ten times more effective than simply sending your resume to an HR department.

#3 What are your transferrable skills?

No longer do the unemployed have the luxury of being one-dimensional; that is, a worker with a singular focus on a singular job function. That mentality severely limits opportunities. Why? Because many of the organizations who hired 192,000 talented folks in February are looking for workers who can do the jobs of two or three people—without having to hire two or three people. Make sense? Consolidation is the name of the game in corporate America. The clearest evidence of this is in the ever-flattening organizational structures. Layers of middle management are disappearing not just because companies' balance sheets can't handle the ballast but because technology is making it easier for a single worker to handle multiple job functions that were, at one time, done by many specialists.

#4 Message tailoring

Few people do this. But, I bet you many of the 192,000 who got a job last month, um, did. I don't know why—other than for reasons of laziness—job seekers avoid the tailoring technique. I know I've been guilty of it. We put the finishing touches on what we believe is a masterpiece resume and then start sending it off, en masse, to fifty companies. You know what happens next. No call backs. No nothing. Crickets. The culprit has everything to do with the resume itself. A well-written resume is a given. A well-tailored resume is a must. Most job seekers have the 'well-written' requirement under control. The problem is most individuals don't tailor their resumes to resonate with the person reading it. An applicant can double—or even triple—the chances of a response by simply changing out the resume's headline, keywords, and summary of key accomplishments to reflect the duties and functions listed in the job description. Remember, the resume reader is looking for a good fit within a few seconds of scanning the resume. Maybe it'd be a good idea to tailor it like an Armani suit.

Job seekers: how do you react to this editorial?

HR Professionals: any additional ideas or tips?

Recruiters: do you agree? Or is there something else going on here?


 

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Careerminds provides scalable, strategic solutions to organizations seeking affordable, web-based outplacement services. Using a Web 2.0 e-learning platform that delivers affordable, online career transition services, Careerminds provides a high-tech and high-touch blend of on-demand career transition education supported by senior-level career consultants to help displaced workers reenter the workforce quickly.

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