Job Seekers

FREE RESOURCE: NGA Webinar on Using Social Media for Job Search

GJIF Social Media and Job Search Presentation from Michele Martin

Earlier this week I did a 1-hour webinar for the NGA on using social media in the job search. We covered using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Wikispaces for company research, networking, personal branding and finding job leads. 

The slides are above and you can access the recorded presentation here. I also have follow-up articles and posts available here


Promoting Youth Entrepreneurship

I'm currently working with the Philadelphia Youth Network on a project to promote entpreneurship to youth called Studio E, and we had our kick-off webinar today. You can see a recording of that broadcast above. We covered: 

  • The Entrepreneurial Imperative--what's happening in today's job market that is making it necessary for all young people to seriously consider self-employment and to develop the skills of entrepreneurs. 
  • New opportunities being created in the market by technology and trends in work arrangements and innovative funding options. 
  • Strategies for integrating entrepreneurship into our work with youth, regardless of the type of program we are running. 

We also introduced Try it Tuesdays, a weekly feature we'll be running for the next several weeks where we'll feature a new activity to try with youth that promotes entrepreneurship and/or teaches them some of the skills and thinking used by expert entrepreneurs. 

If you want to keep up with Try it Tuesdays, then you can follow the posts here. We have our first activity up, called The Inventing Game. It's a great way to get young people thinking about how simple tools and resources can be used to solve customer problems and how this ties in with starting a business. 

We're really excited about the intiative and looking forward to generating new conversations about how we can integrate entrepreneurial thinking and ideas into all of our youth programming. If you have ideas about this or resources you use, please drop me a line in the comments section. We'd love to hear from you! 

Supporting Self-Employment: The Speedy Start-Up

I'm a big believer in the notion that we should be doing more as a workforce system to help people explore the opportunities in self-employment, particularly when we're operating in a labor market where there aren't enough jobs to go around. To that end, I'm currently working with the Bucks County WIB to implement a pilot project we're calling The Speedy Start-Up.

This 12-week series is targeted to unemployed job seekers and will help participants go from identifying their business idea to actually starting up their company. As a small business owner myself, I know that the only way to learn how to run a business is to actually start doing it and this series is very focused on helping participants take specific actions to get their businesses operating with minimal investment and minimal planning. 

We're using the $100 Start-Up, The Lean Start-Up and Business Model You as core resources for the series, which will include weekly meetings, an online classroom and a series of structured activities to help participants identify and refine their idea, test it with potential customers and actually launch their business by the end of the 12 weeks. 

One of the big things that start-ups struggle with is isolation--people are trying to do things on their own with little outside support. The weekly group meetings are designed to help combat this isolation and to connect these fledgling small business owners to one another for support, feedback and accountability. They will also have the opportunity to leverage each other's learning, networks and resources. 

We're also focusing on the effectual process that expert entrepreneurs use to develop their businesses--a process that's quite different from how we typically teach entrepreneurship. Most entrepreneurial efforts I've seen in the workforce development field use the kind of causal approach that can work for established businesses, but that isn't appropriate for start-ups. In the Speedy Start-Up, we're using the latest research and information on how expert entrepreneurs build their businesses and create multiple income streams for themselves. 

Last week I did a presentation on the project to One Stop customers in the Bucks County CareerLink's Networking Now group and got an incredibly positive reaction. People are looking for any opportunities they can find to help bring in more income to their families and to begin feeling successful again. We have 12 slots open and in less than a week we've already filled over half of them. This is something I think people are desperate for and I'm very excited to start working with them. 

If you want to learn more about what we're doing, watch the video above and then check out our Speedy Start-Up website. If you have more specific questions, feel free to email me at [email protected].

More Evidence That Lack of Jobs, Not Lack of Skills is Behind Our Unemployment Problems



Earlier this week, I posted that we need to move out of our "skills deficiency rut" when it comes to how we are serving the long-term unemployed. We have to stop acting like the main issue they are facing is their lack of skills. 

Now there's new data to support the idea that long-term unemployment is largely about a lack of jobs. The Economic Policy Institute reports that long-term unemployment is elevated for all workers at all educational levels. 

The long-term unemployment rate is between 2.9 and 4.3 times as high now as it was six years ago for all age, education, occupation, industry, gender, and racial and ethnic groups. Today’s long-term unemployment crisis is not at all confined to unlucky or inflexible workers who happen to be looking for work in specific occupations or industries where jobs aren’t available. Long-term unemployment is elevated in every group, in every occupation, in every industry, at all levels of education.

Elevated long-term unemployment for all groups, like we see today, means that today’s long-term unemployment crisis is not due to something wrong with these workers, it is due to the fact that businesses across the board simply haven’t needed to significantly increase hiring because they haven’t seen demand for their goods and services pick up enough to warrant it.

In other words, a big part of the unemployment problem (both long-term and short-term) is lack of jobs.

You can see that in the figure below--there's a gap of 7 million jobs between where we are currently and where we should be if we're going to be on pace to replace all the jobs we lost during the recession and keep up with new entrants into the labor force. 


Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellin also makes a multi-point argument for lack of jobs being the problem  in a speech from March 31. In it, she points to evidence that there is still a great deal of "slack" in the economy, meaning that there are more people willing and capable of filling jobs, than there are jobs available for them to fill. For example:

  • There are 7 million people who are working part-time, but who would prefer to be working full-time
  • Voluntary quits are at a much lower level than their pre-recession levels, indicating that people are afraid to leave their jobs for fear they won't find another one or that they aren't able to find new jobs in the first place. 
  • Wage growth has been modest at best, barely keeping up with inflation in some cases and actually declining in many occupations. If employers were really desperate for workers, we would see wage wars going on. That simply isn't the case. 
  • The labor force participation rate is falling for workers of all demographic stripes, including people in their peak earning years. This suggests that many have simply given up looking for work and have dropped out of the economy. 

Although there are obviously  unemployed workers who need re-training and/or skills upgrades to be competitive, the real issue for all job seekers is the lack of jobs. Focusing on training issues isn't going to help us address the bigger issue that once you're trained, it's still incredibly difficult to get hired, particularly into a full-time, well-paying job.  

As workforce development professionals, we need to start focusing on what we can do to help job seekers in a market where there aren't enough jobs to go around and where the jobs that are available don't pay the bills.

Job search help and re-training only work when there's a reasonable chance that someone will be hired. We need to be putting our attention on other ideas and strategies for supporting the unemployed. 


What if Workforce Development Focused on "Achieving Stability" Rather Than on "Finding a Job"?


I was watching a Lead Center webinar on maintaining employment through economic advancement strategies and it got me thinking about how our work and systems might be transformed if we shifted our focus. 

In particular:

What if we focused on helping job seekers achieve employment and financial stability rather than on helping them "find a job?" 


In reality, when we work with people to help them find employment, our ultimate goal is to help them achieve some  stability. But this isn't an explicit purpose or focus of the workforce system. We're much more focused on "getting a job," which is only one strategy for achieving greater stability.

I've written before about why we need to expand our discussions about this, but it occurs to me that if we shifted to a focus on employment and financial stability it could open us up even more to how we could better support our job seekers. 

 If employment and financial stability was the focus, then we might:

  • Help people think about developing multiple income streams, especially through combining employment with "side gigs" and small business opportunities. 
  • Find ways to help people who are currently working anticipate and address potential lay-offs BEFORE they happen, so that individuals can be pro-active, rather than reactive.
  • Work more effectively with employers to identify and implement lay-off aversion strategies and other work arrangements that would give workers more certainty in planning for their futures.

Right now, I think we're spending a lot of time chasing jobs. As a system, we might be better off taking a step back and really looking at how we could work in our communities to create more stable employment and financial situations for job seekers. By focusing on creating stability, we can help people access many more options and they will get some relief from the anxiety created by uncertainty. 

The New Core Services: Career Management for the 21st Century


In yesterday's post, I introduced the idea that we should expand Core Services beyond our usual job search topics so that we could enage both employed and unemployed job seekers in a longer series of career management topics designed to increase their career resilience

Today, I want to share some of my thoughts on the types of topics we should be addressing in these expanded Core Services. 

Core Services Topics That Build Career Resilience

In my work with job seekers, both employed and unemployed, I've observed that there are a number of areas where people need to be getting more education and support. These are a reflection of how the job market has changed and how expectations for both workers and employers are evolving. 

  • Figuring out if they are vulnerable to a lay-off.  Too many people seem to be caught totally off-guard when a lay-off comes.  Somehow they've thought it wouldn't happen to them, even though we can see fairly clearly the industries and occupations where the handwriting is on the wall. I think we need to do a better job of helping people look at how technology and other factors may impact their work so they can begin preparing sooner, rather than later for the possibility of losing their jobs. 

  • Identifying the best new skills and credentials workers need to make themselves more valuable in their occupation and industry. In my work with job seekers, I've found that there is a great tendency to leave professional development up to the company. Workers will only access the training opportunities that their organization provides to them. This can be a huge mistake, however. Companies are focused on what's best for their business, not necessarily on what's best for an individual employee. Job seekers need support and information in thinking about and accessing skill development opportunities that will best serve THEIR needs, not just the needs of the company. And they need this help while they are still employed, not after they lose their jobs. 

  • How to create strong, resilient networks and quality relationships with people. Now more than ever, professional success is tied to the quality of your relationships. Yet most people don't recognize the importance of their networks until they need them. Worse yet, this is often when they discover that they haven't done a good job of building and tending to their connections. The people who are most likely to find work quickly once they lose their jobs are those who have created quality networks. These are also the people less likely to lose a job in the first place, because through their networks, they're always finding and accessing new opportunities.

  • Developing a "personal brand" and communicating that brand on and off-line. I know that in many of our job search workshops, we discuss the concept of having a "personal brand" and how you communicate that brand through your resume, interviews, etc. But the time to start creating your personal brand is while you have a job, not once you've lost it. People who are currently employed need help in understanding the concept and elements of personal branding and support in learning how to communicate that brand through social media and in real-life interactions. The more they are able to do this, the less likely they are to lose their jobs.

  • Thinking like an entrepreneur and developing multiple income streams. Entrepreneurs are always focused on finding new opportunities--how can they use their skills and resources to accomplish particular goals? This is the kind of thinking that employers prize and it's a mindset that people can learn. We should be teaching and reinforcing these skills. We should also be talking to people about creating multiple income streamsso that they are less vulnerable if/when a layoff comes. We should show them how they can start side businesses to supplement their income and how to construct a career from project work. This brings more stability to people's finances and also helps people develop new skills and opportunities for themselves.

If we really wanted to get serious about providing these kinds of services, I would see us making available a whole range of supports, including:

  • In-person workshops
  • Online live webinars
  • Recorded video presentations that people could review on their own time
  • Podcasts that people could download to their computers or to their mp3 players
  • Worksheets and PDF resources 

Obviously in-person workshops and regular webinars are the most staff-intensive strategy and I know that many American Job Centers/One Stops already feel stretched to the max. At a minimum, though, we should explore ways that we could provide these services online through pre-recorded sessions and worksheets, articles, etc. These can be created once and then used repeatedly. 

What are your thoughts? Can you see how these could benefit your customers and help all job seekers become more resilient and employable?