The US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Bureau of Economic Research published a chart spanning 1950 through 2012 and showing that the current recession versus all other recessions within the same time period is literally double in size in a comparison of the long-term unemployed as a share of the labor force for 27 weeks or more as well as a percentage of the total unemployed for the same period of 27 weeks or more. Such information is staggering and painful.
As a practicing career coach and one who works daily with people who represent part of those statistics, I ask myself why the current recession is so different from the other nine recessions mentioned in that chart, and I find that one of the contributing factors is a destabilized world affected by major and unusual events that in turn affect the world economy. Employers must adapt to those changes, and their adaptations cause a shift from what we knew from the past. Unfortunately, many employees have become displaced as a result—some of them for a very long time.
Without having any statistics that I can rely on but just from my own cadre of clients, I find evidence of a direct correlation between the age of the job seeker and the amount of time it takes the person to get back into the labor market. Why is that, I ask myself. And the answer that comes to mind—again, based on my own observations and not statistics—is that people more advanced in age (1) lack the skills employers need for their futures and (2) are less prone to, less willing about, and less capable of learning.
As an example, let’s take the topic of social media. It is well-known through published information that employers take advantage of social media on an ongoing basis to evaluate employee prospects, and more than 90 percent of them look up candidates’ profiles even before they make first contact with any of them, yet (1) most job seekers have not developed their personal brand; (2) some use LinkedIn, but in many if not most cases, their profiles are lacking and incomplete; (3) a few use Twitter effectively to some degree; (4) and another bunch use Facebook, but in most cases inappropriately and unprofessionally, and they don’t realize the extent to which that can damage them when they’re looking for work. Very few job seekers use other social media such as Google+, Instagram, YouTube, and others. Older people are resistant to learning such new things like the use of social media and to adapting to constant change, and that makes it even more discouraging.
Adaptation to the future and to what employers are looking for is a challenge to some. Job seekers in my eyes are similar to entrepreneurs. To be successful takes a drastic change in attitude and thinking: away from the past status quo and willingness to learn new things. Also, a job seeker needs strong knowledge in all of the Microsoft Office suite products such as Word, Excel, and Outlook (which to my mind is the best platform for job seekers) because those skills are needed in work with databases or apps to promote their cause.
by Alex Freund