Welcome to part 2 of the 2-part series, I’m sorry for the delay in getting this out to you – but I’ve been fighting with a sinus infection of some sort and couldn’t find the energy to come back and finish this up until today.
Part 2 is a first-hand account of the job search process today and some commentary about the reasons why it may be difficult for some generations to find a job today. For those that are unfamiliar with the generational groups in today’s workforce, Part 1 is dedicated to defining the generations.
I start this topic because I myself am currently job searching. While I might not qualify as “Today’s Youth” anymore, being 27, I feel that I’m facing the same or similar problems with my job search today as I had when I was fresh out of college; so perhaps I can pretend that I’m still part of the youth.
My story is fairly typical. I graduated High School at the age of 18, immediately attended a 4-year university (switching majors from computer science to psychology) and graduated on schedule. During my time at the university, I had an internship as an assistant in a neuroscience lab on campus, as a senior housing assistant analyst for a local realty firm doing valuation audits, and as a human resources intern with the university’s local management group.
I graduated in May of 2008, and immediately put myself on the job market; sending out resumes and applying for positions. I was sure to find something entry-level, having a college degree had been touted as the only real necessity for finding a real-world job… so while I had very limited experience, I had what really mattered – or so I thought.
As it turns out, a college degree is not a qualification in today’s work environment. Unless you have a degree in something specific (accounting, for example); experience in often touted above education when looking at the job requirements. Moreover, “entry-level” positions often ask for 2-3 years of experience to qualify. For the newly graduated, this can be disheartening.
I came out of school at a horrible time; the economy was unstable through the summer months and then all but crashed in the fall of 2008. Companies across the board were making cuts, and getting fired was more likely than getting hired. I managed to secure a part-time position, which was lucky; but not a long-term solution. I stayed in the part-time position for nearly a year and a half. I had no benefits, was less money (partly because I was working less hours, and partly because the company would not pay a part-time worker the same hourly rate for a part-time worker… so I was compensated less for the time that I was working), and was unable to grow in the position because I was not on site enough for higher responsibilities to be given to me.
I did ultimately leave the position, and look for something full-time; hoping that the worst of the economic slip up was over. While I won’t bore you all with the details (I could just link my resume if I wanted to do that), I held other positions as an entry-level or temporary employee, but there was never room for advancement or growth, and each time it was a struggle for months just to get an interview. During the years, I’ve started and am currently finishing up my Master’s in human resources and I have had at least the minimum years of experience requested for entry level employment. Yet, in the last 6 months of job searching… I have had 2 interviews only.
The job search process today is dissimilar to the process in earlier years. In the past, much recruiting was down through ads in the paper, through word of mouth, or through job fairs. Look through want ads, or attend a job fair today and you might learn something about positions that are open… but ultimately you are going to be directed to apply online. Even fast-food restaurants rarely accept applications in person, opting instead to require online forms.
So you have to apply online, how is that different?
First, the application process has become complicated. To apply for a position, the average company would like you to: sign up for an account to apply, upload your resume, fill out an online application including job history (sometimes up to the last 12 years…. Discouraging when you’ve only been out of school for 4-5 years), and answer a questionnaire about why you are qualified for a position.
This is drastically different than the 1 page resume or application that might have been required previously. They are requesting more and more information, and while it might be pertinent, this also raises the amount of time spent on each application.
Second, the review process has been automated. Only a small fraction of the applications that are submitted to a company actually get seen by anybody. Computers are loaded with key words and phrases, and unless you happen upon these specifically (synonyms don’t count!) – Your application is rejected before any human eyes look at it.
This might be okay, except that computers are imperfect. Often you have qualified candidates that are turned down because they don’t trick their way through the computer system. Candidates that might be close fits, were it not for specific language, are never seen and never get to show what other skills they could bring to the board in lieu of their missing attributes.
I’m trying not to make this into a whining rant, and though I’ve spent days trying to think of a better way of saying it… it still sounds like a whine when I read it back. So, perhaps I’ll just move on to reasons that jobs might not be available.
This is the part of my post that will refer to part 1. There are three topics I’d like to bring up; the retirement age, age discrimination, and automation.
Baby Boomers should be retiring, but many aren’t. Although they’ve been working their whole lives, and have often risen to the tops of their fields; many baby boomer’s have lived “beyond their means” throughout their adult lives (living on loans, credit cards, etc.) and/or do not have savings to retire upon. Part of this is due to recent economic strife, but whatever the reason; the problem remains – baby boomer’s aren’t retiring.
In a time of continuous economic growth, this might not be a problem; in today’s world, however, this means that the finite number of jobs is filled and no one is leaving. Without their retirement, the worker’s below cannot graduate to senior positions, individual contributors cannot move into management, new employees cannot be hired. This is an exaggeration, I know, but the truth is that until we see a large wave of retirement or extreme corporate growth; we won’t see a large number of hires. Even moderate corporate growth would not really affect the number of new employees being brought into the workforce, since companies today are in the mindset that any positive growth needs to be coveted and saved for an impending rainy day.
The truth is, the delay in baby boomer retirement will be felt for many generations. Today, it may mean that the younger generation may need to wait a few years to start their career; but that means that the younger generation will need to earn more in less years, or work longer. Probably both with the increase in the human lifespan. Thus, every generation could be delayed more and more.
A second issue affecting today’s youth is age discrimination. While there are laws that protect older workers from being discriminated against, no such law exists for discrimination against the young. In fact, it’s “impossible” to discriminate against someone for being too young. It certainly happens a lot for an impossibility.
As an example, I’ll take my first position out of college. I interviewed for a full-time position as an HR Assistant. I was turned down for the position, because someone with more experience was selected. Fair enough.
This individual couldn’t handle the work-load, so I was brought back and interviewed and hired for a part-time position as an HR Assistant to work along-side the other individual. Again, fair enough.
Despite working less hours, I consistently completed more work than the full-time employee. In fact, I was often called upon to teach the full-time employee new skills. However, when given reviews and salary information – I was told specifically that I would NEVER make as much or be senior to the other individual because I did not have the years of experience that they had coming into the job. Even though I had more skills and a harder work ethic, they were a better employee because they had more time.
This is where I have to say that it becomes unfair to younger workers. If we are less experienced, and therefore have less skills or knowledge than those with more experience – sure, I can see why you’d go with someone who has more. However, if the person with less experience performs better, they should be rewarded.
The final item that has reduced jobs is automation. This is pretty straight forward; automation has eliminated a large number of manual or repetitive tasks that used to be performed by low-experience workers. Mail clerks and receptionists are being replaced by cell phones and email; robots have replaced assembly lines; and even check-out lines in supermarkets are now being replaced with electronic tellers.
I know, this post wasn’t nearly as well put-together as the previous post. But I suppose I should stop here. Any thoughts?