Helping people find jobs in the aftermath of the great recession

The recession has changed hiring practices in both subtle and dramatic ways – ways that some job developers may not be aware of. Larry Robbin, a nationally known expert in the area of workforce development, brought job developers up to date in a workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development on March 6.

“The recession has changed how companies hire and who they hire,” Robbin says.

With more than 14 million people out of work and less than 3 million positions open, the job market has become more competitive than at any time since the great depression of 1929.

There are two things that job seekers need to be successful in today’s market, according to Robbin. No, it’s not networking skills or a top-notch resume, although these are important as well. The most important qualities of job seekers are their ability to manage rejection and their determination to stay in the game. Otherwise they lose.

As job developers, you need to look for every angle you can to encourage healthy competition. Job seekers have to know how to compete, says Robbin. If you’re doing mock interviews, for example, have the people who are observing vote on the best interview and critique what is said. Those who don’t present themselves well may get their feelings hurt, but it will prepare them to do better during the actual interview.

Celebrate success

When anyone in your organization gets a job you should make a big deal about it. Send out an email saying that so and so got a job offer, and here’s what they did that was creative to get that job. Put an easel or a whiteboard in a public place with the names of everyone who got a job that week written on it. Encouraged those hired to get up in front of a group and tell others how they got their job. This is particularly good for people with barriers to employment. Celebrate their success.

Create successful role models. As a society, we’re information heavy and role model light. The more role models you can show people, the more they will be able to stick with their job search and eventually succeed, Robbin says.

Partner with local businesses

One barrier to employment for many people is a fear of meeting employers. These job seekers may lack the confidence that they’re good enough or don’t think they make a positive impression. To overcome this, create situations where employers and job seekers can meet in a relatively informal setting. Sponsor “Meet the Employer” days, and invite hiring managers from local companies to attend.

If you have business people on your board of directors, get them to come into the program to talk to your clients. Contact your local senior center and find retired people who can talk about their careers and what made them successful.

Teach job seekers how to deal with stereotypes

You need to work with job seekers so they understand the stereotype of the group they represent. Those looking for work need to determine what employers are going to be thinking about them and what can they can do to counter that. Ex-offenders should develop a Turn Around Talk and Turn Around Packet, which is explained on this website and in our soon-to-be-published book.

Older workers need to talk about how much physical activity they do and how healthy they are. Workers in their 20s actually miss three times as many days of work as seniors, but the common belief is that seniors will be absent because of health issues.

Help job seekers develop face-to-face networking opportunities

While many people think of “networking” as something that you do at official business events, there are so many informal ways to get to know people who may be able to help you in your job search. Here are a few of them:

  • Volunteer for an organization or event where many people are involved.
  • Take a class.
  • Get involved in a hobby group.
  • Join a sports team.
  • Get involved in a political campaign or cause.
  • Attend local government meetings where business people will be present.
  • Join Toastmasters International, which will provide excellent opportunities to practice speaking in public in preparation for interviewing.
  • Join a church group.
  • Go to a gym.
  • If you have children, get involved in their school.
  • Attend local chambers of commerce mixers.
  • Throw a party or picnic and invite friends with different types of jobs. Tell them to bring a friend.

Helping job seekers with barriers

There are many ways to work with job seekers who face barriers, but one excellent tactic is to look at the annual reports of various large public companies to see if they have initiatives to hire people with certain types of barriers. Many do. Some hire ex-offenders, others the homeless or those with disabilities.

Teach seekers to consider profit centers

You need to teach job seekers how to determine what a business’s profit centers are and how they can contribute to them. For example, a restaurant owner is hiring someone to bus tables. Figure out what the three most important profit centers for this job are. The most likely are the ability to do the work quickly and efficiently so there will be a higher turnover of customers. Not breaking any dishes. Being kind to customers so they’ll want to return.

We’ve offered a few tips on how to help your job-seeking clients find work in these tough times. Can you think of any other ideas? If so, please send them our way.


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