Monday, September 24, 2012

Workforce Development - Where To From Here?

The gap is widening quickly
During the mid-seventies I worked with the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act  (CETA) program, first as a client in community education and later as a staff counselor.

CETA was a federally funded jobs program and predecessor to the current Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program. The goal was to create and provide kick-start funding for public service jobs in schools, local, county and state government.

For the most part, the program (at least in my little corner of the world) worked well. Employers interviewed and hired from a pool of applicants provided by CETA. Funding for the positions typically lasted one year during which the client/employee worked and trained in the new position, hoping to be retained at the end of the funding period.

In some cases the job and employee were added by the government entity, which meant the job development objective of the program was achieved. In other cases the position was not added but the client was kept via transfer or hiring to a position already in existence. In either case the result was positive for the client/employee.

Of course this all took place in a pre-digital, much slower paced time. The new positions were employer based and funded. CETA clients were matched to them, not the other way around. Clients knew they had enough time to show the employer what they had to offer and so did the employers. Heads-up and creative managers found ways to retain client/employees that were providing solid service and value.

It's all very different now. The public service sector is still cutting back. Employers of all types have reduced labor as a way to profitability. Jobless recoveries and lingering unemployment are becoming facts of life. More and more workers are engaged in temporary or contract employment.

The average tenure at a company is now just under 4.5 years. This means nearly all workers, like it or not, need to be on continuous job search. They must also be adaptable to an ever changing employment marketplace. Not everyone gets this. Not everyone can pull it off. The gap between the employment haves (higher skills / higher pay) and the have-nots (lower skills / lower pay) is widening very quickly.

In this market and even more so going forward, being a Free Agent job seeker is not just a concept, but a reality. The economic crosswinds are strong and ever changing. Employers complain of a lack of highly skilled/right skilled workers yet can't stop long enough to explain exactly what they mean. Unemployed workers aren't sure what skills are in demand or how to market the skills they do possess.

Funding is skimpy for any type of workforce program, especially those modeled on marketplace realities no longer in existence. Programs like CETA and WIA are relics of the past. New programs will be required but there's little consensus on what they should look like. Business (first mover) isn't waiting around and government (last mover) has little choice but to downsize.

In the meantime, the middle-class shrinks as do real wages and benefits.

Buckle up, its going to get worse.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Job Search and Mindfulness

Deserving of a dedicated post is something I call the Hiring Formula. I will expound on it later. Mention of it here comes in connection to mindfulness, which in simple terms refers to staying in the present moment.

The hiring formula is used in some fashion by all employers, in essence it states: past (all that has happened previously, the information sought via employment applications) plus the present (introductions, follow-ups meetings, interviews) results in a calculation about the future (hiring, taking a chance and a leap into the future).

Past + Present = Future

Candidates that remain present while communicating with potential employers do better than those that don't. I believe this to be true and I help job seekers achieve it. But this doesn't apply only to situations that result in the immediate success of getting hired.

Those that remain present  (in the moment, awake, conscious) but not immediately successful, take away valuable information usable in the next situation. Although the objective is not achieved, staying present enables the seeker to see and hear what is actually taking place. These real-time experiences form a practical knowledge base. From here necessary adjustments can be made the next time a similar situation is encountered.

Those remaining asleep, non-present and unconscious, are far more likely to filter and skew the experience to suite their concept of how the world works Vs how it really does. They grind away, complaining about "how it is out there" which is to say, outside of their concept of how it should be or how they'd like it to be.

The point is that staying present is a benefit to the job seeker. Being and staying present are part of mindfulness philosophy that has something to offer all of us. Coming to know this however may take time. To appreciate the value of mindfulness one need only experience it directly.

Utilizing mindfulness requires that the job seeker do and not just think or talk about doing. No tools, cost or outside agents are required. All that's needed already exists within the seeker. Its a matter of approach and practice. There are many benefits here are a few:

1) Staying focused on the Job Search Objective
The easiest way to see the merit of remaining present is the look at what happens when seekers cannot move beyond all that constrains them from the past and freezes them in fear regarding the future - a slow and frustrating process.

2) Remaining in the moment when communicating with prospective employers
Not only do people position themselves to succeed and excel when face-to-face with potential employers but they maximize their "teachable moments" when immediate success eludes.

3) Delivering solid service leading to successfully retaining the job
No way to deliver good service when past issues encroach and worries over things yet to happen overwhelm. Success leading to retention and advancement come from delivering solid service in the present.

Going forward I will have lots to say about mindfulness as it relates to success in finding a job.

Until then,

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Friday, September 14, 2012

The American Dream and Renters In Waiting

An article on home ownership in the Real Estate section of the Las Vegas Business Press (9-3-12) caught my eye. It adds to the narrative regarding the struggles of the middle-class.

The story describes the spread between the official home ownership number as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau (most recently 65.5 percent) and the "real" rate as reported by real estate consultants that follow the data very closely (their number is 62.1 percent).

The 3.4 percentage point difference between the office and "real" percentages is accounted for by removing 3.8 million households that are 90 days or more delinquent on their mortgage payments. When these homeowners are pulled and 62.1 percent is used, the level of home ownership is the lowest in 50 years according to the article. I guess that's a story in itself.

Described as "renters in waiting" these 3.8 million are in effect treading water while banks work their way through the large inventory of problem loans. Complicating matters and contributing to a not-so-quick fix are: the shear number of stake-holders involved, understaffed banks, messy loans that have been modified or in foreclosure, state and federal government sanctions or out-right intervention. All this contributing to a slow moving process and much larger spread between the official and "real" percentage, typically around 1.0 percent Vs the 3.4 percent noted above.

One could argue that moving slowly actually helps the overall economy as delinquent homeowners presumably spend what would otherwise go to mortgage or rent payments on items such as food, clothing and necessities that have an immediate impact on the economy.

Just look at the math.

3,800,000 = delinquent homeowners
x  $1,008  = average apartment rent in US
=  $3,830,400,000 per month

The calculation is pretty rough but the point is there's two sides to every coin. All 3.8 million households are not going to move into apartments overnight but there will be a culmination to this at some point. The $3.8 billion per month (or whatever the actual amount) will be missed by the economy. What's more, some percentage of the household members will re-enter the job market to generate more income once outlays for rent and food/clothing/necessities are required. In a sense, there will be a double drag on the economy.

With an estimated 115 million households in the US and an economy (GDP) of $15 trillion, the impact of these 3.8 households will be hard to spot but present nonetheless.

Unexpected consequences to this popped real estate bubble abound, making the task of finding a job a real challenge. However there are relative bright spots, for example here in Las Vegas apartment/condo maintenance workers with HVAC and Pool Certs aren't sitting around. Similar things are taking place in Phoenix and Southern California. Going forward the demand for workers with very specific skill sets and related certification will increase.

Niche specialists will rule the day over the generalists/jacks-of-all-trades.

Of course just more salt in the wound for all those English Lit majors.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Job Search and Personality Defaults

Before starting your job search it's a good idea to review how you usually roll. What is your usual MO when it comes to managing a project that requires planning and doing over time? Do you get on with it quickly or procrastinate? Once underway do you move fast or slow as a snail? Do you experience productive periods where interest and excitement are high, followed by downer periods where almost nothing gets done?

It's my experience that personality really comes out during the process of job searching. Job seekers find themselves frequently outside of their comfort zone resulting in distress, even panic. People hit the reset button and  revert to their usual ways of behaving when this happens. After all, personality appears to be a matter of wiring not unlike the factory settings on a new TV set. The default sets for a flat screen are (relatively) easy to change. By comparison, a person's base settings are not.

Personality defaults lead to behavioral patterns and choice preferences. Everyone has these innate presets, however we shouldn't assume they serve us well in all situations. More to the point, will your own factory settings be helpful to you when it comes to achieving your Job Search Objective?

Sadly the answer is no or not really in many cases. People want to achieve but they don't want to tweak the factory settings to make it happen. Rather than making the end goal the driving force, they want to go about things in the same old manner, in effect making the same old way of doing things the end goal.

You cannot think your way to adjusting your default settings, you must do it and this involves overriding the presets. This alone doesn't really change anything, its more like temporary overwriting. Experts in behavior modification know that consistent and sustained doing of new behavior can literally re-write the defaults. The new behavior simply becomes the behavior. This takes time. For now, act it out as if playing a part. Focus on the desired outcome and play the role of the one achieving it.

Below are four considerations to help make it different this time. Place emphasis on doing the following even though it's not your usual way.

Speed, distance and pace
Set your speed to match the distance you wish to cover so that the high energy/highly productive days are flattened and the lower energy/less productive days are enhanced. In other words, pace yourself.   

Maintain momentum
Don't stop, don't go in reverse. Stay mindful of each accomplishment in order to gauge your degree of momentum. Bottom line, keep moving forward no matter what.

Be methodical and steady
Stay tightly focused on your Job Search Objective and pound steadily away on it like a pneumatic hammer. Pace and momentum come into the picture here.  

Remain adaptable and flexible
Yes to keeping a steady pace, yes to maintaining momentum and yes to being methodical as a machine. And yet, stay heads-up and ready to navigate the sharp turn when it pops up unexpectedly. Make the turn and then get right back on track heading toward your goal. 

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Friday, September 7, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

The Middle Class was mentioned repeatedly this week at the  Democratic National Convention. The subject will be BIG during the upcoming debates, as well it should. See my August 30, post. Both parties are in continual test-mode regarding this group because the election will come down to how, in mass, the middle-class/middle-income/middle-something segment of society votes.

The middle-class, jobs and job creation are the themes for this campaign. I get irritated and a bit ill listening to all the battering taking place over job creation numbers as if they were frequent flier miles or casino player's card bonus points. Pathetic.

This is new territory. Obama came in on the shock waves of the late ' 07 plunge. Since then the depth and severity of the situation have hit home, crossing over established social boundaries like the tsunami wave that swept across the countryside in Japan. Neither party should assume they've got a lock on how all of this is playing in Peoria.

Also hitting the media outlets this week was Labor Department's report on productivity during the second quarter. reviewed the report focusing on increases in productivity and company profits but not hiring, indicating businesses are getting more out of existing labor, capital goods and cash resources.

Companies, especially the very large, are sitting on lots of cash. Common wisdom has it they're reluctant to hire until things improve, which I guess makes sense. But don't overlook the fact that these companies have found ways to stay afloat and amass large cash piles without adding any more employees than is absolutely necessary (think automation, digitization and outsourcing).

This got me thinking and digging (again) concerning jobs, the plight of the middle-class and the housing bubble. Since the early ' 80s, computers, technology and digitization have steadily crept in resulting in thousands of disappeared back-in-day jobs, think:

- Websites/blogs and newspapers/journalists
- Online education and teachers/classroom educators
- Email/PayPal and postal workers
- FedEx/UPS (early tech innovators) and postal workers
- TurboTax and accountants
- Automated ticketing/tolls and public transit workers
- ATMs/online banking and tellers/bankers
- Online purchases/shopping cart websites and retailers/retail workers
- Web-based travel booking and travel agents/the entire airline system
- And on and on

Paradigm shift anyone? Seriously, where do we go from here?

There are so many factors contributing to the twenty or so percent of the workforce now out of work, under-employed or discouraged, a few:

- Digitization and automation
- People doing it themselves using technology (see above)
- Boomers remaining in the workforce waaaaaaaaaaaay longer
- An educational system that (apparently) doesn't produce what's in demand
- Outsourcing, globalization and the perpetual search for lower and lower costs
- Shock of $7 trillion in vanished home equity (consider 2011 GDP = $15.09 trillion)

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An Objective Based Resume

When it comes to resumes the options are nearly endless. There are any number of formats and just as many opinions on how they should be used and presented. Seriously, try to decide on which resume book to buy. If you've done it you know exactly what I mean.

To help cut down the angst inherent in creating a resume consider first for whom it is being created. For you or your potential employer?

Your first thought might point to the prospective employer, after all you want to lay it out there, put your best foot forward, show them what you have to offer. Yes well of course, but what about you? What might your resume do for you in the context of your search?

For one thing it can assist you in remaining focused on your Job Search Objective. And in certain situations this consideration can outshine all others, becoming near make or break.

Certainly there are times when a masterpiece resume is required, situations where it's all about marketing and meeting clear expectations concerning how a resume in a given field should look. Such resumes are indeed prepared for the prospective employer and the fine points of design can play a key role in the overall outcome of your making the sale. No doubt.

But let's take a different approach in this discussion. As noted in my August 27 post, many people have difficulty staying on track. Perhaps background bumps or work history gaps are contributing factors. Perhaps it's just the way they are.

Regardless, for them a complicated resume may be downright counterproductive. Sure the masterpiece looks good, touching on many critical attributes and marketing points but may do little or nothing to contribute to clear and concise focus - what the individual may really need.

Situations like these call of an uncomplicated and straight forward design. Something rather basic Vs complex, less sophisticated on purpose. A resume that's easy to read, presenting a succinct message for both presenter and receiver. A message that says: this is who I am, this is how to reach me, this is what I'm after and here are a few things you should know about me (work related attributes, previous work experiences and education).

When this type of resume works it's usually because of two things.

First it is not overly difficult to create, a very important consideration in my experience. Secondly, it provides direction. The job seeker need only read it - this is who I am and this is what I am after. Period.

This type of resume is very much a tool and is used as such. There is no masterpiece, by design. Instead time and energy are expended staying on track with the Job Search Objective and the overall search process.

I will have lots to say about resumes going forward. Stay tuned.

Travel well.
John Jeffrey Lundell