Hope for the hopeless: Brave new world

It has been suggested that when one writes a blog and hopes to attract attention to it, one should show how reading that blog will benefit the reader and not just the writer.

I have, for one person without a fortune, a fairly large library, that has expanded from what I could carry on my back, to the closet of my cousin, to three rooms of our apartment.

It has spread around the flat like a benevolent cancer to encompass walls and floors.

Those who have seen it, or who have known of it, have suggested to me that I start a blog wherein I mention the books that have moved or inspired me.

One place to start talking about much-loved treasured tomes is to imagine a fire striking the apartment.

Everyone is outside and safe from harm, but there is a reasonable safety margin to go back inside and remove from the threatening flames ten books you would hate to lose forever.

I mentioned in a previous post, Underdog University, one of these top ten: Ronald Gross’ The Independent Scholar’s Handbook, a great book that shows you how to discover what you are passionate about and how to become a recognized expert in that passion.

(From a teacher’s point of view, I have always felt that unless both the teacher and the student are passionate about what is being taught then little progress can be made or little learning achieved.)

A book I would like to share with others, and I wish I had unlimited resources to ensure everyone who wanted to work had a copy of this book, is Richard N. Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute?.

Revised and updated annually, with more than 10 million copies sold, Parachute is a practical manual for job-hunters and career changers, the best-selling job-hunting book in the world, and has been described by Time magazine as “one of the all-time 100 best nonfiction books”.

I share parts of this book with you, my readers, for both your enrichment as well as my own self-motivation, as those who know me are aware that I myself am in a “transitional phase” and hope to find work that both finances my life as well as nourishes my spirits.

“The rules of the game have changed.

Without notice.

Without warning.

Especially for the job-hunt or for those trying to make a career change.

What used to work, doesn’t work anymore.

What used to be easy, is now difficult or seemingly impossible.

Our lament:

“Out of work.

Made up a resume.

Sent it to all the places I’m supposed to.

Went to all the job boards and looked for vacancies in my field.

Day after day.

Week after week.

Month after month.

All of this worked the last time I went job hunting.

But now?

Strike out!

Nothing!”

The job hunt behaves differently now than it used to.

Things have changed.

Dramatically.

The magic year was 2008.

We all know what happened then:

The Great Recession, the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression in 1929.

So, what changed about the job hunt since 2008?

1. Employers changed. Job hunters didn’t.

During tough times, employers find it much easier to fill a vacancy, so they have stopped reading our resumes and have stopped posting their vacancies.

2. Many employers are holding out for the dream employee.

Since 2008, the average number of people applying for any given job has been 118.

Knowing that there is such a large pool of applicants, many employers are now over-screening, tightening the parameters around who they will even consider.

“Must be currently employed” is the biggest change since 2008.

“Must have direct hands-on experience” is another.

Thus, in one way or another many employers now reject candidates they would have cheerfully hired eight years ago.

Reason: With the recovery still unsteady and slow, employers are more averse than ever to taking risks, so they keep thinking that now with all those unemployed out there, maybe someone better will come along next week.

Of course, this ideal employee some employers are looking for may not even exist, but even as a myth, this idea of “a better employee than the one I’m currently interviewing” definitely affects hiring plans.

Not all employers think this way, but way too many do.

3. The length of the average job-hunt has increased dramatically.

From 1994 through 2008, roughly half of all unemployed job-seekers found jobs within five weeks.

After 2008, a far greater proportion spend more than a year looking for work.

4. The length of time the average job lasts has decreased dramatically.

There has been a great increase in the number of temp or part-time workers since 2008.

The reason for this rise in temporary hiring is the employers’ desire to keep their costs down.

Hiring only when they need help and letting the employee go as soon as they don’t need that help has become a budget-friendly strategy for many employers.

As well, employers don’t have to pay any benefits or grant paid vacation time.

5. Job-hunting is increasingly becoming a repetitive activity in the lives of many of us.

Because the length of time a job typically lasts has dramatically decreased since 2008, so, even when we find a job now, we may be job-hunting again, sooner than we think.

Our typical work history now is going to be three careers over our lifetime and at least eight jobs.

6. Job-hunting has moved more and more online since 2008.

As social media and other sites have become more popular, job-hunters and employers alike have figured out how to use them in the job hunt.

7. Increasingly job hunters and employers speak two different languages.

When we approach the world of business, we should think of it as going to visit a foreign country.

We are going to have to learn a whole new language, culture and customs.

We must now start to think like an employer, learn how employers prefer to look for employees and figure out how to change our own job-hunting strategies so as to conform to theirs.

Adapt to the employer’s preferences.

We want the job market to be a hiring game, but the employer regards it as an elimination game until the very last phase.

We want the employer to be taking lots of initiative towards finding you, but generally speaking, the employer prefers it be us who takes the initiative toward finding them.

We want our solid past performance to be all that gets weighed, but the employer weighs our whole behaviour as they glimpse it from their first interaction with us.

We want the employer to acknowledge receipt of our resumes, but a majority of employers generally feel too swamped with other things to do that, so they do not.

We want employers to save our job hunt by incresing their hiring, but employers tend to wait to hire until they see an increased demand for their products or services.

We value wide coverage of as much of the job market as possible, while the employer wants to hire with the lowest risk possible.

It’s not that there are no jobs.

There are over eight million vacancies available each month.

It’s just that the old way we used to job hunt doesn’t work very well, anymore.

We must learn new advanced job-hunting skills if we are to survive.

He who gets hired is not necessarily the one who can do that job best, but the one who knows the most about how to get hired.”
Richard Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?

As I search for work in my fields of writing and teaching,

(I will keep working as a week-end barista until that is no longer practical.),

I will share both my experiences, as well as continued excerpts from Bolles’ masterpiece, in the hope that my blog will help both those who read these words, as well as maintain our spirits throughout one of the most challenging periods of our lives.

May this blog help you as much as myself.

Let me end this post with one final thought…

You have something unique to offer this world.

Together, let’s figure out how to make this world a better place.

Let us learn how to show the world what we have to offer.

Never underestimate the power of one to make a difference.

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