While every generation has suffered through this recession, my generation, 25-35 year olds, has been hit unexpectedly hard by this economy. In 2007 and 2008, when the job market was quite good, I was in graduate school. But by the time my friends and I had finished, the economy tanked and jobs in our market niches began disappearing.
As a result since graduating with a Masters in Public Health I have taken short term contract jobs, jobs that were outside my target career goals and jobs that had highly irregular hours.
Most recently on February 9, 2011 I was laid off from the last of these irregular jobs. Since that date, I have applied for nearly 75 jobs and only one of these applications has resulted in a request to schedule an interview, but after being rescheduled twice, even this interview was ultimately canceled when the hiring organization phoned to say they’d already hired another candidate. This stung because although I prepared repeatedly for an interview, I never received a chance to explain my passion for the position.
I struggle with frustration, let downs, and feelings of self-doubt at least once a week. While I have strong international and domestic work experience, educational credentials and references and a desire to be a working citizen, I am concerned that I am over qualified by education but under qualified by age and long-term experience.
However, just last week, I found some encouragement when I realized that every time I receive a “no thank you” at least one other person may have received a “YES, PLEASE!”
Although my search for a job these last few months has not yet been fruitful I have garnered some knowledge that I think will help both those looking for work and those looking for workers.
For those looking for work:
- Be flexible. I have been applying for everything from medical assistant positions, to public health, to social services, to event planner for local community groups. Though my resume shows mostly health related jobs, I know that I could excel in any field with my writing, research, project management, and customer service skills.
- Whistle while you wait. Make the most of your free time. Get the exercise in that you never had time to do before. Read that pile of books by the bed. Explore your neighborhood like you’d planned when you moved in. Bake homemade bread, organize your pantry! You have the time you always wished you had! No matter when my unemployment ends, I want to look back on this season of life and be proud of the work I accomplished even without “work”.
- Build connections. Tell others you’re looking for work. I applied for my dream job this week because an old coworker in South Africa saw my online posting about looking for work. Another friend called today and had personally set me up for a phone call tonight regarding a great opening!
For those looking for workers:
- Be open to a candidate who is willing to change careers. Just because a candidate has worked and trained in a different industry or position doesn’t mean he/she isn’t the perfect candidate for your position. For example, although I have worked mainly in the healthcare field, I can create print and online marketing materials, manage others, sell and fundraise in any field because these skills are highly transferrable. Reading an application and considering an intriguing but not shoe-in candidate for an interview is an extension of major grace and also may land you the perfect employee!
- Make sure your application process allows candidates to clarify their skills and experience. Many online processes do not allow candidates to submit a cover letter or resume and have text form fields that are too short to provide the details that can help distinguish one candidate from another. For example, while I have a biology and a public health degree, for some jobs it may be very helpful for the hiring manager to know that I can plan, host and cook for events, organize an office or pantry, and engage both shy and gregarious people in meaningful dialogue.
- Let candidates know you have received their applications and update candidates when they do or do not get an interview or the position. In the world of online and electronic applications, many companies never give you word that they have received your application. The more respectful you are even when you don’t hire candidates, the more likely those candidates will be to reapply for other positions in your organization.
In closing, while neither those who are looking for work nor those looking to hire can change the economy on a global scale, each of us has the opportunity to treat one another with respect and to make a difference on the local level.
By the way, if you know of anyone who has an open position in the Greater Seattle area, let me know, firstname.lastname@example.org.