Hiring? When? And WHO?

Being dubbed "the new poor," out-of-work middle-class professionals wonder when they will again be employed. While politicians, economists, and politicians argue over whose politics or economic system failed, there is a whole new class of Americans on the brink of ruin who don’t give a hoot about the why. They want to know WHEN.

WHEN will this turn around?

More than 6.3 million Americans have been unemployed six months or longer — the worst record since we began tracking it in 1948. More than 15 million are unemployed (we don’t track them after they fall off the rolls). Every downturn bleeds middle class workers, but this time, experts warn, it is worse. Economists, too, ask, "When can you, business managers and owners, begin to rehire or (better yet), create new jobs?" And how long will it take to reabsorb the unemployed?

That’s the trillion-dollar question.

I recently talked to a labor expert who predicted that the U.S. economy needs 100,000 new jobs a month just to absorb the existing unemployed labor force. Even a vigorous recovery is likely to leave an enormous number of our loved ones out of work for years to come, so competition for jobs is going to remain fierce, regardless of how good you are.

Robert Half recently sent me suggestions as to When to Hire. Analysts believe the first blip of a real economic recovery will show up as a surge in temporary hires as businesses test the cost-to-infrastructure waters.

From the manager’s perspective, Robert Half says to watch for these Seven Signs:

  • Service levels are deteriorating.
  • Important but non-urgent projects are repeatedly deferred.
  • Your company has to take a pass on emerging opportunities.
  • Your firm can’t take on any more clients.
  • You’re doing low-level work.
  • A single absence throws the entire team off schedule.
  • Your staff regularly works overtime to finish projects.

As you can see, not all of the tips refer to a bad economy. Some could be due to growth.

In management, there are two key questions in terms of employment. When to hire (or fire) and who to hire (or fire). The "who" is actually the more difficult to know, whether the labor force is lean or flush. To help answer that question, I recently asked Peter Gray of The QTI Group for his insights. (First, the good news: He reports that The QTI Group is showing positive trending with job placements.)

Next the surprising news. You know those "Jacks and Jills of all trades" with "translatable skills?" Many of us, myself included, value things like common sense. Logic. Business acumen. Big picture thinking. We’ve said we could train aptitude but not attitude or the "soft skills" so necessary for team development.

Great for the C-Suite, Gray agrees, but mid-level managers seeking employment today need to be the best at what they do in their specific arena to improve their chances of hire. Yesterday’s gold standard may be the silver medalist in today’s job applicant pool.

In fact, Gray suggests that folks better rethink their resumes and focus. Motivational talk from a life coach about it being a good time to think about the career you’d LIKE to be in and then reapply yourself to some new, exciting venture may be great in theory, but it could be an anchor around your neck when it comes to practicality in the short job market.

If you want to be hired anytime soon, Gray suggests thinking how to narrow your specialty and align your existing talents with your industry’s greatest needs. Do your homework. Then tap into your existing (authentic) network to find leads. Connected people know — and can influence — people outside their fields. Then apply to firms where you can show the most obvious value with your existing skills and training. "Companies coming out of a recession don’t have time to teach you their industry," Gray points out sagely. "They are looking for immediate leadership and contributions."

And keep your head held high. We’re all behind you and hoping for your success.

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