Tuesday, September 13, 2011
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The Jobs Network
President Obama unveiled his job creation bill to the public on September 8th. His plan includes small business incentives to spur hiring.
Our nation's top economic advisor, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, no doubt provided much input into plan development. Immelt has been heavily criticized for his company's decision to move the headquarters of its X-Ray division to China and plans to invest $2 billion in that country. He also admitted that his company paid no federal income taxes in 2010.
The day after President Obama outlined his plan, Bank of America announced their layoffs will affect 10 percent of their workforce, or about 30,000 workers. Earlier this year, the U.S. Postal Service announced 7,500 job cuts. Drug giant Merck cut 13,000 jobs. The bankruptcy of retailer Borders left 10,700 people out of work.
This writer's initial intent was to write an article detailing the proposed new jobs bill. But I'm not so certain any amount of stimulus will be sufficient to offset the layoffs announced these past two months alone, much less the 2.5 million jobs lost in the past two years.
So instead we'll focus on trying to find a job in difficult times.
The old tried-and-true patterns no longer work. A newspaper's classified ads often feature only entry level positions. Unsolicited resumes remain unopened on hiring manager's desks.
But for every pattern that ceases to exist, a new one emerges to fill the void. And the Internet has provided just that.
With the number of qualified applicants available for each job opening, it is nearly impossible to land a position without knowing someone who already works for a company. The key to finding a job today is network, network and network once again.
Think outside of the box. Select a handful of companies to focus on. Concentrate on growth industries like energy or healthcare. Choose those essential industries that appear recession-proof.
Social media offers networking possibilities that weren't previously available. Use it to connect to someone who works at those companies you're targeting in your search.
Connect to as many professionals as you can on LinkedIn. Those direct connections will convert to secondary connections, some of which are bound to work at your job search targets. They're more likely to know of openings that currently exist, or those that may hold future potential.
Use Twellow.com to search Twitter profiles. You might stumble on someone who works for the company you're researching. Follow him/her. You can learn a lot from those tweets that could prove helpful.
Don't overlook Craigslist. Smaller companies may post job openings here.
Job search sites such as Monster.com and HotJobs.com have become too big to count on. Once the premier job sites, today they have more resumes than employers can scan through. Yours has a good chance of getting overlooked.
But don't overlook those resumes. Take a look at a few in your field. They might give you ideas on enhancing your own.
Create different resumes for different jobs. Make them flexible enough for you to easily customize to match the requirements of each specific position you're applying for. Many software programs merely search for the keywords used in the job ad to sort through the countless responses they receive. Your resume must include those keywords or it will get filtered out of contention.
Create your own cover letter. Each letter should address the specific skills required to match the company's needs.
Turn an industry conference into your own personal job fair. Chat with company representatives about upcoming projects, collect their contact information and follow up with details on how you can add value to their efforts.
Be prepared to accept an outside contractor or temporary position. Many firms don't have an opening yet, but you've already got a foot in the door once they do.
When you do land that interview, avoid making the wrong impression. Careerbuilder.com makes light of some of the dumb things folks have done during an interview. Among them: an applicant who blew her nose and lined up the used tissues on the table in front of her; an applicant whose friend popped their head in to ask how much longer they would be; and another who hugged the hiring manager at the end of the interview.
Relax when it's your turn. If you recognize those actions as inappropriate, you're already ahead of a lot of those competing for the same position.
Reflecting on Reflections
The American public has been exposed to countless reflections of the carnage that occurred September 11th a mere 10 years ago.
We relived the attacks from every perspective. New interviews with survivors surfaced, first responders shared their own stories. Family members recounted the lives of those lost. We watched the Twin Towers crumble, and traced efforts to rebuild.
Like a lot of you, I'm sure, this caused me to reflect on all of these reflections. It brought to mind the America we lived in prior to the attacks. And wonder what has REALLY changed in the time since.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9,605.51 on Monday, September 10th. It was up 2.15 from the previous day's activity. The New York Stock Exchange closed for six days following the attacks. When the markets resumed trading on September 17th, the Dow had plunged 684.81 to close at 8,920.70. The losses totaled $1.4 trillion, or $1.74 trillion in today's dollar.
The exchange struggled, along with the American people, for the next two years. As we began to rebuild, so did our economy. It remained robust to cross the 14,000.00 threshold in late 2007. The economy was as robust as the American spirit.
What can we learn from this time in our history? When we pull together with a common focus, we all become stronger.
Many of us began to feel more patriotic. Sometimes you have to risk losing something before you embrace its true value. Never was that more true of our freedom than it was on that September day. It was widely expected that more attacks would follow.
Appreciation for first responders was at an all-time high. While we knew the fire and police departments were there for public protection, watching them sacrifice their own lives for others brought awareness of the great lengths these heroes go through to fulfill that mission.
The same holds true of our military members. It's an honor to thank them for their service when you see someone in uniform. Next time you see them in a restaurant, pick up their tab. The meal cost is minimal compared to their sacrifice on our behalf.
Poor communication between national intelligence groups bore some of the responsibility for the terrorist attacks. Several agencies had threads of information that may have caught attention when woven together. Hence was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the largest reorganization of U.S. federal agencies since the Cold War. The Department merged functions of 22 different government agencies.
One of those agencies is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Airport security is the most visible change we've experienced. Air travel was once enjoyable - a prelude to that hard-earned vacation. Today, you need a vacation to recover from the airport ordeal.
Once you've removed your shoes, outer layers of clothing, laptops from their case, liquids from your luggage, keys from your pocket and belt from your trousers, it's time to walk through the scanner. Certain travelers are chosen for a more thorough security check. There appears to be no rhyme or reason for their choice. The elderly are often pulled aside for further interrogation, while international travelers with no baggage and one-way tickets are free to go.
Our local airport is very small. Picture the 1990's sitcom "Wings." I often fly out of there to visit my daughter in South Bend, Indiana. Home to the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic University, I tend to wear clothing that advertises my faith. Rarely do I pass through security without the added pleasure of increased scrutiny.
I wondered if my selection were a matter of religious differences. So I put it to the test my last trip. Garbed in biker gear, I waltzed through the security line as if my credentials had been pre-approved.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, America truly became the United States. We cried together, we mourned together, we supported each other and our leaders. In the wake of tragedy, we found unity.
But what a tangled mess we've become in the years since. Politics have reached a stalemate. Neither side is willing to compromise with the other, each clinging to power and ego.
That sentiment has trickled down to the American people. Our differences now outweigh our unity, each side intolerant of the other's belief.
Terrorists from the outside could not destroy this great nation. Only time will tell if we can avoid destruction from within.
It is common perception and a misconception that all unemployment is bad. Obviously, if an individual is willing and able to work and cannot find a job, then unemployment is a bad thing. But what about the worker who decides to take a few months off between jobs to travel abroad? This voluntary action, in most cases, will cause the traveling worker to be counted among the unemployed. Despite the fact that the situation is both positive and voluntary. Economists would consider this to be "frictional unemployment" - the period of time a worker takes to transition between jobs.
There are various other types of unemployment. For example, "classical unemployment" refers to the situation where real wages exceed the market clearing level, rendering more job applicants than there are jobs. This should only be a temporary situation, as the wage rates change to bring the market back into equilibrium. Adam Smith's "invisible hand."
Structural unemployment refers to a condition whereby the skill set of the unemployed does not match the skills required for the available jobs. Once again, this condition should only be temporary whereby workers are retrained to meet the needs of the available jobs.
Cyclical unemployment is sometimes known as Keynesian unemployment and refers to the continual ebbing and flowing of the job market as a function of the business cycle. Economist John Maynard Keynes advocated government deficit spending (stimulus) to increase aggregate demand during periods of high unemployment. His disciples often fail to mention that he also advocated government surpluses during periods of low unemployment.
The "natural rate of unemployment" actually refers to "full employment" - the point at which the employment level is not causing prices to either rise or fall. Although there is not an agreed upon percentage to define full employment, most economists agree it is somewhere around 5 percent. There is empirical evidence to support this number. It is important to note that, if unemployment gets too low, inflation occurs, which negatively affects both GDP and hence living standards.
Note: Our current near 10 percent "Great Recession" unemployment rate is indeed high, however nowhere near the 30 percent rate experienced during the Great Depression.
The late Nobel Laureate Economist Milton Friedman disputed Keynes view, stating that the only way to affect aggregate demand is through management of the money supply (this is actually the legislated mandate of the Federal Reserve). Friedman further argued that anything the government might try to do on the fiscal side, while well intentioned, would almost always make matters worse, since it violates normal market forces. Critics of the recent stimulus now have strong empirical evidence to back up their claim.
So what should policymakers do to alleviate the high and persistent unemployment we currently are experiencing?
Simple. Takes steps to stimulate PRIVATE investment. Only private companies can truly create jobs. Any government jobs created simply rob available capital from private entities. Examples of steps to be taken:
Although these steps seem simple, there is very little political will to accomplish them. Economist Art Laffer, in a brilliant editorial in the WSJ, advocated a holiday on all taxes as an alternative to the failed stimulus. He argues the cost would have been similar to the stimulus, but the gains in the economy, and hence employment, would have been dramatically more positive. There is much empirical evidence to support Laffer's claim. Read the full article.
The bottom line: Not until the private economy gains the confidence to expand, invest and create jobs, can the unemployment problem be alleviated.
Unfortunately, that seems a long way off.
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