November 11, 2011
Lack of jobs isn't the No. 1 problem
Jobs, jobs, jobs. As we head into the 2012 election year, it's an absolute certainty that the dominant theme in every local, statewide and national political race is going to be which candidates have the best ideas and/or track record of creating new job opportunities for Americans.
Is this really the core problem we're facing as a country, however? Or even here in Washington state?
Don't get me wrong; the creation of thousands of new employment opportunities would be a wonderful thing and would go a long way toward relieving the economic malaise we're facing as a society. But having worked on the front lines of the job market for the past 18 years, I don't think people realize that there actually are tons of good jobs out there, going unfilled, even as we speak.
Don't believe me? Try visiting job search engine Simply Hired and running a quick search using the term "WA" in the "Location" box. You'll get more than 125,000 postings, behind each of which is an employer begging for the right candidate.
Now, I hear some of you saying: "But that number isn't really accurate. Some of those jobs likely are just companies fishing for résumés, aren't 'real' openings, or are duplications of the same position multiple times."
That might be the case for some (but probably no more than 20 percent) of the listings if you were to spot-check the data. What's more, anybody arguing that the number of open positions is inflated must, in fairness, also concede that not all open positions are actually advertised.
According to most experts, including the leading career-research firm Challenger, Grey and Christmas, more than 80 percent of all job openings never actually see the light of day in the form of a help-wanted ad of any kind.
So what's the real number? Even with this fuzzy math, it seems that we're sitting on hundreds of thousands of open positions in Washington, waiting for somebody to fill them.
Long story short, and political expediency aside, my point is simply that the common refrain of "we need more jobs" glosses over a huge part of the problem -- the growing gap between the skills companies need and what many candidates have to offer in terms of qualifications.
This is the friction point we need to do a better societal job of addressing: providing better training in marketable job skills to those who desire it, while simultaneously encouraging (and incenting) employers to loosen up on their demands for impossible perfection in terms of their requirements.
Let's break the deadlock -- and get back to the concept of training, investing and betting on hard-working professionals eager to make something of themselves and learn something new!
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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