Something is amiss on the unemployment front. It's the elephant in our economic living room that no one in the mainstream media is talking about.
Day after day, the media reports on the need for job creation, economic stimulus and access to capital for small businesses. The thinking is that if small businesses grow, they'll hire and the economy will improve. We've seen thousands turning out for job fairs, record unemployment rates and a lot of finger-pointing at politicians who are having little success creating jobs.
Yet, small business owners consistently say their biggest challenge is not that they can't afford to hire new employees, but that they can't find them.
Over the last weeks, I've spoken to dozens of small business owners who have open positions they can't seem to fill. So where's the disconnect?
'Classified' information – Many unemployed workers are simply missing the boat when it comes to finding the right place to look for a job. Only a few years ago, Internet sites like Monster, HotJobs and Craig'slist rung the death knell for newspaper classified sections. Yet, just as rapidly, online job postings have quickly become old news. Many companies are now hiring exclusively through social media . It's no longer what you know, but who you follow on Twitter that might get you a job interview.
The digital divide – One thing I've heard over and over again is that job seekers do not possess the digital skills necessary in today's work force. This is more than knowing how to use social media; it seems to be more of an overall mindset. Social media and Web 2.0 have turned the entire marketing paradigm on its head, but many workers haven't been able to shed outdated ways of thinking about sharing and selling information. No matter what a candidate's resume says, if he doesn't understand the new digital economy, he is lost.
Write on – It used to be that some jobs required good communication skills and some didn't. Now, however, communication is everything. Whether you're a customer service rep or an IT consultant, you must be able to communicate — especially in writing — with your clients. In the age of Facebook, Twitter and digital marketing, everyone's a marketing rep, no matter what they do. Communication skills are a non-negotiable.
You, the brand – A lot of job-hunters still think it's what's on their resume that matters. Yet, what you did at your last job isn't that important anymore. Instead, potential employers want to understand your "brand." They want to know who you are, how you conduct yourself, how hard you're willing to work and how quickly you adapt to change. Much of that information will come to them through the brand you've created for yourself via social media presence and through word of mouth. If you haven't put effort into creating that brand, you may be considered an unknown quantity, no matter how impressive your resume.
Everyone got a trophy – Gen Y has gotten a pretty bad rap from employers who claim they don't want to work, they want too much money and they are unwilling to start at the bottom. While it would be easy to go along with these claims, I'm only willing to say that there's a major disconnect between those doing the hiring (many of whom are Gen Yers themselves) and the folks they are interviewing. I suspect the source of the chasm between the two is a distinctly different way of looking at life and work. In his book, "Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y," (Jossey-Bass, 2009) Bruce Tulgan refutes many of the myths about Gen Y by arguing that they aren't lazy and selfish – they just have a very different outlook on life. It might be a good read for someone trying to figure out how to speak the language of the newest generation of job-seekers.
Once bitten… – When the last recession hit and companies shed employees, they realized pretty quickly that some of those employees weren't doing very much in the first place. Turned out, they carried on without them and many vowed never to let their payrolls get so bloated ever again. Now that businesses are hiring again, many are gun-shy about bringing on someone who may end up being a bad hire. With so many out of work, employers can afford to be picky and sometimes, having too many choices makes you more likely to hold out for the perfect candidate — even if that person doesn't really exist.Mind Your Business: Why Entrepreneurs Must Be Crazy
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Jeanette Mulvey is the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.