Labor Day Resolution: Learn New Skills

Despite some indicators pointing to a potential downturn, such as the slowdown in manufacturing and automotive, lower business investment, and waning market confidence, the labor market remains tight and companies everywhere are looking to attract and hire talent. This Labor Day, job seekers would be wise to map out a way to update their skills to align with the current skills shortage, according to one workplace authority.

“The labor market remains tight and employers are reporting skills shortages in almost every area, including STEM, data analytics, human resources, finance, and operations. Job seekers have opportunities if they can make their case to employers,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of global outplacement and executive and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Discouraged job seekers have seen friends, neighbors, and family members find new employment and, as a result, they are regaining some of that lost confidence that caused them to stop looking for work. However, even with a solid employment picture, finding a job will remain challenging, particularly for those who have been out of work for a prolonged period,” added Challenger.

As of July, there were over 6 million Americans unemployed, 1.2 million of whom were unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That is down from more than 3.1 million in July of 2013 and down from a peak of nearly 6.8 million in April 2010.

Meanwhile, the number of job openings stood at 7.3 million at the end of June and there were 5.7 million hires, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

“The job openings exist. It is up to job seekers to market themselves in a way that appeals to hiring authorities. That may mean clearly outlining skills and accomplishments, earning certifications tangential to their current position, or learning new skills entirely, like taking classes in coding, business administration, or financial technology,” said Challenger.

In a Challenger survey of over 150 human resources executives conducted in June, 82% of employers reported they are actively hiring, up from 64% who reported they were hiring in July of 2018.
Meanwhile, 80% of employers report they are having difficulty finding workers, with 70% specifically identifying skills shortages as the reason why they cannot fill positions.

“Emerging technologies and automation are infiltrating nearly every industry. Employers need workers who are at least somewhat familiar with adapting to and working with new technology,” said Challenger.

“Retailers especially are undergoing a transformation due to automation and online shopping. The industry is cutting thousands of workers, but at the same time, needs to hire people who, for instance, can learn to use in-store bots and new software that measures consumer behavior,” added Challenger.

Retail has announced the highest number of job cuts so far this year, with 55,167. Industrial Goods manufacturers, another sector that has felt the effects of automation as well as market uncertainty and demand downturns, has announced the second-highest number of job cuts this year, with 52,054.

“For those actively seeking a new job, taking a skills assessment is a great first step to matching skills with potential jobs. Once you have a handle on what skills you possess, you can begin to see which areas you can shore up to land the jobs for which you are applying,” said Challenger.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor sponsors a skills assessment.

Challenger advises job seekers to list out skills and accomplishments as well as former positions and employers. This will serve as the makings of your resume, as well as create talking points for networking meetings. Face-to-face meetings are still the most important aspect of the job search.

“The biggest mistake job seekers make is taking a passive approach to the job search. Many just sit at the computer all day, searching for online help wanted ads and sending out electronic resumes. After weeks of this, the natural complaint is, ‘I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes and no one is calling.’ However, this strategy, by itself, is about as effective as playing the lottery,” Challenger continued.

“Searching for and applying to online ads should not be entirely dismissed. However, it should be just one small part of the job search. The most time and energy should be spent on face-to-face networking. You should be meeting with people every day, even if those people don’t have a job to offer you. What they are likely to offer is advice and, more importantly, connections to other individuals who can further assist you in your job search,” said Challenger.

Challenger provided the following advice to those trying to reignite their job search:

  • Create and continually update a LinkedIn profile. More companies are searching the Internet for information about candidates, so create a professional-looking page that tells them you are exceptional. With millions of members, these professional and social networking sites are a valuable job search tool.
  • Get involved with a community service group. This is a great way to build your network as well as hone your professional skills.
  • Join a professional/trade association. These organizations can provide training and education opportunities, and most hold several networking functions every year. The dues are worth their weight in gold if you meet a person at an event who can help you find a new job.
  • Meet ten new people in your field, but outside of your company. Building these relationships may help you in your current position and they will definitely help you when you enter the job market.
  • Rev up your skills. Build upon your established skill set. Explore online courses and local certificate programs to broaden your industry knowledge, increasing your marketability to a variety of employers.
  • Stay positive and be patient. Job searches are never easy, but it can be particularly daunting in a downturn economy. By maintaining a positive attitude and exhibiting patience, you can overcome the emotional barriers that could lengthen your search. Even in tough economic times, job opportunities are out there.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©