How to Find a Job in the 21st Century Part 1

Apr 19, 2010 by

We’ve all seen the horrific news spewing daily from the talking heads on the cable news channels like Fox News and CNN for example, as well as the ‘in-depth’ analysis on the nightly news endlessly illustrating the dire shape that the economy is on.  While the information is fundamentally true, the truth is that the job market isn’t nearly as bad as people perceive it to be.

I know right now you’re thinking that I am full of shit and an easy counterpoint is to simply pick up a copy of today’s Detroit Free Press and compare the ‘Employment’ section of the newspaper to one from two years ago.  While this is a valid argument, it doesn’t invalidate the fact that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

img credit: freedigitalphotos.net

img credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Consider this: The economy is in recession.  This is due to the fact that it was artificially inflated as a result of Government deregulation of the market in the early 80’s and bills by Congress in the mid 90’s requiring lending institutions to lax their standards of credit-worthiness.  What this has caused is an accentuation of the natural ups and downs of the economic cycle.  A massive period of growth was followed by an epic freefall when the inevitable downswing occurred.

The record upturn of the economy in the 90’s created an impressive increase in jobs.  The subsequent recession took those jobs away.

What does all this mean?  There are a few things we can take away from this.  First, manufacturing jobs will go where manufacturing labor is cheapest.  If unskilled labor is 400% cheaper in Mexico or South Korea, American businesses are going to see that as an attractive alternative to the higher operating costs here in the U.S.  I know it sucks, but that’s the reality.  Many of the manufacturing jobs that were lost in the past 24 months are not coming back.

Another unfortunate byproduct of the shrinking of the economy is the fact that highly skilled workers are willing to work for less than they’d normally cost.  This affords employers the luxury of being able to retain premium employees at a discount.  For that reason, people lose their jobs when more talented prospects come along and take their place for the same money.

For this reason, many people need to adapt to a new paradigm in order to find work in this new economy.  Even as the market shows improvement, it is apparent that some types of jobs are probably not ever going to come back.

Lose Your Prejudices

A conversation with a middle-aged gentleman I met recently (we’ll call him Gary) at a networking event illustrated the very mindset that needs to change in order to meet the challenge of finding work in this new economy.  We got into a conversation when both of us were nomadically roaming the outskirts of the party.  He expressed his frustration that his college degree was largely irrelevant and the job market was squeezing him out in that employers prefer younger people due to the fact they are generally more inexpensive and more malleable than their older, job-seeking counterparts.  I spent about 15 minutes giving him some solid advice on how to find work in the digital age.  I encouraged him to continue to network with people in his industry by way of social media (especially Linkedin) and to establish an online presence (like a blog) where he can demonstrate his expertise due to his two decades of experience in his industry.

While he acknowledged that these sounded like good suggestions, Gary was largely dismissive in that he was convinced that the internet doesn’t apply to his industry.

(I’ll pause briefly until you stop laughing.)

You see, Gary assumed that since that since he doesn’t see the value in the internet with respect to his line of work, that everyone else shares that same disregard for what an online presence can do.  After our conversation, I was left wondering how many people still view the internet as a passing fad and fail to see the value in what it has to offer, especially those of older generations who are still clinging onto a pre-digital existence.

People like Gary are going to have to alter their mindsets to conform to the fact that the world is changing faster than ever before, and those who fail to do so risk being permanent ostracized due to their obsolescence.

Part Two: Some Important Tips for Finding Work in the New Economy