“Desperately seeking jobs” article in local newspaper not good news

March 14th, 2009 at 8:02 pm by under Your Money

“Desperately seeking jobs” (The Grand Rapids Sunday’s Press 2-15-09, page B1) reporting on the job fair participants’ experience did nothing to help people understand what they need to do to find work and stay employable.  Job fairs are historically poor places to look for work in economic downturns, and, even in good times, are well known to be discouraging “cattle calls”.  The article did more to drive workers to think about leaving our beautiful state and region than help them with news to assist their locating new work.  Job fairs have never been seen as very effective means to help people find work, given the alternatives.

The experience of applying for jobs at an organization’s website can be very similar to a job fair, for  websites are but electronic means for collecting and managing data coming through a skill-set “supply pipeline” (a term increasingly being used by the Electronic Recruiting industry) versus the humaneness of an encounter with a recruiter.  (Yes, I realize that it is humanly impossible to response to every inquiry.)   Making matters seem even worse, there are consistent disheartening reports of 100’s of people applying for a single position posted in newspapers and on the Internet; we can spam every recruiter’s email inbox with ease now in just minutes, or fill an employer’s database with applications.  We often believe technology is the answer; it isn’t.

Job searchers are increasingly being treated as objects, sets of data, and not like people with roots, families, and contributions to make to our community.  Even senior managers and executives have been heard recently complaining that they cannot find the talent locally; they seem to be communicating to those looking for new work that they have no interest in committing time and money to the process of finding the people with transferable skills and training them, especially those in the community age 40+.  They’d rather let someone else incur that expense, including the state.

Only recently have faith communities seem awakened from a deep sleep to begin helping those out of work, even though their offering plates and ministry have for some time been adversely impacted by decreasing financial support and time available for volunteering from the very members now preoccupied with searching for work.

Finding work where you live in a competitive marketplace takes great persistence, common sense, and the use of one’s analytical, research, and communication skills as well as support and encouragement from family, friends and neighbors.  It’s time for additional approaches using volunteers and funded locally to assist our citizens in weathering the employment crisis and help West Michigan workers re-invent themselves.   Here’s a few:
• Kent District Library, through its Kentwood Branch Library, continues their decade long lead in doing just that with their Jobs & Careers Collection at the Kentwood Branch Library and sponsoring of public programming for career changers and job seekers.  Hopefully the other library districts in West Michigan can increase this type of programming and find means of partnering with faith communities and other local non-profits (such as the well-regarded Women’s Resource Center) to truly help our citizens find work and stay employable; there is some new assistance coming from the Grand Rapids Public Library just announced [http://www.grpl.org/itrain].
• Spring Arbor University, Grand Rapids Center, also has been providing support and encouragement with the Work Search Roundtable℠ weekly job clubs for more than five years, now being replicated by faith communities and other groups
• EaRN | Employment and Resource Network, a Michigan registered non-profit, launched earlier in this decade, has been helping and referring those in transition with volunteer help, including helping faith communities and other community-based organizations; EaRN also resusitated the HopeWorks Project website: www.hopeworksmich.net.  EaRN is now working on finding the funds and means to further help West Michiganders find new careers, work and do what’s needed to stay employable in a flattened world.  If you wish to help, call me at (616) 698-3125 or write me at kensoper@yahoo.com.

What other efforts are you aware of in West Michigan that are reaching out to help West Michiganders find work, change careers and stay employable?  Let’s make them known to our neighbors in the spirit of the life principle commonly called the Golden Rule: “Do for others as you would have them do for you” [http://www.jcu.edu/philosophy/gensler/goldrule.htm].

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