The Changing Employment Landscape: The Now

On Friday, October 14, 2011, more than 250 career professionals from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom met in 15 live and virtual events sponsored by the Career Thought Leaders Consortium. Their objective was to brainstorm best practices, innovations, trends  new programs, new processes, and other observations that are currently impacting, and projected to impact, global employment, job search, and career management. Each event was hosted by a facilitator and sessions were recorded by a scribe. Post-event data was aggregated, evaluated, and was presented in a document of critical findings and forecasts.

An earlier post discussed personal branding. This post is part one of a discussion on the changing employment landscape.

The Changing Employment Landscape: THE NOW

Freelance/portfolio careers are the new normal.

Changes in the job market away from full-time to part-time and contract positions are forcing changes in the labor market. Approximately 25% of the  American workforce works on a freelance basis now. In addition to freelancers, companies are hiring time-limited contractors for specific projects and assignments.

Gen-Yers/Millennials are comfortable with portable skills and no job security.

Whether seeking a freelance role or a full-time position, candidates should ask “What  problems can I solve?,” not “What job can I get?”

Changes are forthcoming  in the legal landscape.

In Massachusetts, there is a six-month limit on full-time contractor work, and this could have a damping effect on freelance/portfolio careers. Individuals  are shifting their mindset about freelance careers, but too many organizations are still working within old paradigms.

Some see portable employment as a spur to innovation.

The era of the big corporation may be ending as younger, nimble  organizations are able to bring new ideas to market much more quickly.

New ventures are flourishing but not generating new jobs.

Because of the small scale of most startups, the number of new jobs created is correspondingly small. However, it is important to note that 65% of new jobs are being created by small businesses.

The economic environment is difficult for blue-collar workers.

The current recession plus the shift to an “innovation economy” is hardest on blue-collar workers and others who don’t necessarily want to be creative, entrepreneurial leaders, but simply want to continue to earn a living to support their families.

Humanities grads have an advantage.

These graduates are more self-sufficient and more independent. While humanities grads may face a tougher time in a tight employment market, long term they are viewed favorably by many employers who value critical thinking skills more than specific subject-matter knowledge.

College career services offices report underutilization by undergrads.

Despite the challenges faced by new grads in landing a job after graduation, many still do not take full advantage of their on-campus career services, for the following reasons:

Many undergraduates and graduates view the employment situation as hopeless.

Some think they should know what they want to do and don’t need a career center.

Many new grads are retreating to their parents’ houses (and parents seem supportive of that trend) and therefore feel less urgency to find a job immediately upon graduation.

Some parents of new grads are engaging career coaches for their kids.

Career centers are serving more/older alumni.

This trend can create challenges for career center staff, who are most accustomed to working with 20-year-olds and now must assist alumni of all ages and at all career stages. In a counter-trend, in response to budget restrictions, some schools are cutting back on providing long-term services to alumni.

The highest success rates are being experienced by business-school grads and others pursuing careers in finance, consulting, and other industries that do on-campus recruiting.

At least 50% aren’t being helped because they aren’t candidates for on-campus recruiters. Students must be “hire-ready.”

Alumni are encouraged to network among fellow graduates.

Almost every school provides some kind of searchable online database of graduates. Even some large public high schools have such databases.

Retirement by baby boomers will create opportunities for others.

But retirement doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the workforce; rather, it may involve changing careers or transitioning to part-time opportunities. Also, people are coming out of retirement to find post-retirement careers, further diminishing the number of opportunities normally created by a traditional retiring workforce.

Candidates must learn to market themselves for untraditional work opportunities.

Instead of seeking a full-time, permanent job, they should ask themselves, what is needed in today’s world?

Job searches are negatively impacted by a candidate’s lack of technical skills.

This limits internal and external opportunities. Job seekers must get on the right side of the digital divide.

Job seekers should capitalize on marketability of their life skills.

Two great examples of this are a candidate’s multiple language fluency and social media savvy.

Entrepreneurial opportunities abound.

The Internet creates an excellent opportunity for lower-risk business startups. However, that kind of experience can  later create challenges when conducting a more traditional job search.

Misunderstanding of portfolio careers exists.

From new graduates to mid-life career changers, some are confused about what is meant by portfolio careers. There could be the erroneous perception of “working two jobs and nights” as opposed to acknowledging the changing nature of employment and the exponential  growth of part-time and contract-based opportunities.

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