“Retraining” is a buzzword in today’s economy, but why?
Personal computers, automation, and the internet were game changers. Advancements in information technology created new industries, eliminated or downsized others, and changed the way we do business forever.
Because of this, many of us naturally assumed that the future of skills training (and retraining) meant more computers and more STEM. However, new findings cast doubt on what has been conventional wisdom for two decades, causing some HR professionals to ask: Is more tech and more STEM the answer? And, what skills are the right skills? As an example, let’s look at two industries profoundly affected by advancements in IT: Manufacturing and software development.
A recent survey of manufacturers found that the most sought-after skill for customer service and help desk agents was higher level writing. For technicians on the floor is was higher level reading.
Similarly, for software help desk technicians (the second largest IT position in the country), only 15% of jobs required a deep understanding of actual programming. Again, higher level writing skills were the most sought-after.
In both industries, only one-third of workers required any higher level math skills such as algebra or statistics, demonstrating that skills requirements are not distributed equally across the workforce. That means it is up to employers to design roles that fit the proficiencies of their employees, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to training and retraining initiatives.
So when we talk about training, we have to be sure that we are talking about the right training without making assumptions about what we think our employees need. It turns out that not all training means more computers and STEM.
Recent and upcoming graduates know, first hand, that many “entry level” positions aren’t really entry level – many require some amount of work experience. And for most students the best time to gain that experience is during the summer.
Internships are a great benefit to any resume, but for those who are unable to take an unpaid internship, summer work can provide the same, if not more, benefit, while still allowing you to earn an income. Even if your work experience isn’t as relevant to your desired career as an internship would be (think life guard, camp counselor or painting houses), employers will be intrigued by the skills and experience that you obtained. And since “soft skills” are always in demand, be sure to highlight the things you have learned and your positive attributes by pointing to your accomplishments and by earning recommendations from managers and mentors.
Internships (paid or unpaid) and work experience are the cornerstone of any resume. Whether you favor one or the other isn’t as important as the dedication and ability to learn and grow that you demonstrate to future employers by your willingness to work.
Giraffes are one of nature’s most compelling creatures. Every day, both zoologists and ethologists (scientists who study animal behavior) learn more and more about how they live in both captivity and the wild. Here are some interesting facts about giraffes, and what lessons we can learn from them about being more effective at work:
Be a team player…
Giraffes are believed to be one of nature’s least territorial large animals. Multiple groups (called “towers”) will frequently inhabit the same space in order to share resources and look after calves and pregnant females. These towers often come together to form herds, which can number into the hundreds.
Work well individually AND as part of a team…
Despite their easy-going nature and team-focused social structure, giraffes know when it’s time to go it alone. Smaller towers of giraffes will often split off from the main herd if an area becomes overcrowded or resources begin to become depleted.
Giraffes adapt easily to new challenges to survive in the wild. Herds of giraffes often split, merge and reform, only to do the same with new giraffes shortly thereafter. Giraffes also appear to be less sentimental about their herd-mates than other large herbivores, making it easier for them to form new alliances with new giraffes as needed.
No matter how many years it’s been since you walked with gown and mortarboard to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, I’ll bet you can still name your high school gym or sports coach – right?
Whether you played sports, marched in the band or took Tae Kwon Do at the neighborhood “Y”, we’ve all had important mentors along the way.
Most of us also had the experience of working with our high school or college career development department or counselors. These were useful free services with helpful people who assisted students with understanding how their class selection, skills and scholastic achievement fit into the job market and could shape their future careers.
But what does one do when graduation is in the rear view mirror, or your camp days are long gone, and you’re in need of help with your current job search?
Some people turn to professional career coaches; people who – for a fee – offer personalized advice on how to land the best potential new job. Most job seekers are aware of these services, and they can be very helpful for some people, but is paying a fee REALLY a practical decision for most? Probably not. What many people do not realize is that there is another form of career coaching available that is not only free, but can also lead to you finding your dream job – using a recruiting and staffing firm!
Let’s take a look at why:
Comprehensive Information: There is a common misconception that the consultants who work at recruiting and staffing agencies operate just like HR professionals – focused on filling a specific opening with a specific candidate – but this is incorrect!
Although you may have initially applied for a specific opening with a staffing agency, the consultants working for that agency will look at your education, skills and experience in relation to ALL the positions (and companies) they handle, and ultimately present you with the best fit(s). Plus, they often consider contacting non-clients to discuss potential openings for you that may not yet exist! Like a “talent agent”, your consultant will “shop” your resume around to potential employers to see if an opening can be created or may soon become available. Working with a recruiting and staffing firm can open hundreds, if not thousands, of doors to openings and opportunities that you may not have access to through any other medium.
Additionally, based on their many years of experience placing people with a variety of backgrounds within numerous types of jobs for countless types of companies and organizations, you can receive comprehensive feedback on your career potential and salary expectations.
Real-Time View of the Local Economy: Consultants at recruiting and staffing agencies have their finger on the pulse of their local job market in an unparalleled way. That’s because everyday they are in communication with the companies in their region about various types of openings. When there are changes in local hiring trends, staffing agencies will be aware of these changes before any economist and certainly before the general public. This ‘real-time’ information becomes invaluable intelligence that can be the difference between you being ahead of or behind the hiring trends in your area.
Resume and Pre-Interview Assistance: Recruiting and staffing consultants will look at your resume and in short time make immediate corrections and/or suggestions for its improvement, which will increase your results in securing interviews.
Also, based on your personal interview, they will make observations regarding your personality type, strengths, weaknesses, areas for learning, potential for growth and help you to “connect the dots” with types of positions, companies or industries that you may not have considered previously – or have even known about.
How strong are your skills and experience? In addition to testing your relevant computer software knowledge and skills, your consultant can offer free tutorials to boost any gap in your proficiency or suggest learning others to boost your marketability. Plus, your consultant will perform various verifications, reference and background checks (all of which should be free of charge to you) to be certain that your background WILL check out as you expect, and if discrepancies are uncovered, help you address them NOW – rather than when its too late.
Additionally, once an interview has been scheduled, your consultant will also offer valuable interview advice and insight into the firm or firms you will meet with! For example, one of our clients LOVES the Cubs – so you’ll know NOT to blurt out how being a Sox fan has improved your work habits!
Fees – It’s FREE: Recruiting and staffing agencies in the Chicago metropolitan area do not charge the job seeker! Chicago is an “EPF market”, or Employer Paid Fee market. Agencies are paid if – and only if – you are hired and providing you stay a certain length of time. In JobGiraffe’s case, this is typically no less than 90 days, but usually more like one year. This fact is not only kinder to your wallet than using a paid career consultant, but helps to assure you that the staffing agency will always work hard to make the best match possible between you, the job seeker, and the company who needs you, otherwise we don’t get paid. And, if you are working with an agency in Chicago, and they are charging you a fee – run!
We’re Your Biggest Fan: When you work with a consultant, not only will you have a liaison between you and the hiring company, you’ll have your own cheering section! Your consultant will always be in your corner rooting for you and will be your best advocate. In fact, oftentimes your consultant may have the ability to ‘tip’ things in your favor if the hiring company must decide between you and someone else.
Also, in addition to providing you “your own cheering section” as you score your next job, your consultant can also be the source of invaluable feedback if you never seem to make it to the “second round” or always seem to always come in “2nd Place”. Sometimes you may be doing something wrong on your interviews, and not even realize it!
This unique “third party professional” can make a difference in every aspect of your job search. Read the profiles of the JobGiraffe staff. A common theme, profile after profile, mentions how gratified they are to help make a difference in the lives of job seekers – and that’s not just true for the JobGiraffe staff – because I do believe it is the common thread shared by consultants across this industry.
So once you land the job you’ve been looking for through a recruiting or staffing firm, don’t forget to say “Thanks Coach”…
Karen Rae Horwitz
Karen Rae is President of JobGiraffe, formerly Paige Personnel Services, where she has guided her company through up and down economies for more than 20 years, advising both employers and job seekers on employment trends and challenges, and the strategies to meet them. She can be reached at KRH@JobGiraffe.com.