I sat down in person with a group of job seekers ... actually let me correct myself. In this economy they are job-hunters, not seekers. A job seeker may look out on the landscape and see a job for themselves and go after it with a high percentage that they will get the job. A job hunter on the other hand must employ a fairly aggressive strategy and tactical position to hunt down an available opportunity that has not been over-saturated by countless other applicants and rise above all others that have applied to get the “trophy” that is the new job. At a time when so many jobs across the tech industry have over 200 applicants within the first hours of the role being posted, it is essential to have more of a hunter than seeker mind-set.
So these fellow hunters and I were having a conversation about how long each of them had been searching, how they are coping with the challenges they are facing, and how they feel about their prospects. What follows are some raw insights into how we are feeling about the job-hunt in today's economy.
Oftentimes, no matter how long a person is “out of work” it seems to last longer than expected and extracts a heavy toll on so many levels. It most likely starts with self-doubt about their experience and value and how they would end up on the list of people to be cut from their company. The self-doubt then leads to feelings of inadequacy in terms of what current roles are seeking today vs. what skills the job hunter has gained over their career, which increases anxiety and can lead to extended bouts of depression. Additionally, depending on where you are located and the lifestyle you have become accustomed to, the financial strain of where the money to live will come from brings another level of anxiety. Will they need to relinquish cars that they have payments on, cash out retirement, delve into home equity or even sell their home? Additionally, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the US (around 3%) right now, it’s hard to find a sympathetic ear. These are not emotions and worries that are conducive to maintaining a positive attitude toward getting a new job.
And yet, for many, somehow, in some way, for as long as it lasts, these job hunters must find the strength within themselves to figure out how to endure the hunt and survive simultaneously.
For those who are unemployed due to layoffs and entering a very down market at this moment in terms of growth and opportunities, the job hunt requires significant stamina and endurance.
I unfortunately actually know how they feel from first-hand experience.
Seeking a new job after being laid off can be like running a race where you do not know where the finish line is. Think about that for a moment, it’s like the plot of a movie that would keep you on the edge of your seat, “this race may never end...”. I am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t all that tough an analogy to make. The moment the job is lost the newly minted job hunter often is driven by the energy (or maybe even anger) to jump into their search like it’s a 100 meter dash. When they reach that 100 meter mark they suddenly realize that they have to keep on going. At that point it feels like maybe they’re running the 400 meter so they pace themselves a little (maybe slow their search down for a few days) and then turn up the heat on the search again and still they hit the 400 mark and find that they have to keep going. For many this goes on and on and on not knowing when to jog or sprint. At every hint of a job (a call back, a first interview, etc.) the possibility of it being “the one” requires all the effort necessary to pick up the pace as if it were that last half mile of the marathon. If feels like, now is the time to tap into the reserves for one last push. And again, for many that happens over and over again.
In order to not drop out of the “race” job hunters must constantly push themselves to carry on. They must keep trying and continue to find new angles, exploit new networks, and rewrite their resume yet again to see if it will be more appealing with an adjusted word here or there, or the omission of an unrelated role, or even changing the font. It is ongoing difficult work, and increasingly tough to persevere.
As mentioned previously, unemployment in the US is at an historic low point of about 3% at the end of Q2 2023, that’s honestly not a real concerning percentage in actuality. But that makes it even harder to find a role as the lack of employer urgency to hire is waning as the country faces an uncertain economic future (debt ceiling, market fluctuation, manufacturing and supply chain shortages, etc.). In the eternally boiling pot of water that is the tech industry the cutbacks and layoffs are piling up at an exponential rate with over 200,000 people being let go across that sector alone.
As we are emerging from a global pandemic many companies are calling people back to the office to be present in person and collaborate with their teams. We have seen that request drive the “great resignation”. Many people close to the tail end of their career are dropping out of the workforce to retire earlier than they anticipated but to embrace a simpler lifestyle by not grinding away at a job every day. Even still with all those dropping out and all those being laid off, we are all left wondering if the end may be further than “just around the corner”. The job hunter must brace and prepare for that possibility.
This brings me to the issues facing talent acquisition (staffing) professionals who have a major and almost insurmountable task ahead. Sorting through hundreds of applicants is somewhat normal for these folks, but sorting through thousands of applicants per role is another story. In many cases these hard working recruiters are using applicant tracking systems that enable them to legitimately weed the field according to certain keywords and tools that will ideally bring up just the right sub-set of candidates to be considered. In many cases even that subset is too big to go through so they only pass along the first 10-20 qualified applicants out of 1000. That means that perhaps over 500 of those applicants are never actually reviewed by a recruiter for the role in which they applied.
So how does our intrepid job hunter increase the odds to be in their favor? How do they gain a position at the top of that sub-set of applicants? Through trial and error, perseverance, stamina and endurance. They must stay in the race, continue the hunt.
To those hiring professionals I implore them to help get these people back to work. The bottom line is that putting people in jobs in this economy is in fact a very noble cause.
What I have not yet touched on here, and please excuse the soapbox to talk about a societal problem, is that there are those in our midst who for one reason or another have outlasted their ability to endure and survive as they did while employed. Their unemployment insurance has come to an end, their resources have dried up and the emotional toll has become too heavy to bear. They find themselves at the lowest point of their lives and have lost just about everything. For them and for the most downtrodden we all must give what we can to help. Donating blankets and food and clothing are still needed everywhere. Everyone who can should donate time to meet with those who are still making the effort to pick themselves up and help the hard working professionals in that space to do their jobs well.
To the Endurance Job Hunters I wish you all the best as you prepare for the road ahead. I am running with you, I will do my part to help you navigate the course, coax you to keep going, and help you keep pace. I am not only a runner in this race, but I will also be standing on the side of the road providing those little paper cups full of emotional support and encouragement to help you to keep going. You must stay on your feet and keep moving forward.
While it is quite disconcerting to be going through another job hunt and face the unknown road ahead, we have the skills and abilities to endure and persevere and find the finish line; let us dig deep and find the strength and courage to ramp up our efforts to do so. The hunt goes on.