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Why Can’t Good Young People Find Jobs

The unemployment rate is close to historic lows, there are more job openings than there are people unemployed, and I constantly hear business owners say that they can’t find good employees. So why am I meeting so many quality young people who can’t find jobs or even get interviews?

Having done consulting work for a recruiting company allowed me to get a closeup view of the problems businesses have in finding good people. Rare is the company that has a good talent acquisition strategy or the staffing necessary to execute it well. Businesses are a big part of the disconnect but my primary area of interest is the people so I’m going to focus on them.

My passion for helping young people develop life skills has led to several professors asking me to assist their former students. The conversation usually begins with “I have this really great former student who can’t seem to find a job…”. My rule is that I will only volunteer my time if someone is willing to do the work to help themselves so the people who are referred to me are putting in the time and effort.

In most instances, these young adults worked throughout college, had good GPAs and have positive attitudes. They tend to lack the many negative traits such as entitlement and tardiness, that are commonly associated with young people. Another common theme is that they mainly come from low-income families and don’t have people who can help or give them good advice.

When I ask them what they want to do and why they want to do it I often get a confused look or an answer that doesn’t make much sense. This in turn leads to a cascade of problems. It affects things like how they do their job search and how they position themselves in their resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

A few months back I had the opportunity to see how something as simple as positioning could impact a person’s job search. I was introduced to a young lady whose employer was making her work crazy hours and significantly underpaying her. She had decided to look for a new job but was having a hard time getting interviews.

It turns out that she had been hired as an analyst but had been given the opportunity to do some client training and found that she really enjoyed it. Her job search efforts were being split between analyst and training positions. After a few conversations, she decided to focus solely on trying to get a job as a trainer.

She adjusted her resume and LinkedIn profile to make her better suited for the position she wanted. Shortly after making these changes she started getting interviews. Today she has a job that pays her 25% more than she was earning and treats her much better.

The skills necessary to find a job are often not taught in school or at home and the same can be said for many other important life skills. We hope and/or expect that people will figure things out on their own which at the very least significantly delays their progress. Taking time to help these promising individuals develop the skills and knowledge needed to lead happy productive lives benefits them and society as a whole.

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