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‘Bridging Michigan’s Workforce Divide': Why Is It Still So Hard To Find A Job?

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Pamela Moore advises job seekers.

Pamela Moore advises job seekers.

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By Pamela Moore

It seems that it is impossible to look at an organization’s website these days without seeing vacant positions advertised. A multitude of electronic job boards are now available online, listing hundreds of thousands of jobs. And we are increasingly hearing that the city of Detroit is turning a corner, and that there are many more opportunities than there were a year ago.

So why is it still so difficult to find a job?

Well, while the economy is arguably improving, unemployment rates are still generally higher than they were 5 years ago. In Southeast Michigan, our current rate of 8.5% tracks about a point higher than the national average. In the city of Detroit itself, the official unemployment figure is in the high teens, but ask anyone to estimate the actual number of Detroiters out of work and many people, including me, believe the real rate is double that.

However, it can’t be denied that opportunities are available. In the last quarter of 2012, there were nearly 28,000 advertisements for job openings in the Detroit ‘Michigan Works!’ area, an increase of 15 percent over the previous quarter. Of these advertisements, 9 out of 10 were active for less than 60 days.

But perhaps most interesting for an area that has undergone a seismic shift in career profiles over the last decade, nearly half the advertisements were for occupations that required pre-existing experience. However, employers are now learning that they may have to hire people who may not have the exact skills required but are considered to have the aptitude and wherewithal to perform the required duties.

Therein, to a great extent, lies the huge hidden opportunity for metro-Detroit’s unemployed. If you can clearly demonstrate to potential employers that you have work experience or that you are worth their investment of time, resources, and training, you are in a much better position to find not just a job, but a career.

Unfortunately too many candidates, particularly our youth, are unable to demonstrate this essential quality. Showing up late to an interview, dressing inappropriately, answering a text message in an interview are common complaints that we hear from employers.

These characteristics are certain to get your name crossed off a Human Resources ‘call back’ list. So, what is it that employers are looking for?
• Resume – All employers will want to see a resume. And while not having one will be viewed as being ill-prepared, one with spelling errors, poor formatting, too simplistic, or too complex can be almost as limiting.
• Professional appearance – At traditional worksites, a sportcoat or jacket is recommended for every interview. Jeans, sneakers, tee shirts, and clothing that is too revealing will get you noticed for the wrong reasons. Cover visible tattoos and remove body pierced jewelry.
• Social Drug Use – Stop. Most employers are drug testing applicants and you will not be hired.
• Educational attainment – In the absence of prior work experience, employers who are considering training you will want to see and hear evidence that you are able to read, listen, comprehend and apply information and nothing demonstrates this better than academic attainment. If you do not have a high-school diploma, then obtain a GED. Those with a GED are 37% more likely to find a job than those without. Then prepare to earn at least an Associates Degree; consider evening classes.
• Work experience – In a market with high levels of unemployment, employers tend to feel that a track record of employment is better than no track record. Volunteering, interning, or finding part time work will give you work history for your resume. Give examples of your accomplishments. You will need good professional references for a potential employer to call.
Repositioning yourself as ‘Job Ready’ may not happen overnight. Knowing where to start and assessing the cost is the tough part. However, it probably does not take as long as you think, and at very least you owe it to yourself. Start with your local Michigan Works! agency, where access to coaching, career advice and personal development is provided free of charge.
Job opportunities are here for the taking, but they can be tough to spot if you’re not looking in the right direction. Map your career pathway, stay the course and every step will move you closer to your goal…..a better career opportunity.

Pamela Moore is the President and CEO of Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation (DESC). 

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