Joblessness: Tips For Turning It Around

By Joel DeVyldere 

It’s 11:30 a.m., my second day in Portland, and I’m already starting to grow nervous. This job search is going well if you count resumes distributed. If, however, you’re counting interviews scheduled,positive replies, or even “yes, we’re hiring”’s, you’ll be relatively down for the count.

I’m moving storefront to storefront asking if they’re hiring, like my mom told me to do when I was 16 and wanted a car. Outside the shops, literally hundreds of folks are begging for change in the street. Have they simply given up on looking for work? Or are they not interested in it?

I’ll leave the ethical questions for the radio talk shows to answer. For now, it’s refreshing to be in Portland where, at least, there is someeconomic growth. Still, national unemployment is a steep 7.9%, not including discouraged workers, and all those people who are still looking for a job because they’ve only found part-time work.

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Some have theorized that the U.S. economic system tends to keep at least a few people unemployed to maintain the status quo. Full employment would eliminate the long-standing labor surplus, causes wages to go up and working conditions to become more negotiable.

Political theorist and MIT Professor Noam Chomsky wrote this year that many of the lost manufacturing jobs are permanently gone. Chomsky traces a failing economy to a shift that he says began in the 1970’s, “a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise — producing things people need or could use — to financial manipulation.”

Chomsky makes a good point. And while some theorists have made a lot of the fact that profits are down for this company or that, large companies don’t hurt from the recession; instead, they simply scale back their enterprise. Only people have the capacity to lose tangible opportunities in the gaps between commerce.Unemployment, however, is not the only work-related consequence of this recession.

As employers become more keenly aware that they don’t need you, their respect for their employees as human beings can be sidelined by the needs of the business; hours are cut, work conditions worsen, and practices like double-hiring start to become commonplace.

The large number of job seekers seems to create a culture of competition in which people begin to disregard each other’s needs as well. Some places, like the Wendy’s near my University, have such poor work conditions and a high turnover rate that they simply leave their ‘Now Hiring’ sign up all year round.

But all of this doesn’t change the fact that I need a solid, paying job if I don’t want to continue living with no money. Even being poor and happy requires at least some money. For those of us who don’t want to wander off and build a cabin in the woods, formal, stable, gainful employment is a must.

The Job Search (things I hope will help)

Fix up that resume. I met with Pat Ferris, Employment Services Coordinator for the University of Oregon Career Center, to talk resumes and employers. Pat suggested I simplify my resume to make it easier for employers to scan it quickly:

  • Condense my resume to one column instead of two
  • Implement the use of bullet points (instead of complete sentences)
  • Utilize “action verbs” to describe my work experience and and career skills (UO’s “Action Verb” list).

Take a pen. Ask for the name of the manager if you’re going to swing back by. Businesses sometimes also have a website to apply to – always a good thing to write down.

Bring a sack lunch. Going to distribute and/or check on some resumes? Once you get to a commercial district, you may as well ride the momentum of the job hunt through the day. It can be exhausting and hungering work – especially if you’re applying at restaurants.

Check out Penn State University’s “Job Search Tips for a Tough Economy.”

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