I Blame The Unemployed

Those who know me in real life are aware I get pretty prickly over negative assumptions some still make about the unemployed. I read comments in media outlets that drive me mad.

“I feel for the unemployed and I know it’s tough, but if they budgeted better, stopped smoking and watched less Oprah they wouldn’t be in this predicament.”

As irritated as I am at people who make these types of statements, I blame the unemployed for these assumptions even existing. Too many displaced workers are invisible. They are working away in seclusion, doing what they can to secure employment so they can emerge formally attached to some corporate enterprise. Guess what, if the rest of the community doesn’t see active, intelligent, motivated, professional job seekers circulating in every public forum possible there isn’t anything to combat the common belief those who are unemployed, especially for longer periods of time, are unskilled and more willing to live off of the charity of others than to expend any amount of energy on finding a job.

I know first hand the quality and drive of many unemployed individuals in my area. I seek the unemployed out and do what I can to get to know them well, so I know the assumptions are bunk. Me knowing this isn’t good enough though. The rest of the population is too busy with life to seek you out. That means job seekers must surface. They must put a true face on unemployment in 2010 and they must be out there equally, if not more so, than the working. Once people cross paths with motivated and talented job seekers I’m convinced they’ll be less likely to lump all of the unemployed into the “sitting on the couch eating Ruffles” category.

9 Comments

  • Jae Burnham says:

    I agree with you to a degree.

    My business primarily attracts the blue collar workers. These workers tend be far less educated than the people that you work with. The jobs that I provide are labor intensive and unfortunately there is a high turn over rate.

    It is sad because I really would like to have stable employees. So I know from dealing with these types of individuals that just don’t want to work very hard I know that are smoking and watching Oprah (okay maybe not Oprah, but TV shows.)

    But that being said, I do believe that there those out there that you describe…and if you know them send them my way because I will gladly hire them.

    Jae

  • Lisa says:

    Jae,

    Thanks for your comment. Perhaps I should say the professional and motivated job seekers who aren’t getting out are allowing the ones people know in their own lives to be sitting on the couch with Ruffles to become the face of unemployment.

    I’ve heard your story several times, by the way. Many companies have jobs, want to hire and would give anything to have employees show up on a daily basis and do good work. As simple as that. In some situations companies/people are horrible to work for and I understand the turnover. In many other situations it’s a crumby work ethic on the part of employees who want money for little to no effort, don’t want to hear constructive criticism and don’t want to have to do into work on days they don’t feel like it. I feel your pain.

    By the way, I am in the loop of many motivated and hard working people. I sent you my email through Twitter. Send me your information and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for you.

  • David Brooks says:

    Lisa as a motivated unemployed worker I try not to listen to the assumptions about the unemployed. There are always two sides to every argument and for those that make the “on the couch with a bag of Ruffles” comments I have a suggestion for them. Put the shoe on the other foot and give up your job to an unemployed person then they could be the new unemployed and sit on the couch with a bag of Ruffles. It must be a form of jealousy for someone to think that way and for them to lump everyone into the same category. To your other post, Jae if you’re having an issue with turnover, perhaps its time to re-think your business operations and discover the reasons for the turnover. Just a suggestion…….

  • Lisa says:

    David, I do think it’s important for the unemployed to tune out the negative, but I also know some of those assumptions can lead to resumes being passed over when decision makers in companies have come to believe them. It really is important for the unemployed to be more visible and to put a more realistic face on the situation. I also agree many with these assumptions would have an awakening were they to find themselves looking for work suddenly. To their benefit, those losing their jobs now may have a less difficult time finding work than those who lost their jobs in 2008. Things are loosening a bit. There is a large crop individuals who lost their jobs about 18 months ago and had NOTHING to consider to get them back to work. Not even the Wendy’s of this world could take them, as many believe would have solved our problem.

    Jae, I do agree with David’s point about identifying the source of the turnover. There are blue collar workers in Lansing who can be relied on and who want to work. The key is to plug into channels connecting you to them and making sure you have a good plan for retaining them once on board. That said, shorter term employees is the nature of the beast for some positions. The strategy becomes accepting you might not have employees forever, but that the time you do have them they are reliable and deliver quality work. Sometimes it’s better to hire those you know you can’t keep for long because you know when you’ve got them they will knock the ball out of the park. I’m glad to help connect you to any contacts I have who may be able to help you attract good employees.

  • David Brooks says:

    Lisa, everybody lives in their own little bubble and unless some event shakes them out of it they make their assumptions based on their own world. I live by the words “it is what it is” one can choose to help as you have done, or one can stay safe in their own bubble until they have to make a decission to change. Character is built on the events in our lives and I would rather go through these events and become a better person than to look through rose colored glasses and not know how to handle them when they come up. What your suggesting is to change the preception about the unemployed to the employers. What concerns me is the long term unemployed will be looked over for the more recently unemployed. How do we change that?

  • Lisa says:

    David, the concern you mentioned about longer term unemployed being passed over is exactly why I’m so concerned about the lack of visibility. You and I interact with fantastic professionals on a regular basis, so we know the reality of who is out there looking for work. We know the faces of those who lost their jobs in 2008 and had no real options. We won’t fall into the trap of assuming there must be something wrong with a person who has been out of work that long. Others will and do. Without bumping into a professional and motivated person who is open about how long they’ve been out of work, there is nothing to challenge that assumption. What to do? You know much of this. Stay busy. Whether it’s part-time work, temporary assignments or volunteering, a full schedule helps neutralize concerns over your employment status. Keep updating your skills for the jobs you are interested in. Many who are employed now are so over-worked, there is simply no time to gain new and valuable skills. The longer term unemployed person will hopefully be able to come to the interview table with more networking ideas/contacts and social media strategies than others. Those are pluses for companies when you point it out and explain how that knowledge and those contacts translates to profits. Network. Network. Network. It goes without saying hiring managers have fewer reservations about candidates who are recommended by trusted sources.

  • Jae says:

    Lisa;

    Thank you for your comments.

    And like I said before I do hope and believe there are those out there that you are describing. I have not found that to be the case.

    Having started my business because I was unemployed I know what it is like to be looking for work, although I have NEVER had any trouble finding employment…ever. The reason for this is simple. When I have been unemployed I didn’t sit a wait for that “perfect” job to come along. I took what I could get and moved up when I could. That is what is being a motivated job seeker is all about. Any job that pays the bills and puts food on the table for me and my family is an honorable job. Even it if it is pay decrease or flipping burgers.

    David, it is easy for you to blame the employer like you did with me. I don’t remember seeing your application or resume on my desk even though you know I am looking for good workers so you are just proving my point and you are proving the point about those that “are on the couch eating Ruffles”. It is that very hypocrisy that gives the unemployed the bad name.

    Lastly, as an employer, I would look past someone that has been a long term unemployed for someone that has had employed recently. Having seen first hand how – dare I say it – “lazy” the long term unemployed seem to be, I would rather take someone on that is hungry and not waiting for the “just the right job” to come along. It is a perception. Unfortunately you are judge by how you look in this world. It is a simple fact. It is up to the unemployed to change how they are perceived versus the other way around. An employer someone that get results. A long term unemployed person only seemly gives the perception that they cannot get results. Actions speak louder than words.

    I know from personal experience it is not hard to find honorable employment. But it is if you are looking for that “perfect” job. No one owes you a living. Stop playing the victim it will not get you anywhere. And that is from experience from Hard Knocks University. Argue with all you like; I know what is true for me.

  • Lisa says:

    Jae, I appreciate your perspective, but I have to say many of those I work with would have said the exact same thing prior to losing their jobs in 2007/2008. I hear “I’ve never had to look for work before…it’s always found me” so often it’s cliche’. Many are shell-shocked to find their credentials, solid work history and connections can’t get the job done. Of course, there are ways to correct the problem and I completely agree many could have done things differently early on and had better results. So many were fish out of water in a time when you had to be at the top of your game to stand a chance, however. It was a learn as you go process in a time when, simply put, there simply weren’t enough jobs of any nature available to meet the needs of the masses who found themselves on the hunt. The later part of 2009 showed some improvement. It wasn’t really until mid 2010 where I personally felt I was seeing a true flow of opportunity.

    There were those who would have started a business, as you did, but I’m sure you were aware of the credit crisis at the time. Those who didn’t have the ability to finance their own company couldn’t get off the ground. Many took odd jobs here and there to have some sort of cash flow at times. Certainly not resume builders. And though you feel you as a moving company would have considered hiring those who had done other jobs prior to getting a pink slip, I can tell you many companies weren’t (and still aren’t) comfortable with hiring a sales executive, architect, quality engineer, lawyer, etc., to do more general labor work.

    I’m not sure how many people back in 2007 were holding out for the “perfect” position, but I can tell you the folks I encountered when I began my volunteer efforts in Lansing in the latter part of 2008 weren’t bent on perfection. It’s my experience job seekers are much more flexible and open to options than most employers feel comfortable with. They aren’t interested in interviewing people who made thousands, if not tens of thousands, more in other roles. They shy away from managerial backgrounds for more subordinate roles. They are uncertain about individuals who have been newly trained and concerned their heart lies more with their former life. The people I interact with in real life really do want to work, they want to earn money and they would love employers to be less inclined to hire cookie-cutter employees.

    You are right about the perception bit. That was the point of me writing this post. Job seekers do have to care about how they come off. They need to make every effort to be visibly in action. The fact it’s so hard to find the unemployed at times means many aren’t circulating to the degree they should be. That’s a problem.

    By the way, I meant what I said about being happy to attempt to connect you with potential hires. I’ve made connections for other companies with labor needs. I just spoke with one owner last week who has had two people working for him for several months now that I referred his way. He’s extremely happy with their work performance and attitude. I love the job seekers I spend my days with.

  • Jae says:

    Lisa;

    Thank you. As I am not on the front lines like you are my viewpoint is marred by what I see before me. I don’t have the bigger picture like you may. I personally know that I’d take those folks that you mention anytime they need some work, because I know that I can basically double time what they are doing for me. I.e. if an accountant wanted to work for me I would hire them if they were physically able to handle my line of work, but I would also have work on the books. This would go for any other person of a specialized talent.
    As far has having no credit and starting a business, well that is hogwash. I’m sorry to be so blunt here, but I know for a fact that you don’t have to have something before you can do something.
    I started my moving business with nothing, literally. I don’t have good credit because of a recent divorce. But I did have knowledge that I was able to capitalize on and used that. Sure it was rocky at first, but now I am going on 3 years in business and grossing over six figures.
    I have used this same formula to start 3 other businesses that are taking off. So I know what I am talking about here. But to be fair, I am also not supporting a family and/or kids either.
    Please by all means, please send me anyone that wishes to work and work hard. I don’t care what has happened in the past, I am only interested in results. Got anyone that matches that description.

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