Looking For Work?

Looking For Work: Do You Ever Get The Feeling Someone Changed The Rules When Your Back Was Turned?

Well they did!

And it’s a shock to many of us when redundancy looms and we suddenly find the world of recruitment has changed beyond all recognition.

Time was you had a state education, maybe went to college or university and got a job.

In fact, when I worked for Reed Employment in the mid-70’s, there were so many jobs we couldn’t find enough candidates to fill them! Back then, job-hopping for the next £1000 was normal and workers tended to settle for the long haul only when they found an employer and career they really liked.

But while we were all living off the fat of the land, commiserating with people in countries where only the well-off could afford education and therefore find the few scarce jobs, Britain was reinventing itself.

A kind of polarisation was taking place, where those who wanted to work were entitled to all kinds of perks like health care, free skills training and company cars, while those who didn’t could draw benefits and live off the State.

At the same time, we welcomed an influx of people from overseas who wanted to work hard for low wages and who were prepared to pay to learn workplace skills in order to compete for jobs. The free market economy slowly began to change the world of work!

When the credit crunch appeared from nowhere and jobs became harder to get, many of us felt we had been sleepwalking.

From an employer’s perspective, some had too few or redundant skills, over-inflated pay-packets and to be honest, a bad attitude.

We’d become over reliant on employers and government giving what we asked for and now they were starting to take something back, resulting in longer working hours for less pay – and hiring new people with better skills.

Of course we didn’t like it. It felt like rejection, a slap in the face after all our loyalty.

And now, with the national purse empty, we can no longer turn to our old saviour, the State. The rules of the game have changed.

Every day at our Pitman Training centres in London and Manchester, we meet people who have recognised their skill levels are too low for the new world of work, asking if the government will pay for their retraining.

And the answer is, no. You have to be very deserving of assistance or in a special category, such as the under-18’s to get the government to pay for retraining.

And if you succeed in obtaining such funding, the training is often of a low level, one-size-fits-all nature which lumps you into the rather unattractive (from a recruiter’s point of view) mass of government supported job seekers.

So now there is a new set of rules for people looking for work. Another polarisation has taken place.

Competition for jobs has meant that the most highly skilled candidates win the best positions. Employers can take their pick and sometimes even choose demonstrable skills over experience.

Their rationale is that an old hand may be stuck in his or her ways while a less experienced person with higher skill levels may be easier to manage and will deliver better productivity.

So what are these skills, so prized by employers? Computer skills, of course, and Microsoft Office in particular.

Most of us have a smattering of Word skills, a little Excel ability, perhaps some PowerPoint flair, either self-taught or picked up on a 1or 2-day training session at work.

We can do what we need to do with confidence. But that’s another area where the rules have changed. It is no longer enough to be able to just do what we do. Employers now expect us to change the way we work, to push the boundaries of productivity through the use of everyday technology.

Hence the argument that experience is sometimes perceived to be less valuable than skill. And that’s why it’s essential to learn practical Microsoft Office skills to the highest levels.

Doing so will enable you to demonstrate your practical ability to employers and therefore your measurable value and at the same time, such an investment in your education shows you’re a highly motivated individual – someone the boss would like to have in his or her team.

So that’s where the rules have changed.

You’re on your own now, with little government assistance, competing for jobs with people who are used to investing in developing their own skills, often to a higher level than your own.

And employers now sometimes value skill over experience. It’s tough and it’s not what we expected, but it’s where we are. And we have no choice but to compete or retire hurt.

- Keith Wymer

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