Unemployed- The American Dream turns into The American Nightmare

There are so many articles and news reports about unemployment it is very difficult to know which one is accurate. The newest government report shows overall unemployment fell to the lowest percentage in the last two years. Next weeks report will probably show a sudden increase in the unemployment numbers. There are also a number of articles that list older workers are having an especially hard time in finding employment. Congress is at odds on what to do about continuing long term benefits. Some states are almost double in the percentage of unemployed people the national average is listed at. Because of these items and so many more for America, the American Dream has turned into the American Nightmare.

All the aforementioned items make being unemployed more stressful than most people can imagine. Many of the people that are unemployed want only one thing, an opportunity to support their family and themselves by working. Unemployment benefits do nothing but help families survive at a difficult time. Most unemployed are required to use their savings and other financial reserves just to survive especially if they are one of the long term unemployed. I have heard it said that people on unemployment have little incentive to find work since they have money coming to them in the benefits they receive. The people making those statements are employed and bringing in wages and I doubt if this statement is ever made by someone that is unemployed.

This new computer age has the majority of companies using an online application process. Place your personal information online at their company’s career site or use third party information software they have contracted to gather this information. Once your information is entered, an algorithm can scan and evaluate whether the prospective party has the necessary skills the company is looking for. The problem with this automated evaluation is companies are losing people that have the majority of the skill sets that the company is looking for but more importantly they are losing people that want to do the best job possible and become an asset to the company.
Some companies were extremely selective and only hired candidates that are an exact match to their needs. An analogy of why companies are losing workers they need is as follows; a car dealership, example, GM dealership decides to close their doors and let their employees go. One employee has work at that dealership as a top salesman for over 30 years. A Ford dealership in the same town needs a salesman so this person applies. His application is rejected because he/she has never sold a new car with the Ford brand. In other words he/she does not have this portion of the experience that the company is looking for. Other companies may not have been able to find candidates with the necessary skills and are unwilling to dedicate the time or money to give the candidates that are applying for the open positions the remaining 10 to 20 percent skills that they might lack. Many times companies reject applicants because they are considered over qualified. Hiring managers forget that many of the applicants are just trying to support themselves and their family and hope that they can bring their experience to a company in such a way that will help the company. Maybe the hardest item to understand and accept, for applicants, is when an applicant is rejected for a position and that position continues to be advertised, sometimes for several months.
Early in my career I was one of four managers that hired for open positions. Because I enjoyed interviewing I was given an application by one of the other managers that did not wish to waste their time with an applicant. The application showed that this lady had not worked in over 15 years and I thought going in I would give her a few minutes and send her on her way with the normal promise to “let her know” later in the week. After about 10 minutes I thanked her for coming in and got up. She remained sitting and blurted out that “this was her 10th interview and everyone was brushing her off.” She stated “All I want is a chance.” I sat back down and we talked for another 45 minutes at which time I hired her. The other three managers thought I had lost my mind. Long story short, 2 ½ years later when I let the company she was promoted to my position and continued on with that company for several more years.
There is heavy competition for each available job. Articles have been written that about 13.3 million people were listed as unemployed in November 2011, which means there was an average of 4.2 people out of work for each opening companies had. Most major corporations require a college degree for any position their company lists. Some reports have shown that only about 25% of the people of working age have a college degree. This fact alone limits the number of applicants that a company will even consider. The percentage of college graduates with degrees is down significantly in older workers because when they either left or graduated high school they needed to get employment to help their families which limits the prospect of finding suitable employment even further. I have always wondered what type of college degree would be the equivalent of someone working for 10 or 20 or even 40 years in the job market. Reviewing the various articles and news reports that show the number of people that want to work and make every possible effort they can to support themselves and their families makes it difficult to understand the inflexible hiring rules many companies and organizations utilize.

Fulltime employed people mainly work 5 days a week 8 hours a day. A number of the unemployed people “work” 7 days a week in hopes of finding something that will allow them not only to work an average of 5 days a week but also give them the chance to survive.

There are some people, organizations and television shows that try to help some of the people that are unemployed or are having difficult times. Ellen DeGeneres has a show that my wife watches while we eat supper. She helps some people she and her staff believe need assistance. During one shows she featured a younger couple from Illinois because the husband had been off work for 18 months. The thing I found problematic was he stated he had applied for 15 jobs over that 18 month period. That comes out to one application every 36.5 days. What about the people that are applying for 5 to 15 jobs a week? Another family this show featured had several children and they were given a number of items to help them. This same family was featured a few weeks later on a different station, on the show Extreme Home Makeover, receiving a new home and a number of other items. I understand that people and shows like Ellen truly try and help people in need and she features things that affect society. The number of people and organizations that reach out to shows such as hers must be overwhelming. I hope that these people and shows continue to help the people and families that are truly in need and are making every effort possible to make things better for themselves, and the people around them.

If companies, government agencies, and organizations that are in need of workers would remember the one thing a woman once asked me when she applied for an open position, “All people want is a chance.” Companies, government agencies, and organizations might be surprised at the probability of finding dedicated and hard working employees. Giving people a chance can turn the nightmare faced by so many of the American people into a hope that someday they will once again be part of the American dream.

Al Cameron