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October, 2015

  1. What I Learned About Unemployment During My Travels [A Guest Post]

    October 31, 2015 by Lady Unemployed

    To paraphrase Tolstoy, “All employed people are alike; each unemployed person is unemployed in its own way.” To expand on this rather clumsy piece of paraphrasing, employed people of all nations and cultures are the same – happy to be working and getting paid for their work. However, unemployed people differ greatly from one part of the world to another. Or at least that is what I found out during my years in the trade show industry.

    But, I wander. I hate it when people do that and expect their readers (or listeners) to understand what they are talking about without any useful info.

    So, let me start again.

    An Overlong Introduction

    My name is James (not that it really matters) and I have spent more than a decade in the trade show industry. However, the type of service that my colleagues and myself provided were somewhat different from those you normally see in this industry. Namely, we provided something of a liaison services for Australian-based companies that wished to exhibit in markets that are considered to be less-traditional such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

    Why those parts of the world?

    Well, for one, these parts of the world provide certain challenges to “outsiders”, challenges that have to do with the history of these parts, the world views people in those areas often share and certain practices that are considered less-than-businesslike in Western cultures. For more on these, check here and here.

    The other reason was that I had been in a relationship with a woman from Eastern Europe (more precisely Serbia) since high school (she is now my wife) and that my colleagues hailed from Central Asia before moving to Australia.

    We were young, we were foolish and we were fearless in that stupid way only 20-something people can be. But this is not a story about the insane situations we found ourselves in regularly and the reasons why we stopped doing what we did.

    This is a story that is more in the line with the theme of the LadyUnemployed site, i.e. the unemployment. More precisely, this is a story about how different cultures we had been in contact with see unemployment and how people of those cultures approach not having employment.

    The Communism Heritage and Apathy

    There is one thing that most of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia have in common – communist past.

    In some places it was full-on communism, like in the better part of Central Asia which was once part of the Soviet Union and in others it was some sort of a “progressive but still quite nearsighted” socialism like in the countries which used to make up Yugoslavia.

    The reason I am mentioning this is that in the “good old days” the governments provided jobs. These jobs may not have been perfect and many people were unhappy, but they were jobs. They knew they will have jobs. Jobs which paid enough for a normal life.

    When the countries were awakened from their communist dreams, in many parts that certain security disappeared as well. In the Balkans, for instance, the replacement has been the most brutal, corrupt form of wild capitalism you can imagine. The jobs are still scarce and most countries yelp under the burden of unemployment.

    In such circumstances, a certain form of apathy can be observed. People with college education cannot hope to get employment in their fields without serious connections and they resort to two solutions – they go west or they try and find employment well below their qualifications.

    Younger generations are often trying to do something about it, improving their knowledge, expanding their skill set, but they are often disheartened by the lack of results. It does not take them long to become as apathetic as the older generations.

    In the end, they accept being officially unemployed, trying to make a living for themselves off the books and off the radar.

    How We Do It In Australia

    I haven’t lived anywhere but in Australia in what we like to call the developed world, so I can only compare this with the unemployment experience Down Under. Which I intend to do.

    For one, that feeling of apathy is virtually unknown in Australia, even among people who come from those parts of the world I have talked about. It has to do with the fact that the sense of meritocracy is much more pronounced and that corruption is not rampant here (at least not to the extent it is in Eastern Europe and Central Asia).

    People know that if they make an effort, they will actually increase their chances of finding employment.

    Moreover, the government itself does everything in its power to help people improve their chances through various government-funded opportunities and courses that are aimed at creating skilled employees. If you want, you can find out more.

    I am not saying that it is all milk and honey in Australia. I have seen plenty of people with incredible skills and more than respectable education fail to find work for a number of reasons. But the biggest difference is that there is always hope and something to strive for.

    Sometimes we need a bit of perspective here in the “west” and I only hope that I have provided at least an iota of insight to help find that perspective. Also, I hope my ramblings haven’t bored you to death.

    AUTHOR: James D. Burbank is a happily married Aussie who is currently on hiatus and blogging about what he’s learned about business on the ground. He is also a big Utah Jazz fan.

  2. Applying into the Abyss [An Unemployment Story]

    October 22, 2015 by Lady Unemployed

    Anyone hiring? How much time have you spent applying for jobs? Not just any random job but a career that you know in your heart you can fill? During this online age it seems the ability to present yourself outside of a resume seems dismal at best. Hundreds of resumes sent out into the ether.

    The question that comes after months of this process is natural.

    Is it me?

    In short yes. You do not have 6 years of experience, 4 Olympic gold medals, 2 tours of military duty and at least 1 trip to the international space station. Your credentials do not match the job posting. Why? Because the job posting is put together by people who do not believe in investing in people.

    We hear all the time that people are coming out of school without the skills to join the workforce. But since when did employers feel entitled that every employee that they hire be perfect? While the millennial generation be labeled as lazy or looking for quick fixes, we find quick solutions on job boards every day. Companies are always in flux, but I can see a direct correlation between lack of investment in people and struggles in growth.

    When you hire only engineers with 10 years of experience you definitely have the ability to do the work. But what happens when you need to communicate your value to the world? You hire an agency who isn’t a part of you to explain it to the world. There is room for us all. While companies complain that the workforce isn’t prepared you forget that most of us learn the most on the job. Remember that the person you invest in today can keep the engine running far longer than picking up random mechanics along the way. Make people stakeholders rather than temp workers waiting for their contract to end.

    All it takes is a little vision. In this abyss that we all keep applying to, is a wealth of talent that is ready to make a lasting impact. All it takes is a chance. Stop touting all you do for your customers. Create space in your organization for your customers and watch your product thrive. Hard times are just that, hard. But lasting changes can be made if a few insightful managers realize that people have value. May take a little more time. May take interviewing a few candidates who aren’t perfect. But those who put in that extra work are sure to find that extra reward.

    We are tired of being overlooked.