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The harsh realities facing Australian jobseekers

Challenges in the workplace, and how to overcome them. Source: Getty Images
Challenges in the workplace, and how to overcome them. Source: Getty Images

Us human being are a complicated bunch.

What makes one person happy, could make someone else miserable.

What do I mean by that?

Well take a job, for example. Too many Australians know the anxiety of being out of work and cash-strapped, so the idea of having work, any work, is a great relief.

Others, who perhaps have been in the same old job now for years, and are skilled up, and wanting to take on the world, might find it incredibly frustrating going into work day after day.

Ultimately, what people really want, are opportunities.

Last week new official figures showed Australian employers have started the year on the hunt for workers, with 39,100 new jobs being created in January. An impressive 65,400 full-time positions were created, while part-time work fell by 26,300 jobs.

Overall, it wasn’t enough to bring the unemployment rate down under 5 per cent. That’s because there’s still a large army of people sitting on the employment sidelines looking for work, or more work.

Competition for jobs

This reserve army of job seekers is intimidating for any job applicant. Why? Well because, if you think about it, when you apply for a position, it’s highly likely there will be plenty of other candidates competing against you. Worse still, they’re probably willing to accept an offer with fewer perks.

It’s great to think tens of thousands of jobs are being created each month, because it provides hope for people who desperately need a job that they can one day find one.

But with so much slack in the labour force, that hope quickly turns into anxiety, and the potential for disappointment, when you realise how many people are applying for each job… and how many other jobs are being lost, or made redundant, at the same time.

“It’s great to think tens of thousands of jobs are being created each month, because it provides hope for people who desperately need a job… But with so much slack in the labour force, that hope quickly turns into anxiety.”

The business of recruiting

There’s also so much that can go wrong in the search for employment. As a result, many job seekers turn to recruiters for help.

On the surface they’re much like travel agents – seemingly offering you a service that’s too good to be true. Travel agents organise your holiday at no charge, and recruitment firms look for a job for you at no charge.

Travel agents receive understood and legitimate ‘commissions’ from accommodation providers – likewise, recruiters receive their income from hiring managers when they successfully fill a role.

The problem I am hearing over and over again though is that recruiters drop the ball on every candidate seeking a role, other than the successful candidate.

What I mean by that is that say 10 people apply for a role… the recruiter will be efficient in their dealings with all 10 candidates at the start of the hiring process.

However, by the time only 3 or 4 remain, the other candidates are unlikely to receive any communication from the recruiter at all.

It just means at any one time potentially tens of thousands of job seekers are out there in job land limbo – having no idea whether or not they’ve landed a role, and lacking confidence, to a degree, to pursue other job opportunities.

The recruiter doesn’t care. Many are only interested in getting paid. What experts in the industry keep wanting recruiters to remember is that reputation and repeat business is important.

In other words, the more you look after ALL of your job applicants, the more likely you’ll be successful in the recruitment business over the long run.

There’s certainly a lot of frustration out there right now. Even just a quick Google search can tell you that.

“On the surface [a recruiter] is like a travel agent. The recruiter doesn’t care. Many are only interested in getting paid.”

Wage growth

Then there’s wage growth, or lack there-of.

The latest official figures released last week revealed what we’ve all known for some time now – wages are barely budging.

The Reserve Bank shifted its commentary on it slightly late last week saying that wage growth is now the biggest threat to the local economy – not falling house prices.

The solution is painfully simple: in the private sector, bosses should initiate across the board wage increases of around 3.5 per cent.

Yes, it would hurt business in the short term, but over the longer run, confidence would pick up, consumers would start spending again, profits would grow, and more pay increases would be in the offing.

Ah well, I guess employees just have to accept that they’re just lucky to have a job.

Job insecurity

That feeds in to my final point – job insecurity.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a brick layer, university academic, doctor, or lawyer, job security is slowly becoming a thing of the past.

Of course it’s also now feeding on itself: so few people have job security, that competition for roles that may lead to job security are fiercely fought over – leaving hiring managers with more power to keep people on casual and part-time contracts.

Let’s be honest. It’s a disgrace. If you’re a committed, honest, reliable, hard worker, you should be offered permanent, secure work with special benefits.

Let’s leave the flexible, insecure work for those that just want to dabble in the jobs market occasionally.

Money, money, money…. Money

The rules of the game work like this: labour offer up skills; the owners of capital hire those skills; the spoils of what is then created are shared by all.

Post the financial crisis, the power balance between labour and the owners of capital has shifted towards the owners of capital.

Later this century the power will likely shift back to the workers, and then, even later, it will shift back again to the capital class.

This ‘tug-of-war’ has been going on for centuries. Why? Well because we all want more money and power.

What’s largely forgotten these days is how this power shift affects those looking for work. Right now the power seems to be skewed to employers, which means – no matter how many jobs seem to pop up every month – applying for those jobs has become quite painful.

Business is too interested in chasing dollars. We’ve forgotten about the value of commitment and courtesy. Ironically, those intangibles are behind some of the great businesses of the 20th century. You’d think we’d learn.


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