Former President Bill Clinton, during his speech at the Democratic National Convention, pointed to the biggest issue with American jobs today: "There are already more than 3 million jobs open and unfilled in America," he said, despite a high number of Americans out of work.
Regardless of where your politics fall, it's hard not to agree that Americans should work to bridge the gap between millions of open jobs and the nation's August unemployment rate of 8.1 percent.
And, according to Clinton, the jobs equation doesn't add up "mostly because the people who apply for them don't yet have the required skills to do them." I see this problem every day.
It's a race to find qualified, fitting candidates, especially in business to business sales, escalated customer support, billing support and financial services jobs.
More specifically, there have been nearly 50,000 open positions in business to business sales since mid-August of this year. And customer support, billing support and financial services positions all ballpark around 25 to 30,000 openings.
So, what can we as employers and job seekers do to push the number of open jobs down and put American back to work?
For the companies out there looking for qualified employees with both the right skills and the right cultural fit, it is often quite a challenge. However, that does not have to be the case. Folks in the unemployment line could become sought after talent filling millions of open jobs. To do this successfully it is going to take movement from both sides--the employer and prospective employee.
During a recently hosted Career Chat on Facebook earlier this month, a professional photographer, who has worked in photo labs for over 20 years, talked about how his industry is going digital. He shared how hard it is for him to find work because he does not have the skills in web design and Photoshop that is required of photographers today.
Our advice to him? Adapt! His willingness to change and evolve his skillset to the skills in-demand today is the key to making or breaking his career future. With today's unlimited access to knowledge and resources on the web, there is no longer an excuse for "not knowing".
Take advantage of free reputable educational organizations, like the Khan Academy, Coursera, MIT's free online courses, to name a few. Stanford, recently ranked by Forbes as one of the top colleges in America, even offers affordable online executive programs that anyone in the US can take. Approach a mentor. Invest in yourself by taking in-demand courses like Excel, Photoshop and programming.
Tap into all the amazing online resources to make yourself the hottest commodity in the job market.
It is not just the unemployed who need to shift their mindset. Hiring managers also need to consider changing their hiring approach.
When employers set out to fill an open position, they look at five primary factors in the perfect candidate: the candidate's experience (resume), education, skills as they relate to the job, work ethic, and interpersonal skills. Brad Brummel, PhD in organizational psychology and CareerBliss advisor puts it best when he says, "there is a limited supply of people who qualify all aspects."
That's why, "most employers focus on the skills first" and then hope to get lucky on the other four.
In order to bridge the gap between the high unemployment rate and influx of vacant job openings, companies need to shift their focus and zoom into candidates' soft skills and overall cultural fit. Will this candidate fit the values and attitude of our company?
If they do, in this economy, it is worth investing resources to train cultural fits rather than wait for the perfectly skilled candidate to appear exactly when and where you need them to.
Do not settle for the next-best skilled professional. Instead, aim for the candidate who has the competency, values and personality that align with your company. Be willing to invest a little on development of skills, and you'll see positive results in the long run.
Shortening the unemployment line is really a two-part equation. If companies start shifting their focus away from skills and start focusing on conditioning candidates with the right attitude and job seekers start becoming more proactive in learning new skills -- in the long run -- America will slowly but surely witness the unemployment rate drop.