During COVID, unemployment rose to obscenely high numbers, breaching any peaks this country had seen in almost 40 years. Government stimulus checks satisfied the need for immediate relief, but many issues caused the effects of a struggling job market to linger.

With vaccinations and booster shots on the rise and COVID cases trending down, the outlook is no longer so grim. Companies that have survived the last year are looking to ramp up their productivity once again, but they're finding a workforce with the lowest participation rate since the 1970s. This August saw a record number of people quitting their jobs.

So, why aren't people working?

From our perspective, lots of reasons.

Child Care

Prior to the pandemic, around half of U.S. families reported having trouble finding care for young children. Mid-late 2020, and a global pandemic, saw that number rise to two thirds of families, but not much has changed since - it's still a challenge to find child care, and there are even more kids requiring it. Any school reopenings this fall were counterbalanced by a quick-spreading Delta variant and ultra sensitive school closings. Younger, more vulnerable children are in many cases kept at home, in an effort to mitigate risk or in response to schools and centers being closed. And working parents are left with the responsibility of daytime care for their children.

Unemployment Benefits

Many companies can't afford large salaries during this period of pandemic recovery. Their hiring might be back to 2019 levels, but that doesn't mean their employee package is enticing enough to draw a pool of applicants. Additional unemployment benefits were generous and only ended recently, in some cases providing more income than a previously held job had, so the unemployed were less tempted to jump back into the job market.

Stimulus Payments

Alongside the decent unemployment benefits came multiple stimulus checks, dispersed over the last year and intended to ease this period of nationwide loss of income, removing the instability behind people's financial situations. A lessened incentive to find new employment, added to lack of child care and other personal struggles during the pandemic, means there are fewer job seekers.

Changed Values

Employees are demanding more from their employers, after time working from home held a magnifying glass up to their work-life balance. Commutes, pointless meetings, long hours, and meager salaries are keeping people from jumping into anything new without substantial consideration. Priorities have been reevaluated. 

Early Retirements

A less than ideal working situation pushed many on the verge of retirement over the edge. Boomer retirements more than doubled in 2020 from the previous year, removing a significant number of people from the workforce.

Fading Skills

Being sidelined for so long keeps many people out of practice, losing skills needed for jobs they once had. Lack of time or ability to prioritize relearning these skills means lower self esteem and confidence, holding many back from applying to jobs similar to what they held previously. Even though a skill lapse during these times would be easily explained, it can be an inhibiting factor to putting oneself out there.

There are jobs out there. And there are job seekers out there. But with many micro-shifts in the priorities and needs of the unemployed workforce, it may take some time before companies see their applicant pools grow. 

Posted: 11/3/2021 2:04:19 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

For most people, the resume is the gate-opener to a new position. Hiring managers filter through piles of applicants, selecting resumes with key terms and applicants with certain credentials. Most often, a gap on a resume is an obvious indicator of job loss, but if the time period is longer than a couple months, it can raise more of a red flag to a potential employer. 

In a normal year, a gap on a resume demands some sort of explanation that suggests an investment in personal or professional growth, or a dedication to a job search (a full time job in itself, right?). But what about the year of Absolute Unpredictability and Unforeseen Circumstances? 
Our answer: employers will be more forgiving, but you'll still need some reasonable explanations. We have some ideas on how best to deal with it.

1) Address it in a cover letter.

Don't focus too much on the minutia of the situation, but a quick acknowledgement of a gap can leave an impression of transparency and honesty, qualities both highly valued in an employee. Layed off due to COVID-19? The timing alone will likely indicate the reason your employment ended, but you can provide a simple mention so a hiring manager clearly understands. "Company downsized," or "position was eliminated" are great phrases to explain that your job loss was unrelated to your performance.

2) Put an end date on your employment.

You might think leaving a "-to present" as an end date for the latest position on your resume is the easiest way to avoid addressing a resume gap, but as they say, "(dis)honesty is (not) the best policy" (They say that, right?). References, googling, etc might reveal your untruth and leave you in a less than favorable light with an employer. 

3) Be honest.

If your children now require homeschooling, say so. If you were caring for a sick relative, say so. If you were navigating an overloaded job search market, while balancing child care, home schooling, COVID testing, grocery shopping, all while being masked and without hardly leaving your home ever? ... Still say so, but maybe in a somewhat condensed version. 

Employers understand the merging of personal and professional selves in today's climate and are much more interested in hearing that you've been volunteering to sew masks or drop off food for front line workers, or mastering 4th grade math with your daughter than trying to believe you've only been applying for jobs 8 hours a day for the last two months.

You can be playful with how you mention this on a resume, giving yourself an important title and indicating actual professional skills that apply. Say something like "Homeschool Teacher. Managed educational projects and food intake for small internal team of two. Collaborated with educators, analyzed results and strategized on future endeavors." Find a way to see the applications for professional growth in this phase, even if seems very distant from your career.

4) Say SOMEthing about professional development.

Even if you're balancing the world on your shoulders during this pandemic, attend a handful of free webinars so you can claim to be working on your career in some capacity. Taking an online course even one hour a week allows you to say you haven't been neglecting your professional self (and also, allows you to actually not neglect your professional self). 

Spending some time reframing your time away from a job can be a challenge, but investing some thought into its relevance in your professional life can be beneficial for your future. Including an explanation of a gap on your resume is a valuable action to take when applying for a new job. Trust us, employers are understanding during this time. 

Posted: 1/4/2021 9:18:41 AM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

The last six months have been a roller coaster, full of changing rules, fluctuating attitudes, and a desire to “get back to work,” adjacent to a need for maintaining distance and safety.

In the U.S., the only entity as heavily affected by this pandemic as the American business is the American household. Changing work habits and an uncertain economy aside, thousands of employed parents are also adjusting to their children's new school platforms: virtual learning and "blended" school days. Their daily lives have changed drastically, and any acknowledgement and accommodation from management will go a long way.

Working with Parents of Children Who Are Learning Virtually

Be flexible

Offer parents the ability to accommodate changing family schedules, allowing them to shift work hours if needed. Doing so eases some stress and also cements your reputation as a supportive and understanding employer. What does lower stress translate to? Higher productivity! So, it's a win-win.

Set communication expectations

Be clear about how much contact and communication you need from employees who are managing workloads alongside their family's virtual learning. Determine if management needs to be notified when employees are attending to their children during work hours, and if a schedule needs to be set ahead of time or not.

Remove the excess

Skim the fat from their workload and remove any unnecessary meetings – paring down to just the essentials ensures their work hours are spent efficiently.

Be clear from the start

No employee should have to guess what is or is not acceptable within this "new normal" of balancing children's virtual learning schedules and their own work schedules. Be clear on your expectations as early as possible. Let your entire team know you are understanding of small interruptions in meetings, or that you are willing to be flexible on specific hours worked. If meetings become a challenge to attend, suggest a buddy system, so your team can check in with coworkers to report on the items discussed in a missed meeting.

It's also important for non-parents on your team to understand that a less-than-ideal situation can be made better with some compassion and understanding. No one will be expected to work more or less, but you're all in this together.

The working parents that are a part of your organization are facing extreme struggles, juggling working from home, keeping themselves and their families healthy, all while ensuring their children's education continues even when schools range from completely closed to merely partially open. Daily routines are all out of whack, continuing to provide constant sources of stress to an already hectic time. Doing your best as an employer to accommodate the challenges this year has brought to everyone, especially working parents, will result in a strong and satisfied team. 

Posted: 10/2/2020 1:10:58 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments