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“It Takes a Village” To Get a Job in California Today

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

These days to get a job in California it takes use of job search boards and social media techniques.  It takes use of networks of business associates and acquaintances. When financially possible, it takes the assistance of a career coach. Most of all, though, it takes a village.

Connie Brock is one of our most experienced and thoughtful career coaches in California.  She came to career coaching after a lengthy career in finance. She started in the work world in the 1970s in administration at America Express Investment Management Company in the Bay Area , then did stints as a research assistant role to several analysts  at The Capital Group and ultimately moved to the sell side of Wall Street in institutional equity sales for Cowen and several other firms.

In the early 1990s she decided to make a career change, and went back to school for a degree in career counseling.  In 1997, she joined NOVA in the South Bay, and its ProMatch program, the job club for laid-off,  professional workers in Silicon Valley. Today she, along with several colleagues, oversees the running of the ProMatch program and also works with private clients as a career coach.

Connie believes the starting point for an effective job search is self knowledge. Her rationale is that the more grounded  job seekers are in understanding which skills they want to take with them, and which values are most critical to a good job fit,  the clearer they can be in communicating this information to their networks. Further, with this knowledge, the stronger they can make the case to employers on adding immediate value and also transferring  skills to different industry sectors.

Among job search techniques Connie is a big believer in networks. She urges use of professional networks, including LinkedIn, not only for a specific job search but on an ongoing basis. A network is an ongoing career management strategy that must be continually nurtured.

Recently, an unemployed California woman, age 62, was profiled in a national newspaper. The woman had been laid off as an executive assistant at an advertising agency in 2008, and had been unable to find work since, despite actively using the job boards, especially Craigslist. She recently filed for Social Security; four years shy of her full retirement age– which meant that she received a 20%-30% reduced monthly check.  She continued desperately to seek a job, even though it meant earnings would reduce her Social Security check. I asked Ms. Brock what advice she might give this woman. After noting the high job obstacles for all older workers, Mr. Brock turned to networks and mutual support. As this woman had not kept her professional networks, she needed to turn to religious and service group networks and end her isolation.  Ms. Brock e-mailed last week:

“I would encourage her to contact local churches in her community to see if there is one that has a job search support group. If not, I would recommend she think about getting a church or local chapter of a service organization to support her in starting one as a way to help her and others facing similar challenge. I would put her in touch with an organization like Menlo Park Presbyterian’s Career Actions Ministry or Cupertino Rotary’s Job Club to get ideas/information about how to get one started… Looking for a job is lonely and it’s too easy to go to all or none thinking, foreclose on options, make bad decisions, not have a sounding board and interview practice opportunities. ”

Religious networks, service group networks and other affinity groups are important networks beyond LinkedIn and business networks. But I would go further to say that these days to find a job in California it takes a lot of other networks, including networks of family, friends and neighbors.

We all need to get smart about the emerging job world, and be able to pitch in for family and others we know who are looking for jobs. Truth is, as Ms. Brock notes, we all are temps today, and one step away from being a job seeker ourselves.

I often hear parents lament (even complain about) adult children who can’t find jobs. On a recent Patt Morrison radio show on California employment, a mother lamented that her son had submitted forty applications for a summer job, and not received one response, not even a call back.

Yet, that is what the job market has become today; the non-response to forty applications is the norm. The parent needs to understand the heightened difficulty of job search today, compared to California in the past. When I went to EDD for a summer job in Los Angeles in 1970, there were numerous job postings that you could respond to by phone or in person. When I graduated from law school in 1979, you could walk down the street and get several job offers. Today, law school graduates are faced with a scarcity of openings, and many are volunteering with public agencies to get experience (a good strategy).

The parent should be learning about the job world, and using whatever networks she or he has. So should other family adults and friends offer to pitch in, with their networks. The criticism leveled on some California parents as “helicopter parents”, who are too involved with their children’s lives, is way off base regarding employment. Parents, friends and neighbors all need to be active agents.

Today, to get a job in California, it takes a village.

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