Monthly Archives: December 2011

How Will 2011 Be Remembered?

The year is coming to a close and although it may seem like it flew by, there are some memorable events and happenings from the year that are important to note. The “iWorld” creator Steve Jobs passed away, Obama announced that troops are to be out of Iraq by the end of the year, news of the job market came out almost every day, Prince William and Kate Middleton married in a royal wedding and Kim Kardashian married then divorced only 72 days later. Whew! It was quite the year.

However interesting and important those events were, Spark News asks “what will we remember of the 2011 job market?” Ups, downs, more downs and back to small ups, the job market was a roller coaster and flurry of emotions for both job seekers and employers alike. Many say that the market is picking up, but others are still very skeptical. But what are some of the specific memories that will be lodged in our brains for months to come?

-Hiring wasn’t just difficult for job seekers. Employers seeking new workers found that there was a big mismatch between what they needed in a potential employee and what the job seekers had to offer. This is something Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder is working very hard at to rectify.

-Employers were strapped for cash (and still are) leading them to hire someone that is already fully familiar with the position. Meaning, they did not want to take the time, money or effort to train someone who might not work out in the long run. The hiring process became more intense because these employers wanted to hire someone who could come in and get right to work.

-Unpaid internships went on the rise. These unpaid internships, which in some cases were and still are illegal, allowed for employers to get the work done at no cost. Furthermore, inexperienced workers were grateful for the jobs even if they were unpaid because they needed to gain the workplace experience in order to find a paying job or someone that would hire them.

-How about a positive memory? They do exist! As a result of pressure to compete with global markets, businesses had more involvement in education, locally and nationally, hoping to create a more competitive market.

-Being as difficult as it was (and, again, still is) the lagging job market forced job seekers and employees to stay on their feet and think outside of the box. The old way of doing things likely didn’t work in 2011 and probably still won’t work in 2012. In tough times, the brightest and most motivated of people come out on top. Chances are that the desire to succeed forced many to try harder and live up to their full potential- and that is never a bad thing.

-Employees struggling to keep their jobs likely went above and beyond to satisfy their employers to ensure that they would have a job. Increased productivity, greater focus and more attention to detail leads to better work and a better product for the company or business.

When you look back on 2011, the initial reaction may be to cringe and immediately snatch up a couple Advil to ease the ensuing headache. However, there is always a silver lining, and those that can see it and appreciate it are more likely to succeed in the vicious, unyielding job market of today and of tomorrow. If not, 2012 is a new year for all. And for all a good night.
Happy New Years!

SOURCE: Kansas City Star
IMAGE: Dry Icons

Job Market Improving For Graduates

Things just might be looking up for college graduates after all. We all know that it has been tough for everyone lately, but what about the hopeful college graduates that are sent off into the world bright-eyed and ready to start their career? Their job hunt is made extra difficult by their lack of experience and workplace knowledge. Plus, with the job market where it is currently, they are forced to compete with more experienced workers for entry-level jobs that were once almost exclusively for them.

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate for those aged 20 to 24 with a bachelor’s degree has dropped each month from September 2011 to November 2011. Overall, the rate has dropped from 8.3 percent to 6.2 percent. More specifically, the data shows that the rate of unemployment for this group from September 2010 to September 2011 fell from 9.4 percent to 8.3 percent respectively. From November 2010 to 2011, from 8.5 percent to 7.7 percent and December 2010 to 2011 from 8.6 to 6.2, also respectively.

Right off the bat, this looks like great news for he young adults of our country. However, not to burst the bubble of job hopefuls, it is important to take note of why these rates are possibly dropping. It could possibly mean that between the months of September and December many job seekers pulled the emergency brakes on their job seeking, meaning they stopped looking for a job altogether. If you can remember, last week Spark News published an article that featured editor-in-chief of The Central New York Business Journal Adam Rombel discussing how we must look on these unemployment rates with a skeptical eye. If job seekers stop their job search, they are no longer considered unemployed and, quite frankly, aren’t considered at all. This could cause the unemployment rate to drop significantly as many job seekers halt there job search during the holiday season. Just because the rate has dropped, does not mean things are getting better.

On the other hand, it definitely could mean just that. Increased jobs for college graduates could be the reason the unemployment rate for their group has dropped, which is great news. Young adults all over the country could be getting that entry level job they so desperately seek. If, in fact, this is true then the drop in unemployment rates for those aged 20 to 24 is a great sigh of relief. Perhaps with these statistics, high school students considering skipping college altogether may revisit their decision.

Take a look at the graph of unemployment rates among 20 to 24-year-olds and decide for yourself what you think of the numbers.

IMAGE: Courtesy of David Duke


Online Degree Infographic

With less money and time circulating through the market, online schooling as gained a large amount of popularity. In most cases it is not equivalent to a four-year university degree, but for those looking for a job in a specific, niched industry, online schooling is a great advantage that saves the student both time and money.

The infographic below by E Learners shows that in light of its popularity, many HR professionals accept and hire people with an online degree. According to the statistics, 87 percent of HR professionals view online degrees more favorably than five years ago. Furthermore, 73 percent agree that a course taken online is equivalent to a course taken at a university or college. At the same time, 60 percent of them disagreed with the idea that they would rather accept a person with a traditional degree than one with an online degree. Those with online degrees should not worry about getting a job more than someone with a traditional degree because 79 percent of the HR professionals surveyed said they hired someone with an online degree in the last year.

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Is Taking Up a Second Job Beneficial?

Job numbers may look like they’re picking up a bit, but most people are still feeling the strain of a weak and injured market. There are people looking for work and those that have work may feel like they aren’t making quite enough money. It may not sound appealing or seem possible considering the weak job market got us into this mess, but if you’re a freelancer or even a full-time worker, picking up a second job may put you back on top.

Having a second job or a paying hobby certainly has it’s advantages and disadvantages, like anything else, but putting a little extra money in your pocket when it’s needed is the greatest advantage. Obviously this isn’t the easiest solution for someone with children, seeing as though they need to be looked after and that requires your time, but those with independence and free reign to do as they please should certainly consider it. The best part about getting a second job is that if it just so happens that it doesn’t work out or places too large of a strain on your health, you can always quit. Since it’s your second job, you’ll have your primary job to fall back on. So what are some of the best side jobs to have?

If you’re a creative freelancer, chances are you are not able to do side work in the field you currently work in. For example, if you are a web designer you probably can’t grab another job doing the same thing due to “non-compete” agreements you may have signed. That said, there are still tons of jobs you can pick up that don’t compete with your primary occupation.

This may be one of the most unappealing jobs in the market, but if you really think about it and what the job entails, it’s not that bad. Yes, you have to cold call and annoy hardworking, busy individuals that want nothing to do with you, but on the other hand you sit at a desk every day and the work is hardly strenuous. It does take a certain kind of person that can handle rejection after rejection in order to succeed in this profession, but if you can you will find that your pockets will grow fatter and fatter. On top of that, scheduling and hours for telemarketing are usually very flexible. You can work part-time and choose hours that don’t conflict with your primary position. Though you may not see it this way, having a telemarketing job can help you succeed in your primary position as well. Think about it this way, each day you work you have to communicate with people and try and persuade them to do what you want. Each time you work chances are you’ll get better and better at it. You can put those skills to good use at your primary position and gain a leg-up- all while earning some extra money.

This is not achievable for everyone, but if you are a creative freelancer you can put your skills to good use teaching someone else. Say you’re a photographer. Chances are there is an entry level photography class at your local park district that teaches young children all about photography. In most cases, these classes do not require trained teachers to lead the class. You, a seasoned photographer, can opt to teach one of these classes and gain the satisfaction of teaching others about something you love while also making the money you need. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to brush up on some of the basics you may have forgotten.

The Industry
Oh boy, we all love this one. Working in the food service industry is notorious for putting fast money in your hands but also throwing a bit of stress your way too. Those of us that have worked in the industry understand how degrading and ignorant the majority of the living population can be and those that haven’t just don’t understand, and probably never will. They are the people that send their server to the kitchen ten times for something different each time. “Oh, can I have some mayonnaise? Oh, now that you’re back, can I also have some BBQ sauce? Ah, yes can I please have an extra fork?” No! It’s the opinion of many (almost exclusively those that have worked in the industry) that everyone should work at least one food service job in their lives. It teaches you how to deal with ignorant and unyielding customers and gives you a great set of communication skills. It also teaches you how to deal with people that are different from you and how to act like the “customer is always right.” These are doubtless great skills to have in the workplace and just general life because everyone will have to work with someone different from them sometime in there lives. Plus, the best thing about working in the industry, be it a bar or restaurant, is that you usually get money on hand the day you work. Usually in cash too. Having a pocket full of cash, literally, is always a great thing.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Cartoon Stock

9 of the 50 US States Have Increased Employment Bases

According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only nine states and the District of Columbia have been able to increase their employment bases since the year 2006 leaving the other 41 states behind.

The nine states include New York, Texas, North Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alaska, Nebraska, Wyoming and South Dakota in addition to the District Columbia. The other 41 states in the country have even smaller employment bases than they did in the year 2006. Of the states that have increased their bases, New York has created 3,700 more jobs now than it did five years ago, putting it in 10th place for job growth.

On the other hand, Texas and North Dakota are the two states with the largest increase. When looking strictly at numbers, Texas is the leader with 451,100 nonfarm jobs added between November 2006 and November 2011. During that span, no other state surpassed Texas and furthermore, no other state added more than 57,000 jobs during that time span. When looking at percentage points, North Dakota is the leader with a 12.7 percent employment gain – Texas is second with a 4.4 percent gain.

Unfortunately, where there’s a winner there’s a loser. California is the state with the biggest employment loss numerically at 947,000 jobs lost since November 2006. As the exact flip from North Dakota, Nevada suffered the worst percentage loss losing 12.7 percent of its employment base from November 2006. You can see a list of each state in the country, their rank and statistics proving that rank on Business Review.

SOURCE: The Business Review
IMAGE: Courtesy of Morris and Stone

Obama’s Approval Rating Up

For the first time since July, President Obama’s approval rating is higher than his disapproval rating. Though only slightly higher than the 45 percent disapproval rating, Obama received an approval rating of 47 percent for the days between December 21 and 23.

It may be due to the Republican’s change of heart as they agreed to extend the payroll tax cut for an extra two months after adamantly stated they would not. Whatever the reason, this is the first time since July that more people approve of what Obama is doing rather than disapprove, and for a person in any job that’s an improvement. Especially when, for most of those months, Obama’s disapproval rate was higher than 50 percent. According to Gallup, in order for a president to even consider being reelected he should have at least a 40 percent approval rating.

Though Republican’s finally swayed in their payroll tax cut position, the extension only lasts for two months meaning negotiations over the subject will once again intensify and put millions of Americans on the line. Perhaps it was the way Obama handled the situation that lead to an increased approval rating. Last week, Obama was quoted saying, “Has this place become so dysfunctional that even when people agree to things we can’t do it? It doesn’t make any sense. Enough is enough.”

What Obama, Democrats and many Republicans really wanted was a year-long extension to the tax cut. Perhaps when February rolls around, congressional Republicans and Democrats alike will agree upon a solution.

IMAGE: Courtesy of Zopeo

Ways to Improve Your Career

It’s the time of year when you can mentally swipe away all the clutter and mess of 2011 and start fresh and clean in the year 2012. New Year’s is almost upon us and the time to refresh and restart is right along with it. While it’s unrealistic to think you can wipe away all of last year’s problems and issues with the onset of a new year, there is a certain refreshment and delight taken in the idea that, ahead of you there is a whole year of untouched ground and possibilities. What will you do with all of this untouched, untamed ground?

It’s common for people to bask in the new year’s and make resolutions and goals for what they want to see themselves achieve in the year to come. Fitness gyms see a spike in membership, healthy foods and diets soar and thousands of men lean on bended knee all in hopes of starting anew and fresh. So thinking about how you can improve upon your career should go hand in hand with all other New Year’s reflections. Even for the most skilled and respected employee, there are always ways to improve. Take a look at some of these steps you can take in the new year to improve your career and, of course, enjoy the crisp freshness of January 1st, even if it is only for a day.

Set Goals
This is an obvious one, but it’s always important to note that setting goals is a great way to gauge what you want and also a good way to track your success. The best way to do this is to realize all of the goals you want to reach and write them down. Pin point which ones are the easily attainable ones and figure out ways to work on those, first. Chances are there are many smaller goals that you will have to reach before you can reach one of your long-term, large goals.

In the present job market, you can never hear the phrases “network, network, network” or “it’s not what you know, but who you know” too many times. It seems that universities and businesses alike boast that networking is one of the easiest ways to secure a job these days. While virtual networking serves its purpose, nothing compares to actual, face to face interaction. By talking to someone in person you can get a good idea of who they are and how they operate and they can make the same opinions of you. When you go to seminars, conferences or industry events you should always take business cards with you and maintain a professional demeanor when meeting new people.

Work Harder
Perhaps another obvious one, but it’s an important step. Even the hardest of workers can work harder and better themselves. Continually work towards exceeding what is expected of you and demonstrate all of your capabilities clearly. As a junior level employee, you can likely find better, more efficient ways of completing your tasks and that, in turn, will free up your time so you can take on more work. Asking for more work and more tasks is a sure way to stand out and get on the good side of your higher-ups.

Consider Consulting Work
If you are one of the many Americans that find themselves unemployed in the new year, consider searching for a different kind of job. If you have been unemployed for a long time, rather than just accepting the gap in your resume, attempt to find contract work while you search for a full-time position. It may not be what you want, but keeping busy is always a good idea and it gives you a paycheck where before you had nothing. Furthermore, contract work may lead to full-time work if you show that you are capable and competent.

SOURCE: Forbes
IMAGE: Courtesy of Aftershox


sparkCast Episode 022: Holiday Edition

The official podcast of Covering news related to the job market, HR, startups, and more.

This a quick fun podcast where Nicole and I (Mark) walk around Spark Hire HQ and ask some of our co-workers about their worst jobs and predictions for the new year. From all of us at Spark Hire… Happy Holidays, Merry Festivus and we hope you all FIND YOUR SPARK in the new year!

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HOST – Mark Spirek (Web Media at Spark Hire)
ALSO – Nicole Nicholson (Journalist at Spark Hire)
THEMEOrdinary Man by Shearer