Before you say, “I’m tired of hearing about volunteering,” take time to read what I have to say. I’ve ignored newspaper articles on what’s happening in the labor market because, quite honestly, they depress me.
But this morning I was drawn to an article that offered no groundbreaking great news; in fact it was dismal. But through the fog of negative reporting, there was one bit of good advice.
The article of which I speak appeared in the Boston Globe (Sunday, 9/18/2011). It pointed out the difficulties veteran workers in the IT sector are having getting jobs due to lack of experience. One example given was a software engineer proficient in C++ but lacking Java.
In certain positions, like software engineering, the disparity in technica skills is hard to overlook. But there is hope, as long as you’re willing to invest the time to overcome a deficiency you have in your skills.
I wrote an article on the importance of volunteering while conducting your job search, and I stressed volunteering at a company for which you’d consider working. There are two major reasons for this. First, you can network more efficiently while you’re back in the industry among professionals who are privy to possibilities, and who would like to help you.
Second, you can enhance your skills and learn new ones. The situation where the software engineer lacks Java experience is a perfect example. Taking courses will certainly give you some knowledge in the software required to land a job, but hands-on experience using the software is far more valuable. And sometimes required by recruiters, according to the article:
“The ability to learn new skills is rarely at the top of a recruiter’s job orders; many companies demand candidates with skills that perfectly match their requirements.”
I had a jobseeker who worked at Raytheon, where she was a productive engineer using C++. She never had training using Java, as it was not required for her position. As she combed the want ads, she discovered that the majority of jobs available were for Java developers. She was in a hole. But she wasn’t going to give up. I would see her reading texts books on Java scripting.
The solution, as stated above, is to gain hands-on experience in a skill that you’re lacking. Continue to self-educate yourself on the skills you notice are in demand, as my jobseeker did; but go one step further and approach companies in your industry that need engineers, marketers, sales people, nurses, accountants, etc., and volunteer your services—with an understanding that you’re not looking for a job at said companies.
This is precisely what the Boston Globe reported: “’If you want to be anywhere close to the cutting edge, you can’t expect that you’ll have a [paying] job when you start,’ said Stephen Flavin, dean of academic and corporate development at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. ‘If you really want to learn it you have to volunteer your time.’’’
I hope that if you’re in this situation, you won’t give up hope. Many of my jobseekers have landed jobs in their field by volunteering; some of them at the company for which they volunteered.