Posts tagged ‘Employment’

September 24, 2013

Tips for jobless grads, with advice to see the upside of surviving the lean years

by Grace

20130919.COCLivingAtHome1Megan McArdle, who moved back in with her parents when she was 29, gives “13 Tips for Jobless Grads on Surviving the Basement Years”.

I like all her tips, which include some practical suggestions as well as some ideas to help lift a disconsolate spirit.

Even if they can’t find a job in their field, dejected college graduates should get a job and start supporting themselves.

Don’t say you can’t work a lesser job because you won’t be able to focus on your job search. After the first few weeks, your job search is not taking you 60 hours a week….

Don’t forget relationships, especially family ties.

Enjoy your time back with your parents. …

A potential upside to surviving the basement years

McArdle compares this crop of recent college graduates to the Great Depression kids.

12. That afraid feeling you have is never really going away. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but folks who were raised in the Great Depression were kind of neurotic penny-pinchers who fretted about financial security far more than the prosperous generations before and after. (Ask your parents about the older relatives who collected tin foil and rubber bands in big balls so that you could reuse them. I kid you not. That was a Thing Grandparents Did when I was growing up.) The bad news is that I, too, am also an obsessive penny pincher — after two years of massive job uncertainty, followed by more years of earning much less money than my student loans would suggest. The good news is that your fear will end up having surprising upsides: there’s a reason that the U.S. household savings rate peaked right along with the earnings of the Great Depression kids. When they retired, savings went off a cliff. So instead of letting your fear ride you, use it constructively, to make you thriftier and more careful.

Since I sometimes consider myself a “neurotic penny-pincher”, I can attest to the upside of surviving massive job uncertainty.  In my case, after a few golden years of a booming career in the oil business, the bottom dropped out and layoffs decimated the ranks of geologists working in that field.  Subsequent years of a dramatically downsized lifestyle taught me valuable lessons in thriftiness and the importance of saving.  If the same effect applies to today’s struggling generation, then a few years of basement living will not have been such a bad thing.

And let’s not forget that frugal people are more attractive.

Related:  No shame in living at home after college (usually) (Cost of College)

August 27, 2013

Surge in part-time jobs may be good for working mothers

by Grace

Are we seeing a convenient confluence of moms wanting to work less with a surge in part-time jobs?

Headlines continue to remind us of the surge in part-time employment.

Part-Time Work On The Rise, But Is That A Good Thing? — NPR

The Rise of Part-Time Work — New York Times

Most Of The New Jobs Were Part-Time — Business Insider

Who Can Deny It? Obamacare Is Accelerating U.S. Towards A Part-Time Nation — Forbes

The trend is undeniable.


And then we have this:  ‘Many Working Moms Want To Work Less’

According to a recent Pew poll, 67% of all mothers would ideally forego full-time work in favor of working part-time (47%) or not at all (20%). By contrast, only 25% of fathers would choose part-time work (15%) or not to work (10%). Among all women who describe themselves as “financially comfortable,” only 31% would ideally work full-time and another 34% wouldn’t work at all. And among married mothers, only 23 percent would ideally like to work full-time. These are large percentages of different types of women who would choose family or personal priorities over full-time employment.

Current labor statistics bear out these fantasies: women are twice as likely as men to work part-time even though they are also more likely to be college-educated and thus more marketable.

Of course, part-time employment does not work as a solution for everyone.

It’s true that the trend toward part-time, benefit-free employment can be financially ruinous to individual workers. One fifth of the country’s jobs are part-time, and many are low-skilled, dead end positions. But it’s easy to overlook how unrewarding full-time employment can be for many people, too – especially when the researchers and reporters and pundits who write about workforce trends tend to have fascinating, flexible jobs with decent pay.

Moms who want to cut down their working hours may look more attractive to employers.

I just wonder if there may be a glimmer of hope for mothers wanting to downsize their work week, but who have not been able to find suitable part-time opportunities.  The new economics of employing part-time workers creates an environment that dissolves some of the old arguments used to defend policies requiring every staff member to put in 40+ hours per week.  Now the parent who wants to spend less time at the office and more time at home may be a more attractive job candidate.

Related:  Long hours may explain why educated women quit the workforce – ‘the time divide’ (Cost of College)

July 22, 2013

Careers can thrive even when the promotions slow down

by Grace

Most of us have no desire to occupy the corner office.

More than 3 in 4 employees say they have no desire to move up in their organizations, according to a 2011 survey of 431 workers by OfficeTeam, a Menlo Park, Calif., staffing service. Some have found equilibrium between career challenges and family stability. Others don’t like managing people or taking on tasks that don’t excite them.

It is probably more common to desire a rise in the ranks to end up at a certain “sweet spot”, where the work is interesting and challenging, but not too demanding that it cuts into enjoying other parts of life. And the reality is that the number of corner office spots is quite limited.  But there are pitfalls for those who casually cruise through a career without planning a strategic course of action.

  • Some companies espouse an “up or out” culture, leaving few options for employees who don’t want keep up a rigorous pace of increasingly challenging assignments.
  • Colleagues may view the person who does not seek regular promotions with less respect.  Younger workers in particular may wonder what went wrong his career.
  • A person who has held the same position for many years may be viewed as a “blocker”, preventing subordinates from upward movement.
  • A takeover or reorganization places the employee considered stale or expendable at a higher risk for downsizing.
  • Salary stagnation may be the price to pay for not pursuing constant advancement.

Don’t become the “old fogey” in the corner.  Here are some ideas for thriving while staying at the same level in an organization.

  • Making your boss look good never goes out of style.
  • Be honest about your value, and how that translates into compensation.
  • Cross training can be an avenue for demonstrating the benefit you bring to a company.
  • Madonna can be your role model, as constantly reinventing yourself can give the glow of a positive spotlight.  Maybe you can become the leader in pursuing a new line of business, take on the role of mentoring up-and-coming stars, or become the go-to person for a critical area of expertise.
  • Do not ignore office politics.

Ambitious young college graduates might want to bookmark this post for reading in five or ten years.

Related:  ‘jobs that pay the most for the least amount of work’ (Cost of College)

June 27, 2013

Lack of jobs may become a problem for the ‘majority of the population’

by Grace

On the topic of sluggish jobs growth, Megan McArdle says our stubborn unemployment problem is rooted in “technology and trade”.

… Global shipping and trade liberalization has made it more practical to manufacture in low wage countries.  Meanwhile, in high wage countries, technology is substituting for labor.  At its peak, General Motors employed 600,000 people to make slightly less than half the cars in the country.  Today it employs 77,000 to produce about 1/5th the cars on the US market.  Even if it regained the market share it has lost to imports, employment in the industry would be way down.

Remember this chart of the hollowed out middle class?


But the lower class is also on shaky ground.
Highly skilled individuals who are motivated and persistent will always find ways to support themselves.  But there is a surplus of workers for middle class jobs McArdle describes as “seated, skilled, steady, decently paid”.  And while large numbers of low-skill jobs continue to be created, these “jobs are, on average, pretty unattractive ones”.  They are generally low statue, and sometimes miserable.  In some cases, our government safety net is a more attractive alternative to these low-end jobs.

The “majority of the population” may be in for a long struggle.

… we are not creating a lot of good new jobs–defined as jobs that are relatively secure, physically tolerable, and decently paid.  People with enough grit and imagination can invent themselves new jobs, but at no time in history has that described the majority of the population.  The alternatives for the rest aren’t very attractive.  And since modern-day America tries hard to keep people from becoming truly desperate, those jobs aren’t being created.

McArdle points out that part of the problem is cultural, with families and communities undergoing massive changes that break with traditional attitudes towards work.  And education is not a solution by itself.

… Until roughly the last five years, it was possible to believe that education would be the solution: send more kids to school, retrain people for new jobs.  But college graduates aren’t finding it so easy to obtain solid employment either.  It’s true that having a college diploma is still much better than not having a college diploma, but that doesn’t mean that by sending more kids to school, we’re actually making the workforce more productive, much less mitigating the problem of economic change; we may just be forcing people to jump over a higher bar to gain access to a shrinking number of jobs….

A stronger safety net does not seem like a good solution.

For starters, it is politically difficult to imagine a really large class of people who simply permanently live off the state.  The safety net is rooted in human instincts about reciprocal exchange.  … They will lose political support if you have one group of people paying taxes, and a different group of people who can expect to live their entire life on the dole.

Such an arrangement would also be socially toxic.  Being out of work is astonishingly bad for your state of mind, your social relations, and even basic skills like math and reading….

 Glenn Reynolds does not think it’s a temporary problem.

There’s a lot of flailing going on, and there has for years been insufficient concern about what all the folks on the left half of the bell curve are going to do with their lives — only now it’s looking like the left 2/3 or maybe 3/4. I’m not sure what to do either. … I do think there’s something structural going on, not just an economic cycle.

April 16, 2013

The rise of serial interns – ‘long hours and low pay’

by Grace

“Permatern” is the new label for a college graduate who spends years in her 20s working for a minimal stipend or for free.  This pattern seems to have become more common for some liberal arts college graduates seeking jobs in media, the arts, and other fields, particularly in the metro areas of New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.

Kate, with a degree in political science from an Ivy League school, was recently profiled in The Week.

She had one internship at a political organization and another at a media company and is now an unpaid intern at a lobbying firm. To make ends meet, she works as a hostess three or four nights a week, which means she often clocks 15-hour days.

Lacking a steady paycheck and benefits

… After all, who wants to still be an intern at an age when you should have a 401(k) and a modicum of job security, or at least be earning more than you did at your summer job during high school? …

When I ask Kate how many jobs she’s applied for, she says, “Like a million.”

Permaterns are sometimes counted in the growing numbers of underemployed college graduates.

Desperate as she is, the Department of Labor doesn’t consider her to be unemployed, because she has two jobs. Instead, Kate, who often works more than 60 hours a week, is in a class of workers who don’t show up in government reports. She’s one of the “permaterns” — those perpetual interns, mostly in their 20s — who have been battered by the recession and are holding out hope that the conventional career wisdom that an internship leads to a job isn’t folklore from a bygone era.

A ‘skills gap’

The serial intern isn’t unique to D.C. You can find young people languishing at film studios in Los Angeles and magazine empires in New York City. The permatern phenomenon points toward wider trends in the economy — namely the cutthroat competition for knowledge-economy jobs, the lack of investment in this generation, and the skills gap between what a generation weaned on a liberal-arts education is trained for and what the in-demand skills and professions are right now (i.e., not another poli-sci or English major). The result? For many in Washington, the American dream starts with a highbrow internship that pays $4.35 an hour — then another, and maybe another.

STEM majors usually avoid serial internships.

Not everyone in the generation meets such a fate. Jessica’s brother, who is 28 and a mechanical aerospace engineer, has been gainfully employed since the day he graduated from college, Jessica says. So here’s another chasm in the 20-something cohort: the one between the liberal-arts kids and the engineering and science majors. “Engineering is an in-demand skill,” Jessica says. “International relations/policy kids are a dime a dozen, so the intern pay difference makes sense in that regard.”

A sense of entitlement

The expectation that one’s career should be fulfilling is another reason why the mid-20s, or even early-30s, intern has become a familiar sight in Washington offices. “People in this generation, despite the recession, are looking for what they really want to do, so they take a hit in the form of an internship to land one of those coveted jobs that pays the bills and is fun,” says Ryan Healy of career-advice site

Living at home and logging long hours

… long hours and low pay go hand in hand in the creative class. The recession has been no friend to entry-level positions, where hundreds of applicants vie for unpaid internships at which they are expected to be on call with iPhone in hand, tweeting for and representing their company at all hours.

“We need to hire a 22-22-22,” one new-media manager was overheard saying recently, meaning a 22-year-old willing to work 22-hour days for $22,000 a year….

Required to be available all the time and expected to work ’65+ hours per week’.

A recent posting by Dalkey Archive Press, an avant-garde publisher in Champaign, Ill., for unpaid interns in its London office encapsulated the outlandish demands on young workers. The stern catalog of grounds for “immediate dismissal” included “coming in late or leaving early without prior permission,” “being unavailable at night or on the weekends” and “failing to respond to e-mails in a timely way.” And “The Steve Wilkos Show” on NBCUniversal recently advertised on Craigslist for a freelance booking production assistant who would work “65+ hours per week” (the listing was later removed after drawing outraged comments when it was linked on

Sometimes it works out.

Sometimes the grueling internships lead to steady jobs, often with equally grueling hours.  That is considered a success.  Other times workers give up on their dream career after years of serial internships, and get a practical job to pay the bills.  That is simply considered reality.  I recently heard a story about an aspiring teacher who interned at a Washington D.C. area women’s advocacy group for about a year, and then was finally able to get an administrative job for a lobbying firm.  One of her main goals was staying in DC, so things have worked out all right for now.

Related:  Unpaid internships – the good, the bad, and the ugly (Cost of College)

February 19, 2013

A warning to petroleum engineering students

by Grace

In the wake of a one-year jump of 55% in the number of U.S. petroleum engineering freshman students, it was reported that Texas A&M sent a letter to incoming students advising them to be realistic about future job growth.

Dear Admitted Aggie PETE Applicant,

The Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering, Texas A&M University, is pleased that you applied and were admitted to our top ranked petroleum engineering program. If you pursue a degree in petroleum engineering, our program is committed to providing the highest quality education available.

Recent data suggests that some concern about the sustainability of the entry level job market during a time of explosive growth in the number of students studying petroleum engineering in U.S. universities may be prudent.

Our advice is that you become aware of graduation projections and petroleum industry employment outlook for people with petroleum engineering degrees. For example, between fall 2011 and fall 2012, the number of freshmen in petroleum engineering programs in the U.S. increased from 1,388 to 2,153, a 55% jump in one year. Based on the many inquiries and applications TAMU is receiving for the petroleum engineering major, the number of U.S. students in petroleum engineering will probably continue a strong upward trend, as long as the employment market remains stable. These days, a very large number of people are already studying in petroleum engineering programs (see attachment, showing data made available through the Society of Petroleum Engineers, SPE), at a time when: the number of recent graduates, who began their studies several years ago, is already at about historical highs and growing rapidly (see attachment); our program’s board of industry advisors are recommending that we “do not grow” our undergraduate program at this time; and oil and natural gas price projections and expectations of U.S. governmental policy influences are viewed as not particularly encouraging by the U.S. petroleum industry.

We are not trying to discourage you from a career that we think is among the most fascinating, dynamic, challenging careers that exist. However, we also want you to know that the Aggie PETE program is doing the right thing by providing you with information that could end up being important to your future.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2010 annual median pay for a petroleum engineer was $114,080, while the number of jobs in the ten-year period ending 2020 is expected to grow 17%.

Rig count numbers track oil well activity and serve as an indication of petroleum industry jobs.


I graduated with a degree in geology in 1977, which turned out to be accidentally fortuitous timing.  And it’s no surprise that I left the business around 1986, as did many geologists, petroleum engineers, and other industry workers.

Related:  Don’t pick a college major based on today’s hot jobs (Cost of College)

November 20, 2012

‘our nation’s march toward a more technical, STEM type workforce’

by Grace

The strong emerging professional, scientific, and technical job sector deserves attention from college students contemplating college majors.

New Geography labels this a trend ‘toward a more technical, STEM type workforce’

Although the professional, scientific, and technical industry sector makes up only 6% of the U.S. workforce, it was responsible for 10% of national job growth from 2010 to 2012. In addition, the broad industry (NAICS 54) grew by 6% in the past two years, which illustrates our nation’s march toward a more technical, STEM type workforce. There are over 9.2 million jobs in this industry, which is driven by sub-sectors like computer system design services and management, scientific, and technical consulting services.

That 6% job growth looks even better when compared to the anemic overall increase in jobs across all sectors during the same period.  In that light, the BLS outlook appears reasonable.

Among the jobs increasing at a healthy rate are Software Developers, Computer Systems Analysts, Management Analysts, Services Sales Representatives, Market Research Analysts, Interviewers, Interpreters and Translators, Advertising Sales Agents, Public Relations Specialists, Accountants, Bookkeeping Clerks, Chemical Technicians, Chemists, Surveying and Mapping Technicians, and Architects.  (Growth in the last two occupations is related to the geophysical services sector, perhaps with many in North Dakota?)

A few observations:

  • Lawyers are an exception in this category, having not experienced growth in the last two years.  With the glut in unemployed and underemployed attorneys, the outlook is gloomy.
  • Advertising sector job growth surprised me, and even the fact that it was included in this category was an eye-opener.  However, considering the growth of the Internet and social media, I conclude that this field is increasingly requiring specialized technological expertise.  I have a relative majoring in advertising, and next time I have a chance I’ll pick her brain about this.
  • Translation and interpretation services is the second fastest growing sector.  And here I thought technology was putting most translators out of jobs.
  • Most jobs in this sector seem to require at least a bachelor’s degree.  An exception is Surveying and Mapping Technicians.

There’s much more at the link, including information about geographic distribution and job descriptions.  Here’s one that was helpful for me.

Management analysts – Conduct organizational studies and evaluations, design systems and procedures, conduct work simplification and measurement studies, and prepare operations and procedures manuals to assist management in operating more efficiently and effectively.


More detail about industry sector NAICS 54, Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services – what is is and what it is not:

NAICS Industry Sector Description

The Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services sector comprises establishments that specialize in performing professional, scientific, and technical activities for others. These activities require a high degree of expertise and training. The establishments in this sector specialize according to expertise and provide these services to clients in a variety of industries and, in some cases, to households. Activities performed include: legal advice and representation; accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll services; architectural, engineering, and specialized design services; computer services; consulting services; research services; advertising services; photographic services; translation and interpretation services; veterinary services; and other professional, scientific, and technical services.

This sector excludes establishments primarily engaged in providing a range of day-to-day office administrative services, such as financial planning, billing and recordkeeping, personnel, and physical distribution and logistics. These establishments are classified in Sector 56, Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services.

August 24, 2012

Cautious outlook for nursing jobs

by Grace

In recent years nursing has been considered a safe career choice, with the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report predicting that employment of registered nurses will jump 26 percent from 2010 to 2020″.  But a closer look might make prospective nurses less optimistic about a rosy job scenario.

Thirty-six percent of nursing graduates in the class of 2011 had not secured positions as registered nurses (RNs) as of last fall, according to a survey conducted by the National Student Nurses’ Association in September. Respondents claimed that employers are seeking more experienced RNs, older nurses are slowing turnover by taking longer to retire, and new graduates are inundating the market.

Nurses graduating with bachelor’s degrees and diplomas fared slightly better in finding jobs.

Locally, recent layoffs at several hospitals have included nursing staff.  Earlier this month about 80 layoffs affected physicians, nurses, managers and support staff at Mount Vernon Hospital and Sound Shore Medical Center.  The reasons cited for the cuts were changes in the health care environment, particularly in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement policies, along with providing more than $30 million in uncompensated care to under- and uninsured in our service area.”  Meanwhile, within the last year nearly 700 employees at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla have lost their jobs.

The growth in outpatient care has affected the need for nurses in hospitals, but suggests that different types of employment opportunities may expand.

… Outpatient care and other less traditional settings, on the other hand, have a need for nurses with innovation, creativity and command of their field.

It’s possible that nurses in these settings may find more difficult working conditions.

My advice to a young person considering nursing as a career:

  • Don’t assume that optimistic job growth predictions will pan out as projected.
  • Get a bachelor’s degree or a diploma*.
  • Investigate the many types of jobs that nurses are doing, both in traditional and non-traditional settings.

* Diploma programs are the oldest and most traditional type of nursing education in the United States. These programs are two to three years in duration and provide nursing education primarily in the hospital setting. Graduates of these programs receive a diploma as opposed to a college degree. Most diploma programs are now affiliated with colleges or universities that grant college credit for certain courses. 

Last year I spoke with a student of a diploma program associated with a highly regarded New Jersey hospital.  She was extremely gratified that she had been offered a job by that hospital, which apparently does not automatically happen in every case.


May 28, 2012

Number of employed high schoolers at lowest level in more than 20 years

by Grace

The American job market is no place for students as the number of employed high schoolers has hit its lowest level in more than 20 years, according to new figures from the National Center for Education Statistics.

In 1990, 32 percent of high school students held jobs, versus just 16 percent now. Blame their elders.

Sectors that traditionally have offered teens their first paying gig — fast-food chains, movie theaters, malls and big-box retailers — have now become the last resorts for out-of-work college graduates or older Americans forced back into the labor force out of sheer financial necessity. The resulting squeeze has left students on the outside looking in.

The recession and an increasing focus on school can be blamed for the high teen unemployment rate.  It’s important to make good grades a priority, but lack of work experience can make it harder to find a job after college graduation.

In the long run, the trend could produce more and more young adults who lack the basic skills, such as how to interact with a customer, gained while working early in life. The longer a young person goes without a job, Mr. Sum said, the less attractive he or she looks to employers.

“There’s only one way you can learn how to work — you’ve got to work,” he said.

Related:  College grads need ‘real-world’ skills before they can get ‘real’ jobs

July 7, 2011

Middle management jobs will decline further

by Grace

If you’re hoping your college degree will earn you a spot on the track to middle management, read what Harvard economist Larry Katz said.

“A lot of traditional middle-class, upper-middle-class jobs have been disappearing. If you look at general managers and middle-management jobs, those are ones that have been in decline and will decline further,” he said.

While the article suggests that these types of jobs do not require a college degree, a quick scan of job listings indicates otherwise.

Medical diagnostic work such as radiology is another job category that will experience decline in the U.S.

Also:  Disappearing Middle-Class Jobs

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