Op-Ed: Jobs are scarce, but so is the will to work
Undoubtedly we’re in tough economic times: job opportunities are scarce, professional talent abounds, and budgets and benefits have been reduced.
In a scenario like this, one would expect that at the slightest notice of the availability of a job, we would be showered with resumes and potential candidates would use a deliberate strategy to impress and become the person elected to that post. But this is not the case of the current situation on the island’s job front.
Three weeks ago, we put out a notice detailing the need to fill the position of administrative assistant. A position that fortunately for us, is the springboard for other jobs that have come up in the company, through which we have managed to grow our staff.
I don’t see all the candidates, but while I’m in the office and I’m able to, I like going into the process and participating in the interview that’s taking place. I remember one of the first candidates who applied for the position came in slippers, with wet hair held in an asymmetrical way by a blue clip. I made an effort not to ask questions about her personal appearance and her expectations of being hired.
On more than one occasion, and in the process of recruiting professionals for other jobs, I’ve run into the situation of recent graduates who have no work experience, but list their requirements and conditions for accepting the job even before asking what the job responsibilities are.
These requirements range from salary at the levels of some of the most renowned professionals, private office and fringe benefits such as cell phone, computer and pay for mileage if they have to use their vehicle for job-related tasks. In one of these occasions, the aspiring professional told me that her father warned her about the minimum benefits required to accept the job for which she was applying.
This time, as we evaluate about 20 candidates, I have been surprised by the fact that more than half a dozen of them simply did not come to the interview. They neither came nor called, nor contacted us again.
Of these six professionals, only two are currently employed, and I find it less difficult to understand this attitude toward opportunities. But the other candidates — including one of who has been jobless for the past three years — who are currently unemployed, make me wonder why they didn’t come to the meeting, or at least leave the window open for the future.
I called a colleague and he told me that he has the same problem.
“Of 400 resumes I received, I could only make an appointment with 14 candidates, and of those, only one person was qualified, but despite being unemployed at the moment, the minimum salary she required was above the maximum amount that could offer,” he said in a tone of frustration.
Most of these young people are so-called “millennials,” which is the label our industry uses to identify that generation from the point of view of demographic classification.
Employers have to ‘adapt’
Once, while attending a business conference in the metropolitan area, I heard a successful executive speak very wisely regarding the current workforce. The executive said we’re the ones who have to adapt to them and be lenient regarding their manners and habits, their lack of clear objectives and needs of expression, which come along with the lack of formal structures and procedures leading to joining a team under a specific organizational culture.
This I understand, but there are things and things. In an office such as ours where sophisticated work takes place, where managing communications and confidentiality are sacred, understanding the nature of an industry as intricate as this requires that the person understands, from the get-go, that it’s really a two-way street where we all have to make adjustments.
Complacency is the name of the game
On the other hand, last week, while having lunch with one of our main suppliers, I told him about our situation. He, who owns one of the island’s leading printing presses, told me that one of their most skilled employees told him that to get government aid that was offered to him and his wife (including a dwelling, financial assistance, subsidies on electricity, water, telephone and other considerations), he could not work more than 18 hours a week, otherwise he could not enjoy the benefits.
The employer asked if he aspired for more, to which he replied, “but with this, I have everything I need.”
Of course, I lost my appetite right then and asked to take two-thirds of my plate to go. What has happened to self-improvement? Where are the principles of effort and honoring work, as our illustrious Nemesio Canales proclaimed? What kind of workforce will we have in a decade if we continue fueling a culture that rewards leisure and punishes work? What solutions exist to address this aspirational debacle?
These and many other questions remain for many people who approach with the situation. We cannot give up. That word does not exist in my vocabulary.
But the truth is that we must understand that if we want to insert ourselves into the global and service economy, we must seek solutions that successfully reverse the effect of the initiatives offered by a paternalistic government.
This isn’t about ceasing to help those who truly need it, but instead it’s about encouraging doing more and aspiring that a better tomorrow is possible, with rewards commensurate with the effort required.
For now, I am still searching to fill the job. I know that person will show up.