We hear it all the time these days: so many jobs and not enough employees to fill the positions. It seems crazy to think that with so many people out of work, yet so many available jobs, that we are struggling to get people hired. There are a lot of theories as to why this is, and the primary one I’ve heard is that government handouts are encouraging people not to work because they make more staying home. I’m sure this is the case, but as someone who is in the market for a new job, I have seen a trend in the jobs I’ve been looking at which and a personal feeling which leads me to two separate conclusions.
The first is that many of us are simply tired of doing the jobs that no one else wants to do. There’s a reason you pay someone to do certain things, and most of the time it’s because it’s too boring or time consuming or mindless for you to bother with. As an employer, it makes sense to hire people to do the small, detail oriented tasks so you can free up your time for bigger, better things. The problem is that none of us want to do it any more than you do. Having spent the last seven or so years of my life in construction administration, I can tell you that I spend very little of my time actually doing administration and almost all of my time doing all the little stupid tasks that everyone else hates. I’m supposed to be working on the computer; instead I run errands.
For many years, most of us had no choice but to accept these kinds of jobs. It wasn’t until very recently that technology grew to a point where a large number of people could reasonably expect to work from home. It was already starting to move in that direction, but the pandemic supercharged that trend a significant portion of the country was forced to stay home. People like me, who dream of getting away from needy bosses who think their time is too precious for menial tasks, are looking toward a future of working from my own office in my own home.
The problem here is that while it seems nearly in reach for many of us, most employers are still stuck back in the old days of wanting a traditional office with traditional hours and traditional employees. They want that person of convenience there to serve them and make their day easier. “Go out and grab me this order from the vendor” or “run this thing over to this place because our guys need it” is the order of the day for most bosses. Many of us are simply tired of these meaningless jobs that are only around because people are too lazy or arrogant to do it themselves.
Aside from all that, the second conclusion I’ve come to is that employers just aren’t willing to take a chance on people anymore. I read all these job postings that require an unreasonable list of requirements for prospective employees. Ten years of this or five years of that, or you have to be familiar with this particular system or program or process. Employers want ready made workers who require little or no training, let alone an actual investment.
Case in point, my current employer has paid me for four years to sit around the office doing almost nothing but twiddle my thumbs. I have many years in administration, yet the job has never had enough work to keep me busy. So what does my supervisor do? He sends me on errands. The career I’ve built for more than fifteen years is meaningless where I am, and when I asked for something more meaningful to do, I was just given more meaningless things to do. No investment or risk taken on me. Just a bunch of useless work that does little for my employer and absolutely nothing for me.
We’re told all the time that to be successful in anything you have to be willing to take risks, but it seems that employers today are too busy trying to avoid potential headaches or focused on their own priorities to actually consider someone other than themselves. Perhaps the biggest reason why the job market is the way it is today is simply because employers are the embodiment of everything wrong with our society today: they want instant gratification.
For example, I served more than eleven years in the Marine Corps and have nearly twenty years of administrative experience, along with several other skills and experiences I’ve picked up along the way. However, because my list of skills doesn’t match what some person put on a job description, I’m disqualified before I’m even really considered. We’re not people anymore; we’re an algorithm.
It used to be that you would get a job and your employer would invest in you hoping that you would turn out to be a great employee that would stay with the company for many years, or even decades. Today, we live in this ridiculous “gig” economy, where it’s rare to stay with an employer for more than a couple of years. People like me, who crave stability, are sick and tired of jobs with no shelf life…with no real future. We’re tired of being stuck in positions where all we are is a convenience.
Perhaps the cure to the current dilemma in the job market is for employers to start seeing people as people again. We’re not mindless automatons that are here to service you. We’re people with our own goals and dreams and hopes for our futures. Maybe if you start looking for partners instead of servants, you might start finding more of the kind of people you need to make your business successful.