Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Baby Boomers and The Human Touch

Last Monday I conducted a workshop for jobseekers. A friend, who leads a "Life Group" at her church, asked me to talk about social media. This is one of those activities that make my life uber-busy, but I love to do it. I couldn't say no.

The church was in an affluent middle class suburb of Seattle. There was a Starbucks-like cafe in the lobby, computer kiosks everywhere and free wifi. I had barely entered the lobby before someone offered me dinner. There was a band, and plush seating for relaxing. It's been a while since I've been to church, so all of this impressed me.

Most of the two dozen workshop participants had been laid off, or couldn't find new contracts. They were mainly professionals with good educations and solid skills. Most were over 40. Some had their laptops, those who didn't came prepared to take notes. They were serious about securing their next opportunity (most were shocked at how difficult it had become to find a new position).

I always share this graphic when speaking to jobseekers (data from the Career Crossroads Source of Hire Study):

Then I tell them, their number one job as a jobseeker is to get themselves referred.

"How?", they ask.
That's where social media comes in, I tell them. "You have to make friends."

They began to gripe and moan, and listed a dozen reasons why they didn't want to talk to strangers on the internet.

"You double your chances of getting a job if you get referred."

One woman waved a manilla folder, three inches thick, filled with applications. "I applied online to all of these jobs."

"What," I asked, "were the results?"

"But it used to be so straightforward," someone lamented. "Now we have to connect with this one and that one...what happened to the human touch?"

It occurred to me - right then and there -- that these boomers weren't necessarily looking for a human touch. What could be more personal than reaching out an actual human to get referred for a job (compared to submitting an online application and hoping for the best)?

They longed for the simplicity and anonymity of submitting an application and waiting for the "system" to work. Those days, I told them, have passed. In this job market -- and likely even as the economy perks up -- they were going to have to compete for a job in the way small business owners compete for customers.

We spent the next hour discussing their trepidation about social networking -- rejection, privacy, security, exposure. I never even got to demo LinkedIn.

They asked if I could come back. That's a good sign. They're listening.

Of course I said yes, I'd come back.


Human Resources Consultant said...

Nice blog entry...I agree with job searches lack a sense of human touch. But that does not mean this group of boomers approach is correct. I think that grass roots type work is necessary for success and by that I mean work locally. If you are a consultant identify and research local businesses that have merit. Pursue as a client to improve their services or products distribution. Human touch is so necessary. The economy is dying because everyone is so focused on the "internet" and social media. I love the concept of social media I just think that this medium is clogged.

Franny said...

Great distinction! Sounds like they're confusing, "the human touch," with being comfortable. I love the idea of selling themselves every day like a small business owner, too.