The recent recession is over – or at least very nearly so – depending on one’s point of view. The masses who found themselves under or wholly unemployed are joining fresh-faced college graduates all clamoring for the jobs that will act as rungs on a precariously perched career ladder.
In addition, baby boomers are turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day and will do so at a similar rate for the next 19 years, according to the Pew Research Center. As they begin to retire en masse, their exodus may create sizeable holes that are often simply unable to be filled due to a dearth of experience and practical knowledge.
It all combined to create a perfect storm for Niki Kersey, 26, of Springfield. Kersey graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield in May of 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Her job search only just recently bore fruit.
“I chose business administration because it was a catch-all, and I thought I’d always be able to find a job in it,” Kersey said. “But I was wrong. It seems business administration is not specific enough for most places to work; they want something more catered and less general.”
Kersey focused primarily on the central Illinois area in her job hunt as she bounced from interviews at Horace Mann Insurance to Blue Cross Blue Shield among others, but to little avail. In an attempt to find some sort of stability she avoided temp agencies as well.
“I had numerous interviews where I didn’t have enough experience or I was under-educated because they wanted a master’s degree,” Kersey said.
A large contingent of fellow job seekers makes matters more difficult, and that is not a recent development, according to Melanie Trimm, employment services manager for the University of Illinois Springfield.
“We have received a large amount of applicants for the past several years, so that’s not a new thing for us,” said Trimm, “What we are seeing most recently is the number of civil service exams our applicants are requesting. That’s been increasing quite a bit.
“Quite often you’ll see an applicant interested in testing only for a position that is currently vacant, but now they may ask to take any and every exam they may qualify for,” Trimm said.
The result, obviously, creates a hugely competitive market where potential employees will apply for scores of jobs at the same time, sometimes regardless of their qualifications.
It’s that kind of fervor that makes job hunting a large time investment for employers as well. Debbie Thompson, vice president of talent acquisition for Horace Mann, can easily attest to that.
“You get 10,000 resumes each year and you have to touch each one,” Thompson said. “We filled over 200 positions last year, and we have close to 60 open positions now. It’s one of those things that comes in peaks and valleys but we haven’t had many valleys this past year.”
Thompson pointed to information technology as the field that often has the positions most difficult to fill. The specialized skill sets needed for specific jobs can lead to longer search times for an ideal candidate. And, again, it is a growing market seeing increased competition.
Trimm faces a similar situation with academic professional positions, she said. Searches for those positions can be lengthy due to the process itself, Trimm said, referring to search committees, applicant reviews and finally interviews of potential candidates. But, Trimm said, vacancies for such positions haven’t been out of the norm in recent memory.
Their experiences seem to follow suit with findings on the Bureau of Labor’s website regarding education versus unemployment rate. Typically, as the level of education rises, the unemployment rate will decrease for that particular demographic. For instance, the Bureau of Labor shows that in January the unemployment rate for those with bachelor’s degrees or higher was just 3.9 percent. High school graduates with no college education, however, had an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.
Despite those telling numbers, though, it still took Kersey a large amount of time to find a job she felt could act as her launching pad. She started at One Main Financial as an account executive early this year and at just the right time.
“I turned 26 in December so I lost my parents’ insurance, and I needed some kind of ‘big girl job’, if you will,” Kersey said. “It’s full-time here with a (competitive) starting salary, full benefits from day one and they have a good reputation.
“Also, it’s long term. A lot of the people here have been here for a number of years. It’s a good long-term company to work for, and that was also something I was looking for,” Kersey said.
Kersey chalked her timely employment up to knowing the right people at the right time. Her poor luck at job conventions and career fairs weren’t as important as simply knowing the right person, she said.
But finding a job appears to be a largely inexact science as Thompson and Trimm both stood resolute in their use of those very fairs and conventions – in addition to outside recruiters, among other methods – as integral ways to find talent.
“It’s just one of those things where it’s a tough market out there for job seekers and employers alike,” Thompson said. “Everybody wants the best person. I just wish we had more jobs for people.”