On June 20, the local paper (Times-Colonist) published a fascinating letter-to-the-editor by Reed Kirkpatrick, Connections everything in this job market. Kirkpatrick’s letter was a rebuttal to an earlier June 13 article by Maclean Kay, Rooting for the promised labour shortage. Kay’s somewhat rambling article eventually focused on a recent prediction about a coming labor shortage, and included (on page 2) the following bit:
Victoria’s job market is breathtakingly tight and what is available tends to be scandalously low-paying — I found an ad asking for a chef with 10 years’ experience and offering $10 an hour. Victoria is also an infamously cliquey town; if you don’t know the person who posted the ad, you’re probably not getting the job.
That’s not to say networking isn’t important or worthwhile, but there’s networking and there’s something more like employment incest.
“Employment incest” – that’s an excellent turn of phrase! Kay ends, however, on an optimistic note: that “an influx of well-trained, educated, talented job seekers” will be a “healthy correction” of Victoria’s job market.
Kirkpatrick’s letter takes issue with Kay: been there, done that, he seems to be saying. He goes back to 2002 (incidentally the year that I moved back to Victoria) to describe a Times-Colonist initiative of publishing a “Jobs Wanted” section during that period’s 7% unemployment rate labor market. He describes how, in 2001, the BC government had laid many people off, which flooded the labor market with …um, “well-trained, educated, talented job seekers” (to use Kay’s words). And who got jobs in that climate? The well-connected:
Realizing that as an independent consultant I would experience difficulty in finding work, I contacted a number of professional people from the Jobs Wanted section. Eventually, we incorporated a business: our bread and butter would be bidding on government contracts. After submitting a number of unsuccessful proposals, we opted for a “debriefing.” I vividly recall being informed “your company had the best proposal but we had never heard of you.” I interpreted this to mean that we were not sufficiently connected.
I’ve heard the same thing from quite a few people. Jobs are also described in such narrow terms that if a candidate is missing even one qualification, s/he is eliminated from the pile of applicants. There’s no chance of taking a risk with a new hire, no expectations of being able to learn on the job.
Kirkpatrick’s letter ends with the kind of realism that Thomas Hardy might approve:
The reality is that many skilled professionals are already here working as cleaners, taxi drivers, housekeepers and security guards. Unconnected, their professional lives have quite literally faded away.
I could add to that stories of people who are connected, but it doesn’t matter: if the jobs aren’t there, they aren’t there. End of story.
…Unless you do that classic “reinvention” thing, which is a very popular thing to do around here. People want to live here for the lifestyle, for the natural beauty, but they can’t work in their careers – so they opt to reinvent themselves in new careers. This sometimes results in amazing creative journeys – or not. In usually means downsizing/ earning less money, too.
I’d be interested to know what other people have observed in their communities and cities.