Job Hunting

Job-Seekers: It’s Cold Out There, Baby

Survey reveals 2003 will be a tough year for the unemployed.
Lisa YoonJanuary 14, 2003

What’s the forecast for job searches in the coming year? “Cautiously optimistic,” in consultant-speak; lousy, in English.

The consultancy in question here is human-resources advisors DBM, which recently released its annual Workforce Predictions Survey for 2003. Apparently, when they say “cautious optimism,” they mean really cautious.

“Indications are that workforce conditions in 2003 will challenge job seekers, employees, and employers alike,” said DBM president Tom Silveri.

Specifically, 52 percent of the more than 800 U.S. and Canadian HR executives surveyed anticipate layoffs this year, with one in ten expecting to reduce their workforce by as much as 20 percent.

While that number is down from 2002, when 71 percent of HR professionals reported layoffs, it’s still small consolation for job seekers — especially when only 35 percent of the survey’s participants expect to hire this year.

It’s a buyer’s market, says DBM, and with the continuing recession, companies will avoid risk by looking hard until they find the perfect candidate.

Despite tight budgets, many companies are still planning to spend what they can afford on employee development. Sixty-four percent of HR professionals expect their companies to invest in leadership-development programs; 38 percent plan to spring for executive coaching.

To respond to the sluggish job market, Silveri recommends becoming more flexible about job criteria. That includes being open to relocation, different industries, or other kinds of work arrangements.

Direct experience helps, so it’s more important than ever to customize CVs and approach the interview with specific examples of how you can add value to the company.

As for employers, DBM consultants stress the importance of employee-development programs, explaining that workers are less likely to resent belt-tightening if management shows a commitment to its stakeholders.

AP Workers Say It With a Key-Chain

Speaking of employee resentment: Hell hath no fury like a journalist scorned.

Associated Press staffers nationwide, members of the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America, staged a protest of what they believe to be a hypocritical policy on employee diversity.

The AP is the only one of the last major news organizations to deny health insurance and other benefits to the unmarried domestic partners of its employees, says the TNG-CWA. AP staffers have been negotiating for more than a decade for these benefits.

To vent their anger, the staffers sent management irate letters and returned the diversity-themed key chains (“AP Diversity: Many Views, One Vision”) it recently issued.

“The irony of it is simply too much to bear,” wrote New York City staffer Jim Supanick. “AP’s reporting standard is fairness, and so is its work standard,” said a letter from the Washington bureau. “Don’t expect us to abandon fairness … when it comes to wage and benefits parity.”

The Montpelier, Vermont, office hinted at voluntary staff turnover as a result of the policy. The AP is a good company, the letter stated, “but it is losing good people to competing news organizations that do offer domestic partnership coverage

The union also noted that most of the companies whose executives sit on the AP’s board already offer domestic partner benefits.

In a related story, U.S.-based writers and photographers for the AP omitted their bylines last Thursday as a protest amid another contract dispute.

News Media Guild president Tony Winton told Reuters the AP staff were concerned the 1.9 percent pay increase offered by the company in current contract talks would not stem defections at the wire service.

“We have had 180 people leave the company in the last 18 months, including some top staff,” Winton reportedly said. “There is a brain drain going on and the guild thinks the company has to address some of these issues.”