There’s a lot of interesting information in LinkedIn’s most recent hiring report for the Chicago area, including how the city primarily draws talent from only the surrounding states but that people are leaving for the coasts.
Part of the report covers the kinds of skills that are too common in the area, meaning there are more people who can do that than there are companies looking for people with those skills. That’s unfortunate and likely one of the reasons people leave, so they can find work that matches their abilities elsewhere.
On the other side, there’s a list of the kinds of skills employers are looking for but which are in short supply. The top five skills on that list are these:
- Oral Communication
- People Management
- Business Management
- Social Media
- Time Management
So, I have to ask, why am I in year three of lacking full-time work? Because I check off most of those boxes. Let me elaborate.
#1 Oral Communication
If I weren’t able to express myself verbally in multiple contexts I don’t think I would have survive in my career for as long as I did and have. Over the 20+ years I’ve been working since leaving college I’ve:
- Presented in front of PRSA and other industry groups
- Engaged in new business pitches for the agencies I’ve worked at
- Been part of and lead countless client presentations, from new idea pitches to program check-ins
- Taken part in countless phone calls both with coworkers and clients to talk about new happenings, what’s coming up soon and more.
While speaking my not be as natural to me as writing, it’s something I’ve had plenty of experience with and am completely capable of.
#2 People Management
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never managed big teams. The largest group I’ve ever been in charge of is three people on any one project or assignment.
But that group of four people, including myself, was the powerhouse behind DC Entertainment’s social media publishing program for four-and-a-half years, managing 20+ social profiles, curating news from dozens of sources, handling endless inbound requests, publishing up to 25 updates every day and then reporting on a program that had, at the end, over 33 million fans.
It’s not about the size of the team under your management, in my experience, it’s about marshalling resources and putting everyone in the right spot. So this person is handling X, another is doing Y and so on.
While all of that management was done virtually – I was in or outside Chicago while the team was spread between San Francisco and Orlando – the key was to always position myself as one or more of the following at any given time:
- The first line of defense. It was never their fault if something went wrong, it was mine.
- The first to push the spotlight. It was never me that did something right, it was them.
- The first person to step up and fill a gap if someone was sick or had to prioritize another project.
- The first person anyone turned to with a problem, whether it was something they needed fixed or just needed to vent.
- The one who set the agenda and made sure we knew what next steps were necessary.
While I’m not in an actual management position at Starbucks right now, I quickly became a sort of NCO on the store floor. Shift managers and store managers trust me to make changes to how partners are deployed or may need to be shifted if they’re unavailable and know if I make a call it’s going to be one that feels right in the moment. “I’m going on break, Chris is in charge” became a common phrase not long after I started because I had shown sound judgement and took charge because of my experience not only in a work environment but because, well, I’m a dad and we will not have a breakdown while I’m around.
#3 Business Management
Unlike some friends and colleagues, I didn’t go back to school for an MBA or anything like that later one. But over the years I’ve managed programs that have significant budgets and are on behalf of major consumer and other brands and companies. I know how to fill out a budget, report on profit/loss, speak to HR and otherwise handle the logistics of operating in the business world.
This is one of those “soft” skills that companies always say they’re looking for in new recruits and hires but which you can’t really teach. It just comes with experience. Yes, there are formal programs for becoming certified in many of these practices, but they also accumulate over time and become part of how you think.
In this regard I’ve been lucky to work with some truly outstanding individuals. Watching people like Mike Manuel, Tom Biro, Josh Hallett and others do their thing has been an invaluable education for me over the years. Their steady approach, passion and stupid levels of talent taught me more than I ever thought possible and that’s just a small subset of the kind of real-world expertise I’ve been privileged enough to be privy to.
#4 Social Media
Yeah, I’m not going to expand on this too much. You can view my portfolio or read any of the numerous posts and articles I’ve written over the years to find out how this is an area I have a massive amount of experience in.
#5 Time Management
You can’t run the kinds of programs I’ve run or do the kind of work I’ve done and not have excellent time management skills. While my approach to how I schedule my day has changed a few times over the years, the idea has always been the same: To accomplish everything that needs to be done in a given period of time.
There are different systems people use to effectively manage their time, but what I find works best (at least right now) is to have two running lists:
- Immediate action items: These have definitive due dates or are specific tasks that need to be accomplished. This is what I’m actively working on.
- Bigger tasks and projects: Along with that list of immediate items I have running lists of the online courses and classes I’m interested in taking, the longer fiction and non-fiction I’m writing, the organization projects I’ve undertaken and more. These are the things that may get a set amount of time each day to keep the ball moving forward or just things that I can chip away at if I have an evening where I don’t feel like writing but want to get something done.
So…Where Are the Job Offers?
I’ve been looking for full-time work since I was let go by Voce Communications in the summer of 2016, but so far have only found freelance work, a couple contract gigs and my retail job at Starbucks. If companies are really looking for people with these skills, why isn’t my email blowing up and why have the hundreds of jobs I’ve applied to only resulted in a couple dozen interviews?
Great question. Maybe it’s that I’m a bit older and my salary requirements are greater than someone who’s 24. Maybe it’s that I haven’t worked in the right industries for the jobs that are available. Maybe it’s that some algorithm just hasn’t liked how my resume or LinkedIn profile are formatted so I can’t make it through that filter.
Whatever the case, it seems I’m a decent match for the kind of person Chicago-based employers are looking for.