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Managing Expectations Is Crucial as High Unemployment Persists, Says Expert

Written by University of Alabama at Birmingham on 12 March 2010.

Unrealistic expectations amid the country’s continued unemployment struggles are a double-edged sword that can cut equally into the well-being of job seekers and the companies that hire them, says a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) strategic management expert. More than 6 million Americans have lost their jobs since the start of the country’s most recent recession in 2008, and new jobs data released by the U.S. Department of Labor March 5 shows another 36,000 jobs were lost in February, leaving the country’s unemployment rate at 9.7 percent.

 

“Job seekers must set realistic goals,” says Vickie Cox Edmondson, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB School of Business. “They have to look at what is happening in their industry and understand what is happening in the larger economy and set sensible goals for obtaining new employment — and that could mean a search as long as eight to 12 months if not more.”

 

Unemployed professionals are facing a job market not seen in decades, says Edmondson, who recently was featured in Black Enterprise magazine. She says with so many out-of-work job candidates from which to choose, the few companies hiring can seek their most ideal candidate.

 

“There are thousands of job-seeking professionals who are over-qualified for the limited positions out there, and that is forcing many borderline job candidates out of the running for positions for which they potentially would have been good fits just a couple of months ago,” Edmondson says.

 

“People looking for a job must understand that employers can say no to you more quickly and easily because they have so many qualified applicants. This reality must factor into jobseekers expectations for finding new employment or they will be sorely disappointed.”

 

Edmondson recommends that professionals looking for work try to manage their expectations by managing the process. In other words, they must understand and define success for themselves in the current job market.

 

“It wasn’t much more than a year ago that someone who was out of work for two months could quickly become depressed and overwhelmed by an inability to secure a new job, but today someone finding new work in two months is way ahead of the curve and doing quite well,” she says.

 

“So the definition of success as it relates to the time frame for a job search has changed, and, similarly, job seekers also must consider changing their definition of a good job given the positions available and the industries hiring.”

 

Employers must temper expectations, too

Edmondson says employers who recently have hired or may consider hiring ahead of any period of sustained economic growth also must manage expectations of workforce loyalty.

 

“Those employers now adding jobs may think they are setting themselves up well for the time when production increases and the economy turns around, but companies could very easily lose staff if management teams are not realistic about how employees are being used,” Edmondson says.

 

Employers should ensure that over-qualified workers have opportunities to grow in their roles as productivity increases. If there is no plan for promoting underused talent through the ranks, companies risk losing employees as they seek growth opportunities elsewhere when the job market and economy rebound.

 

“It is costly for a company to restock and retrain its workforce, so management should be very attentive to the future needs of recent hires,” Edmondson says. “Many workers will most certainly seek opportunities elsewhere as they become available if there is no clear path to professional advancement for these employees as business grows with the economy in future months.”

 

About the UAB School of Business
Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center. Capitalizing on the campus’ location in the heart of Alabama’s largest city and business center, the UAB School of Business offers unparalleled student access to internships as well as part- and full-time employment opportunities with the state’s most significant companies.

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