I read an article this week about the personal failure of a former TV writer. After working 12 hour days on TV shows like Roseanne, he took some time off to reconnect with his family and made some bad financial decisions that resulted in losing his house and becoming homeless. His story ends with a somewhat happy ending (he is back on his feet, working and no longer homeless but still struggling).
So what does an article about an out-of-work writer have to do with HR? Everything. One of his struggles before and when he was homeless was trying to find a job. He was (and still is) looking for the kind of job many of us take for granted: a “permanent” position at an established company with a fixed salary and benefits.
Unfortunately, there were a number of hurdles in his way: his experience as a comedy writer wasn’t applicable in a TV world that wanted reality TV and his magazine publishing experience was from 10 years ago. Add to that, a four year unemployment gap spent being a stay-at-home dad and you can imagine how difficult it was for him to find a job. He couldn’t even get a job stocking shelves at Trader Joes.
This writer and his circumstances are not unique. Recent data shows that those unemployed for six months or more have an extremely difficult time getting a new job.
My question: What can we (HR professionals) do to change a mentality that doesn’t want to interview or hire candidates with unconventional backgrounds? With backgrounds that have gaps in employment history? What can we do to help the homeless or near-homeless get jobs and get back on their feet?
1. Knowing that the great recession left many homeless or near homeless can we take some time to pick up the phone and find out about a candidates gap in employment instead of assuming the worst?
2. Can we use our HR skills to help the homeless job search? Does your community have a program like CARITAS Works that helps individuals build job search skills? Can you volunteer with that group? Or make a monetary donation?
3. If a company lays off workers can we offer job search assistance? Can we provide a list of community resources?
4. Can we set up unconventional working arrangements? Perhaps a temporary gig? A candidate gets paid for their work and has an opportunity to show what they can do. The hiring manager has less strings attached. Win/Win?
5. Can we work with our local SHRM chapters to organize a volunteer job search workshop to help the unemployed? Feedback on a resume or interviewing can go a long way towards helping someone get the next job.
As HR pro’s we have a lot of knowledge and information about the job search process. How can we use that to help others? Tell me in the comments!
Quick post note: regular readers may recall that I am in the process of studying for the SPHR. Between studying, work and life my schedule is getting pretty full. Until the end of January (when I take my test) I will only be posting about once a week unless I’m particularly inspired. Thanks for your patience as I take on the challenge of the SPHR test!