Supply and Demand in the Labor Market

While in transition and looking for full time employment, I’ve attended many networking events. Some of these events are a small gathering while other events have over 100 job seekers. Some events are good and useful and others don’t appear to be as effective. Often, you have to “try out the new networking event” before you can eventually gauge its usefulness.  Regardless of the length or venue, I try to get as much as possible out of the events I attend.

I’m writing this in June 2011 and most adults know the job market is very tight so those in transition are looking for a competitive advantage. That could apply to improving your resume, image, networking skills, elevator speech, acquiring a new skill set or interviewing. Therefore, people in transition may be attracted to learning new skills or adding value where they can to gain a competitive advantage.

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For discussion sake, let’s say that there are 20 million professionals in America currently in transition – half of those who religiously attend 2 or more networking events per week. If you’re in transition, at the very least, you’re competing against those people looking for work. There’s a limited amount of job openings – let’s say 4 million jobs are available. It’s easy to see that the supply of 4 million openings exceeds the demand of 20 million people in transition. Even if 10 million adults are in transition and are doing whatever possible to make a difference to help set them apart from the rest, the demand for those jobs far exceeds the supply (10 million in transition vying for 4 million positions). So the value or new skill you’ve achieved is diluted or becomes less significant because millions of others are doing the same thing. In other words, you’ve lost some of your competitive advantage as many others are doing the same thing.

Most in job transition know the value of networking. Naturally, it is important not to rely solely on applying to online jobs. Therefore, it’s recommended to target companies and develop contacts in that company. When we see an opening at Company X, we may seek out our friend or networking contact before applying at Company X. This is more effective than just completing an online job application. However, if 10 million job seekers decide to do this, then how effective is this approach?

The same principle may apply to one’s LinkedIn profile. I often read from job experts and specialists the value of ensuring your profile is 100% complete. I read it’s important to market yourself the right way. I read how it might be useful to include your resume and other important documents within your profile. I also see how important it is to market yourself as a knowledge worker and one with a specific brand or skill set and mitigate the fact you are in transition. As I’m doing this, I’m thinking, aren’t others in transition doing the same thing? Again, I’m becoming a LinkedIn subject matter expert (SME) along with many others. Learning new software or becoming more skilled at social networking is good experience although how much of a competitive advantage did I gain by acquiring this knowledge?

Unfortunately, with a tight labor market, even among professionals, you find more and more people using valuable energy, creativity and time playing the job search game. What kind of a toll does this take on prospective employees? Is it quantifiable to gauge how much time and expertise is being wasted not only looking for work but trying to gain a competitive advantage? All of this skill and expertise is not being fully utilized for productive things or leveraged to the fullest.

What other options would someone have who is desperate to find gainful employment? Are these useful conversations to have?