Job-seekers have tons of neighbors and family members who could be beneficial to their success, but many don't even know their occupations. Neighbors and other people they have known for years and come into contact with daily could all be sources of labor market information and a ticket to a new career. Plus, these people are the ones who will still be there once workforce programs are gone. Job-seekers already know the people who are going to help them get their next job. How are you helping them knock on the door?
Many workforce development professionals don't realize the value of social capital, and they don't invest in helping job-seekers build it. Maybe they just don't believe the research, or they think that everyone who made it simply did it by themselves. One thing we learned is that from Bill Gates to Michael Jordan, no one makes it on their own.
Your workforce development staff may believe in the benefit of expanding job-seekers' circle of influence but don't have any real clue to how to help them do so. Sometimes they think that few people would want to help.
In our work with hundreds of young adults, we have discovered an interesting fact. Few had to go outside their connections to find career and job opportunities. The people they need are probably just a phone call or visit away. They already know the person who is going to help them get their next job, we just don't help them connect.
We hear so much about positive youth development and the importance of looking at young people as assets. If this is true, then why not start with the assets young people have in their own back pockets? Those assets are their internal connections.
How much time does your program spend on helping students identify the individuals whom they know who can help them build a bridge to future economic success?
We are often surprised by how many young people are directly or indirectly connected to company presidents and even local elected officials. In most cases, young people are less than three degrees from an influential person who can make a big difference in their careers. Our observations agree with the Small World Experiment in 1967, done by American psychologist Stanley Milgram (later to be known as the Six Degrees of Separation theory). This theory states that everyone and everything are six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world.
We are not saying that making connections is easy. However, students are closer to a labor market connect than you realize. It will still be work, but so is filling out one hundred applications and submitting one hundred résumés. The on-line application process insidiously infiltrates their delicate self-esteem while empowering corporate giants with data sets to further discriminate against a population that has already faced way too much discrimination in their lives.
It's time to teach this number one labor market skill by modeling it. How did you get your last job?
Let Edward DeJesus and his team at Social Capital Builders train your staff today. www.socialcapitalbuilders.com.