Let's Talk Jobs: Massachusetts Ahead of the Curve

In the national discussion on jobs, the plight of underemployed workers and unlucky job seekers captures the lead. If you’re lucky enough to live and work in Massachusetts, the story is more upbeat. Unemployment in Massachusetts is just shy of two percentage points below the national average of 8.1 percent, even after adjusting for September’s drop in business confidence.

As a strategist, leader, recruiting practitioner, workplace and social media culture fan, I’m grateful to live and work in a state where ~116 academic institutions act as a magnet for the best and brightest students, teachers and workers. We have a tremendous Tech Innovation Economy here, even if business confidence did stutter a bit in August and September. And I’m happy Senator Scott Brown is paying attention to jobs and the local economy. I’m also honored to have been invited to speak on a panel of other passionate pros tomorrow Friday, October 5, at Talent-Focused Innovation, a live discussion which will be moderated by Joe Nigro, Business Evangelist at Vsnap. I arrive at this discussion not as much from a political standpoint as I do a global and social calling and a celebration for talent in Massachusetts.

One of my passions is humanizing brands – I enjoy consulting with companies to link workplace culture, talent strategy, leadership and company values so job seekers will be attracted by the company’s brand and culture. Employees spend nine hours a day (or more) at work – it makes sense to work for a company that understands and promotes a healthy workplace culture.  Every business leader should recognize that people must be able to understand and believe in your culture – it’s critical for recruiting and longer term retention.

I’ll bring this perspective with me to the panel discussion Friday. Recruiting powerhouses Joe Nigro of Vsnap, Art Papas, CEO of Bullhorn, and Eileen Habelow, SVP of Randstad will also be on hand to field some very difficult questions from Senator Brown and Joe Nigro. I look forward to it being a collaborative panel. Community and Talent is where it’s at.

Of course you’ll have to attend to hear the panel’s response, but I’ve been thinking about these questions, and here’s a preview of my perspective:

1. Why do you think the Massachusetts economy is outpacing much of the nation in employment?

Companies – even here – are investing less in tech now. They are worried about the China debt crisis, QE3, taxes and more. Massachusetts isn’t isolated from the national and global economies. We do, however, have advantages; the question is how to help companies and workers manage in a time of economic uncertainty.

2. What types of companies are providing the most job opportunities?

Not surprisingly, the largest employers in this state are hospitals and insurance companies. Harvard University also accounts for a large proportion of workers.

3. When are the best times to recruit top talent?

March through May can be an active time for recruiters and job seekers. Grads are ready to jump into the world of work, and companies are eager for fresh talent. Honestly, there is never one best time of year. The job market is very dynamic.

4. Since Massachusetts has 116 academic institutions, do you find yourselves recruiting this talent right here or are you recruiting outside of Massachusetts and why?

With more than 100 colleges and serious software and medical innovation, Massachusetts has a great pool of candidates. Why look elsewhere? Even Mark Zuckerberg said that he regretted the move to Palo Alto.

5. Why types of technology are you using to tap top talent?

I’m seeing a wave of new and exciting recruiting and HR technologies, but LinkedIn is still popular – it has the human touch in that you can contact people more quickly something that is so lacking in the old school cold-calling style of recruiting. There is more work to be done here. LinkedIn is one large database that is now evolving on many social and content sharing levels.

6. How does the entrepreneurial spirit we are seeing impact Corporate America’s growth?

Massachusetts is a power center of entrepreneurial spirit. Look to this state to lead America, and corporate America, out of the doldrums.

7. What are some tips and tricks to engaging a passive candidate?

I don’t always recommend looking for passive candidates. You want to find and hire people who will commit to your company and be engaged by the work. If companies are doing a good job with workplace culture, it will be easier for recruiters to attract passive candidates. Business leaders must focus on building positive workplace culture! It is essential in this competitive market for the very best talent.

8. If you could offer any advice to some of this amazing talent looking for opportunities here in Massachusetts, what would it be?

If you’re a job seeker, go for it. Use your passion to show recruiters and companies how you’ll fit into their culture. You have valuable skills, and companies are searching for you – and those skills – right now. Be social. Let your brand shine. It’s a tough market out there so stay focused on your goals and keep your brand up to date.

Again, these are only partial answers. To hear my complete thoughts, and see how our panel and Senator Brown interact, you’ll need to be there Friday. Hope to see you there!

Please stop by and ask me tough questions. Get involved in the process. It doesn’t matter where you sit on the political spectrum – all that matters is that you raise your voice to be heard. Now is the time.

 (Photo: Boston Harbor. Courtesy of Guglielmo Losio via Stock.xchng)