Commentary: Overcoming the Jobs Crisis

The challenge millions of Americans face in finding employment is, without a doubt, one of the most important economic and political issues today.

With Election Day just a few hours away, it is important to address the issue at the center of the presidential campaign — jobs. The challenge millions of Americans face in finding employment is, without a doubt, one of the most important economic and political issues today.

The October jobs report continues to show a slow recovery with job growth still lagging far behind corporate profits. Double-digit African-American unemployment underscores a troubling jobs crisis that existed long before the Great Recession: the historical disparity between Black and white jobless rates. While this racial divide is rooted in larger systematic inequalities, unemployed jobseekers can still increase their chances of getting hired by approaching their job search strategically.

African-Americans face additional difficulties in today’s job market because they are also more likely to experience longer periods of unemployment. When faced with a huge candidate pool, employers too often use unemployment duration and credit scores to screen out applicants.

If you’re having ongoing difficulty obtaining a full-time or even part-time position, you still have options. Seek out short-term projects and contract jobs that add a line on your resume as a self-employed or freelance worker. This will let employers know you are still actively engaged in the workforce and worth a second look. You may also have to take jobs that aren’t relevant to your chosen line of work in order to pay the bills. You can balance these jobs with resume-building part-time or internship positions in your career field. Even if they’re non-paying, these jobs can help you transition back to a full-time position once the economy improves.

Black unemployment rates are further complicated by the fact that young workers make up a larger percentage of the Black workforce. Black youth aged 16–19 have been hit with staggeringly high unemployment rates that reached nearly 40 percent in July. Even young Black college graduates are having a harder time finding a job compared to their white counterparts.

As job markets tighten up, everyone — especially young adults — must be creative and diligent in their job search and use social media to cast their net wide. Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook are three of the largest networking platforms that you can use to learn about opportunities in your industry. You can follow or “like” businesses you want to work for on Facebook. Creating a free LinkedIn profile helps you find jobs through networks of people you already know. You can also search for job postings on Twitter using hashtags, or even start informal conversations with people working in your field. These interactions can lead to more substantial professional relationships down the road.

Finally, job search websites are one of the easiest ways of broadly scanning the opportunities available. The NAACP has its own job search website, NAACP Job Finder, which I encourage people to use. Job search websites most often do not lead you to a job by themselves but are great tools in highlighting opportunities that should be followed up with greater research, networking as well as with an application.

Not being able to find employment can be an enormous personal blow to one’s self-esteem, and it’s common for the long-term unemployed to experience embarrassment, depression or feelings of isolation. But remember: unemployment is not a referendum on your abilities or worth. Reach out to at least 10 people in your immediate circle of friends, family and co-workers to get some support and discuss your long-term career goals. Your face will stay fresh in their minds if they hear about a job, and research repeatedly shows that you’re more likely to get a job through referrals than anonymous applications. Community is an invaluable asset during times of crisis, so don’t be ashamed to take advantage of yours. 

Dedrick Muhammad is the senior director of the NAACP Economic Programs. To learn more about preventing foreclosure and personal finance, check out the NAACP Financial Freedom Center Facebook Page or on Twitter @naacpecon

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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