The New York Times’ The Upshot put together two great features that, using O*NET, show how we can evaluate jobs that are both very similar and very opposite from our own. Let’s take a look at the articles and then talk about why they are important.
First, in this super creative feature, you can discover the job that is the opposite of what you do now.
I plugged in marketing manager (a job I held for about eight years) and found that the opposite is agricultural grader (which actually comes up as the opposite for a lot of jobs). Sounds about right, except I think my manual dexterity is pretty okay!
As The Upshot points out, this fun look can give a few valuable points. “Besides being an amusing exercise, exploring your opposite job has some value. Breaking a job into its component parts helps us look beyond the obvious and think clearly about the things that people actually do.”
This brings us to a more serious note. Over the last decade, millions of Americans have faced the economic nightmare of losing a job or having to find a new field. We know these stories too well. In the similar jobs article, we learned about a father of two who lost his job due to an economic downturn in his industry. “He worked for 13 years on drilling rigs at a crude oil company near his home in Dorton, Ky. Then it halted production, and he was laid off. At 33, with two children and a mortgage, he couldn’t find a stable new job of the kind he had trained for, because all the oil and coal mining companies in the area were shutting down.”
The story then goes into more detail on how he found a retraining program and was matched to another job (that actually paid a bit less) that used similar skills. The article expands on the utility of this same O*NET data and gives some cool graphics showing how you can find similar jobs to the one you currently hold.
When the recession hit, this is exactly the type of problem community colleges and workforce professionals were using our data to address and is actually why we continue to build many of the services we offer today.
One of the best examples of this comes from a community college in Ohio. At the beginning of the recession, a local parts supplier shut down and laid off a lot of workers. North Central State College in Mansfield, Ohio, jumped in and used our data to help many of these people find jobs that were similar from a knowledge and skills perspective. We love that story!
How Data Can Help
Some 10 years after the recession, we still face many of the same issues. Like the authors of The Upshot article said, this problem comes from the fact that “the labor market does a poor job of matching employers with employees–in hiring, and in educating and retraining them to meet employers’ needs.”
Think of it this way. The labor market is like a huge dating site where everyone is trying to find the best match. On dating sites, the goal is to be matched to someone you’ll be happy with and who will be happy with you. In the labor market, the thing many people strive for is to be matched with the career and employer they’ll love and that will love them back.
As we all know, this is a major struggle. Millions of people break up with their job each year. The most recent JOLTS reports tells us that an incredible five million Americans left their job just last month! If you think about it, it all makes sense. Some jobs you’ll love (even if they don’t pay very much) and others you’ll despise (even if they pay you a lot). Loving a job is based on more than money, but a complex set of interactions that arise from factors like personality, skills, interests, education, and culture.
The trick (just like the dating website) is that it’s actually quite difficult to find that ideal match. Many don’t even know where to start. Many people fumble around for years trying to figure out what they want to be “when they grow up.” (Hey, at least when we are trying to find the right spouse, there’s a website!!)
This labor market is truly a massive deal. What’s the beauty of it all? That each of us was made to do great things. The key is to find the area where you can really contribute.
Companies like Emsi exist to help bring the data to this entire equation.
For years, Emsi has been working on this issue with the many higher education and workforce professionals we serve. We’ve developed services like Career Coach and Find Your Calling to help college students find the careers and programs that will make them happy.
And we’ve seen great success. Each year, colleges and workforce boards use our data to help hundreds of thousands of students and jobseekers discover the careers that match their interests so they can make more informed decisions about what to study, where they might want to live, and what they should pursue.
There’s still a lot of work to do and we’ve got plenty of new irons in the fire. If you want to partner with us or you need some help, let us know. Stay tuned! As always, please hit us up if you want to chat.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!