Frictional unemployment or the answer to the question: “How am I still unemployed?”

Today while browsing about my favorite journal The Economist and reading the article about Youth unemployment in Europe, I suddenly thought of writing about my current situation in an attempt to explain the reason why I am still unemployed.

Before getting started, let’s spend a few minutes on definitions:

“Unemployment: (or joblessness) occurs when people are without work and actively seeking work. (International Labor Organization)

“Frictional unemployment: Frictional unemployment is the time period between jobs when a worker is searching for, or transitioning from one job to another. It is sometimes called search unemployment and can be voluntary based on the circumstances of the unemployed individual. Frictional unemployment exists because both jobs and workers are heterogeneous, and a mismatch can result between the characteristics of supply and demand. Such a mismatch can be related to skills, payment, work-time, location, seasonal industries, attitude, taste, and a multitude of other factors. New entrants (such as graduating students) and re-entrants (such as former homemakers) can also suffer a spell of frictional unemployment.

“Cyclical unemployment: Cyclical, deficient-demand, or Keynesian unemployment, occurs when there is not enough aggregate demand in the economy to provide jobs for everyone who wants to work. Demand for most goods and services falls, less production is needed and consequently fewer workers are needed, wages are sticky and do not fall to meet the equilibrium level, and mass unemployment results.

Source: Wikipedia

Unemployment after graduating is surely the worst nightmare that almost every fresh graduate can think of. We are not scared of being starved for having no money. In fact, we are scared of being left behind, of being alone, or of missing opportunities to show the world who we are. It was such a plight to be unemployed, therefore, it is not difficult to understand the fear of European Union on seeing unemployment rate escalating to around 15% and the reason why solving unemployment has been put at top priority on the agenda of a flurry of summits or kind of conferences. It is the fear of a “lost generation” who is left unattended that matters here.

Yes, it is the fear of thinking that there should be something wrong with me that keep me out of reach for a decent job placement until now that makes me crazy than whatever reasons. Therefore, I often thought that what I really want in these first jobs of mine are not only money but the opportunity to prove my abilities.

However, there exist some differences between my case and the case of European unemployed youth. In the case of the European youth, it is cyclical unemployment, which is caused by economic recession in many European countries. In my case, I think that it is frictional unemployment.

So first of all, have a look at my profile. If a recruiter gets used to assessing one potential employee on his/ her CV to have the first impression, may I have a quick assessment of my profile based on my CV:

– Education: I graduated with first-class honors from one of the leading universities in Vietnam. Though lots of people still criticizes Vietnamese education for its lag behind other countries in the region and in the world, I still thought that it somehow reflects that I have been a hardworking student during my time at university and I am certainly kind of literate people. (If “literate” is defined based on your understanding about “illiterate”.)

– Extra-curricular activities: I am sure that I have lived to the fullest at university, actively participating in lots of student-run organizations and taking various leadership positions. At least, I am not that kind of bookworm for expending all her times on books. I have made friends and made impacts on the society by my little effort and I am happy about this. I left university without feeling regretful for not doing anything.

– Working experiences: Once again, I have reached out for the real workplace since I was a sophomore. Elder people often blame the fresh graduate for their appearance as a “hillbilly” for residing in their own “mountain” and burying their head in books or unhealthy pastime of the youth before stepping out in the real life. In my case, I am sure they cannot rely on this reason to criticize me. I have thought much about my career after graduating since I was first year student and get acquaintance to preparing CV or interview for long and I thought that I have edited my CV for at least 500 times and prepared for interviews for not less than 50 times. Unlike lots of friends for making lots of unbelievable mistakes in CVs or cover letters, I am surely one that pay attention to details and my CV is nearly flawless.

– Other stuff: I have an English blog to jot down everything in my life (and it surely proves my ability of writing English to a certain level), I have learnt Chinese for 4 years up to now and I am able to conduct Chinese conversations at intermediate level.

– Furthermore, I am an optimistic and I understand about my own strengths and weaknesses. I assessed myself based on my  careful observance of the ones that get hired and the ones that have not been get hired yet. Rest assured that what I am saying is not an overestimate about my ability or an underestimate about the others. Rest assured that I am kind of people seeking for the right assessment of value of everything in my life, including myself.

So, back to the question: Why I am still an unemployed?

To be more exact, I am unemployed for the last 1 month. For the one who gets used to being at work or getting around with lots of extra-curricular activities, 1 month at home is surely a nightmare.

Recruiters often regurgitate their favorite sayings: We only hire the most suitable ones, not the best one. Am I in the case of the good one but not suitable or am I neither good nor suitable?

People working with me, specifically, my mentor in IDGVV wonder why I am still unemployed. She said that I am not that bad to be not employed and she thought there should be something wrong with my interview skill or thing like this. However, as far as I have experienced, I am not so bad in interviewing for my frequent appearance in final interviews in many firms. And in almost every case, if I thought that I perform well in one interview, I can immediately say if I can make it to the next round. However, in some cases, when I thought that I have had a very comfortable conversation with the interviewers, I am still eliminated.

After getting in final interview round for many firms, I thought of one reason of mine for being out in the very final round may be that I applied for things that are surely not of my advantages.

I supposed that it should be the reasons why I am out in the interview of Unilever – Finance function, Ernst & Young (and now EY), and GE.

I applied for Finance or Tax Consulting, which requires candidates to have a firm background on these stuff. I remember being asked about some knowledge of Tax when being interviewed in EY and some knowledge of Finance in GE. Though I was able to pass the basic question on these fields, the interviewers look unhappy when hearing that my major is about Economics and I have not been equipped with good background in Finance. No matter how hard I try explaining them that I will study these stuff to fill up their requirements, I am still getting out. I remember in the final round of GE Financial Management Program, when all candidates are required to prepare for a business plan and present it before the CFO of GE, I have prepared a good market research but the CFO still said that my finance is not good enough. For these failures, I think that it is not difficult to understand why I was rejected. I was not up to their requirements and I am out.

But sometimes, I get no clue of why I am out. Until now, I have not much idea of why I have been out in PwC, Deloitte, and 1/2 out in KPMG. I have comfortable conversations with the interviewers and received thank-you letters after a few weeks. In Deloitte, I thought that my mention about the interest of mine for consulting has ruled me out but some students still got in even when they said that they choose Big 4 because of their herd instinct. In PwC, I have no clue as the interview ran smoothly enough for me to think of being out based on my previous experience of assessing the possibility of succeeding in an interview. In KPMG, I suppose that my mention about MBA is somehow a hindrance for this firm kindly putting me in the waiting list. My friends said that it may be due to destiny. Finding a right workplace is like finding a right partner. It is not like the time when you try your best to get into a university when a same standard is set in advance and you take a leap to get in. Sometimes, finding a right workplace is like finding your wife or husband, you have to take some efforts too but sometimes, it is the destiny that decides if you could end up with each other. One friend of mine, an audit associate in KPMG, said that she seemed to be unfortunate to get into Big 4 as she found out that she is not interested in audit work. It should be fate or destiny that matters in some cases.

Some reasons that I see recently is that I am not the best at things I am good at. My advantages are still limited to a “so-so” level, not extraordinary good enough for a job. I am good at writing but not good enough to be an excellent copy-writer, a real story teller, who can transfer enthusiasm into words and motivate people to take action. I am kind of experienced with research analyst but I wonder if I can get into the work of research analyst for big firms like McKinsey or kind of market research firms. Or it is not even advantages but it is just a by-product that every employee expects a candidate to possess and  I was misled that that’s all they need.

Other reasons, which I am strongly scared about, are my unwillingness to take some jobs that I do not like. Should it be natural or I am kind of choosy one? I remember my two most recent interviews for two companies introduced by my friends. If it is a job that I found myself, I am always sure that I love or at least am interested in the job scope in the job description. But these two jobs are referred to me by two seniors and I have not much ideas of what is going on until I have an interview with these companies. The first job is with a boutique consulting firm in government relations and policy advisory. They offer a position of administrative officer and asked me everything about my expectation. I sincerely said that I expected to do more things relating to technical stuff. I can be an admin, but I expect it to last for a short time. I do not want to be an admin for my whole life. Some elder may criticize me for being choosy but I think that I should state clearly my expectation. If I am chosen for this job, it would be a misery for both company and me. Admin is a very good job to do and it is not an easy one, however, it does not suit my characteristic and my career goal. The second job is salesman for a newly established English center. First, I am not much interested in English center. Second, I am not interested in being a salesperson in the sense of what they described in the JD. Though everything in this business world is all about sales but the differences lie in what you sell. I am surely that many people are interested to be investor relation officers but few are interested in being salesmen for an insurance company. Hope that you guys get what I mean. To sum up these above two cases, am I too choosy or am I not comfortable to get out of comfort zone (I mean my existing JD), which makes me unemployed until now?

Figure out the reasons is by no means an easy job but figure out a solution is even more difficult.  At the moment, I am still actively seeking for other opportunities and hope that things will get on my way soon. And hope to find solutions to fix everything soon.

So wish you a nice working week ahead!

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