Skill shortages happen when employers find it hard to get staff with the right skills for the job. Knowing which jobs are in skill shortage can help you choose the best job option or decide what subjects to study.
Reasons for skill shortages
Skill shortages can happen because:
there aren’t enough workers with the right skills available
turnover is high because workers are unhappy with pay or working conditions
there is a general labour shortage, such as during low unemployment.
Skill shortages can change due to:
changes in technology or the economy
skilled workers moving to another country
an ageing workforce.
Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortage lists
When jobs appear on Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortage lists, this means the Government is actively encouraging skilled workers from overseas to work in that role in New Zealand.
They were also the age group also most likely to lose their job, with the youth unemployment rate rising to 13.1%, compared with 4.1% for the whole UK. About 7% of 18-24 year-olds reported they had been made redundant because of the pandemic, compared with 4% of 50-65 year-olds. The government hopes to address this with its Kickstart scheme, which will pay employers £1,500 for every 16 to 24-year-old to whom they offer a ”high quality” work placement.
2. Under-25s now make up a third of new universal credit claims
As youth unemployment rose, so too did the number of young people claiming universal credit. By July, just under one in three first-time universal credit claimants was under 25, up from one in five in March.
But Ms Slaughter expects youth unemployment to get worse when the furlough scheme ends in October.”Young people are more likely to be in sectors which still aren’t up to the levels of activity before the pandemic” she said.”When businesses start making difficult decisions about redundancies, young people are likely to be disproportionately affected.”
3. Young adults in northern England were worst affected
These changes have not been evenly felt across the country, with more deprived areas seeing a quicker uptake in work-related benefits by young people. Using data on the uptake of universal credit and jobseeker’s allowance, BBC analysis found that the proportion of young people on the benefits had doubled between March and June.
The worst-hit areas were generally in the north of England, with parts of Liverpool and Blackpool most affected. In Liverpool’s Walton area, for example, one in five 16-24 year olds is now claiming universal credit or jobseeker’s allowance – up from 7% in January 2020. In total, 50 constituencies across the UK now have more than 15% of young adults claiming one of the benefits.
4. Online graduate job vacancies fell by 60%
Those looking for a job fresh from university are facing a tough timeThe number of graduate jobs advertised fell 60.3% in the first half of 2020 on one online recruitment website, compared with a 35.5% overall fall in adverts.About 5,000 jobs were listed on the CV-Library platform in January-July in the ”graduate” jobs category, compared with 2,000 a year earlier.
Within that, graduate jobs advertised in marketing fell by 84%, while roles in construction and administration both dropped by more than 70%. Applications only fell by 33%, meaning considerable extra competition for many roles. Twice as many people applied for public sector roles than the year before, and five times as many for IT vacancies. One positive was the average graduate salary on the platform increased by 7.1% year-on-year to £24,626.The fall in vacancies is borne out across the UK. Positions on online platform Adzuna were 45% lower in mid-September than in 2019, according to Office for National Statistics analysis.
5. Apprenticeships have stalled
Companies have taken on fewer apprenticeships over lockdown. From 23 March to 30 June, apprenticeship starts halved compared with the previous year, but this fall was not evenly split between age groups.
Unsurprisingly, the sectors which saw the sharpest drop across all age groups were retail and tourism, which both declined by 75%. However, education placements only declined by a quarter.
6. Young people’s pay could be lower for three years after the pandemic
The UK’s financial watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates unemployment will hit 10% by the end of 2020, up from 4.1% last year .If this happens, young people who do find employment will face lower average wages for several years, Resolution Foundation analysis suggests, as they ”trade down” to the best job available.
Two years after leaving full-time education, it expects new education leavers’ hourly pay, after inflation, compared with pre-pandemic times, to be:
8% lower for highly qualified leavers (degree and above)
6% lower for mid-qualified leavers (A-level or equivalent)
13% lower for lower-qualified leavers (GCSE and below)
As happened after the 2008 recession, lower-skilled workers are likely to take the biggest hit. But the effect will last longer for mid and high-skilled workers, who may end up in sectors with less opportunity for a pay rise than offered by traditional graduate jobs. That assumes lower-skilled workers can actually get a job. The think tank predicts they are a third less likely to be in employment three years after entering the jobs market, than if the pandemic had never happened.
7. Young people are more likely to stay in education
One positive outcome of the crisis is that younger people may remain in education. This would shield them from the worst of the downturn, and lead to higher productivity and a better-skilled workforce.
To an extent, this happened in the 2008 recession. The effect may be much larger this time around, says Xiaowei Xu of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, as sectors like hospitality and retail are also where many people first start working. ”There’s an incentive to staying on in education because of how terrible the economy is, which means that people may receive more and better education.”She adds that this year’s A-Level grade inflation means some students will go to a better university than they would have done.
There are serious concerns that unless there is some form of extension to or replacement of the furlough scheme, tens of thousands of job losses are inevitable. In this context, public pressure to create a fairer and more prosperous society is likely to increase.
This will bring about a paradigm shift in our thinking about schooling and its relevance to a changing world of work, home working and a sharp turn towards protecting jobs, livelihoods, health and wellbeing so often limited by structural inequalities in society.
Addressing widening educational inequalities
A new National Funding Formula for schools should ensure the funding system is more responsive to geographical areas of deprivation. However, a recent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report highlights “in the short run, the new formula will deliver funding increases of 3–4 percentage points less to schools in poorer areas than to those in more affluent areas up to 2021.” Government hopes a one-off payment of £80 per pupil aged 5-16 and a national tutoring programmetargeted at more disadvantaged pupils will help address the widening of educational inequalities during lockdown. In this context, what messages will young people, teachers, parents/carers receive about the evolving education and careers landscape?
The launch of T levels
A recent FE News podcast with Minister Keeganhighlighted the launch of T levels with discussion on the differences between this route and other pathways, including apprenticeships. I was struck by the reliance on a national campaign the ‘Next Level’ idea which shows students as they literally climb the floors of a building. Their rapid progression will dramatise how T Levels can help young people get further forward, faster – while also highlighting the qualification’s first three launch subjects of education and childcare, digital and construction. But the massive shock of Covid-19 and its effects on education and career opportunities requires more than this. The narrative of climbing upwards fast will need to shift more towards career adaptability, mental toughness, resilience and building a personal ‘safety net’ of support. In essence, having access to good career guidance (including highly skilled coaching techniques) addresses these basic fundamentals.
Career guidance in schools, colleges and local communities must be strengthened
The views and experiences of highly trained and qualified career development professionals in England have been overlooked by DfE, since May 2020 meetings with the professional body and the trade body has been promised but yet to materialise. Last year, a study commissioned by Careers England reported “less than a cup of coffee is being spent on careers advice for young people in our schools and colleges.”
To date, very little of the money the DfE are spending on careers actually goes to the schools and those working with and supporting young people in local communities, particularly those most in need. It is estimated that 1000 extra employment, training or education opportunitiesare needed each day to bring the number of young people not in education employment or training back to pre-crisis levels by October 2021.
Under the £2billion Kickstart Scheme, the Government will pay towards six months of wage costs of each 16 to 24-year-old hired by an employer. But this approach needs ‘feet on the ground’ (beyond DWP Work Coaches) to work directly with employers advocating on behalf of young people and gathering local labour market intelligence (LMI) to feedback into the education system. Adults too need to know where are the jobs and training opportunities?
The forthcoming FE White Paper should further shed light on the government’s thinking about evolving education and careers for young people and adults – aligned to a refresh of the Careers Strategy(2017). The shock to universities of a diminished international student population and uncertainty surrounding the 2020-2012 local student experience, brings a sharp focus on the availability of careers support, student placements, work experience and internships.
In our higher education landscape, those most privileged often have the best careers support made available to them delivered by highly trained professionals.
So, what’s the massive shock all about?
In essence, we are talking about more individuals in our society being ‘unsettled’ and ‘uprooted’ from the normality of their so far lived experiences and expectations of education and work. At its core is the issue of identity, dignity, livelihood and sense of belonging and fulfilment.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Britain’s were forced to tighten their belts, contend with high inflation and increasing unemployment blighted their horizons. Fast forward fifty years, people’s expectations are higher today and in a modern society it should be an entitlement to have access to high quality careers support as part of a lifelong learning system that supports improved education, economic and social outcomes.
Interestingly, government responses back then saw the wisdom and realised the benefit of investing in careers services for young people to enable work programmes to operate effectively.
Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Director, DMH Associates & Associate Fellow, University of Warwick IER
 Department of Employment – Careers Services Unemployment Strengthening Scheme.
A recent study has revealed 96% of job seekers questioned would now not consider working for a company with a poor Covid-19 record.
The study, conducted by online job board Zoek and Neil Harrison from NH237 employment consultancy, looked at if Covid-19 was affecting employees’ opinion regarding their current and future employers.
Results revealed a significant change in the priorities of employees, with how a company treats its staff now much more of a concern. An overwhelming 93% of the 1,134 part and full-time workers surveyed said they would now choose a less successful company that supported employees over a more successful one that did not. The study also revealed that people are much more likely to conduct their own research into prospective employers, with issues such as remote working and workplace social distancing now important factors.
Regarding the findings, Diana Campbell, managing director at Zoek, said;
‘It is really interesting to see how motivations on moving jobs have changed since the job market has started opening back up. It is more important than ever to provide flexibility and confidence to candidates, which is something we have seen a high volume of searches for on Zoek.”
The survey also revealed that 57% of people felt their employers had communicated well during the lockdown. However, 17% said they had not heard anything from their employers, and only a third knew their employers’ plans for the next six months. The impact of covid-19 will change relations, and expectations, moving forward between employers and employees.
The behaviour of companies during the lockdown was a hot topic, with 55% admitting to sharing stories on social media, both good and bad, regarding their employers’ behaviour. Neil Harrison, lead consultant at NH237 Consulting, said the findings revealed the need for companies to communicate better the good things they have done during the shutdown. He said,
“I truly believe that what an organisation presents to the outside world in terms of candidate attraction has to be born out of the internal employee experience and prevailing culture. This report has further proved that even in the current climate, candidates aren’t willing to go just anywhere to take the next step in their career.”
A new study finds that being manipulative and disagreeable isn’t the path to success.
The researchers conducted two studies of people who had completed personality assessments as undergraduates or MBA students at three universities. They surveyed the same people more than a decade later, asking about their power and rank in their workplace hierarchies, as well as the culture of their organizations.
They also asked their coworkers about the study participants’ workplace behaviour and rank. Across the board, they found those who scored high on disagreeable traits were not more likely to have attained power than those who were generous, trustworthy, and generally nice.
Climbing the career ladder has never fit with how I see my work life. I don’t lack motivation or the desire to succeed. Rather, I pioneer and innovate. I need to climb outward not just upward and I like options and opportunities to work in ways that fit with how I want to live my life. However, I’ve second-guessed myself and asked, “Why can’t I find comfort and security in the idea of a career ladder?”
I blame my parents. I grew up the daughter of portfolio careerists who streamed income from various sources. Before the portfolio career concept was trendy, my father and his wife made a living from their grain farm and three side businesses. My mother and her husband made a living from a grain and cattle farm, one seasonal job, three part-time jobs and a variety of side hustles. I had role models who indirectly taught me to diversify my income and even though they suggested I get a “nice, cushy, secure, 9-to-5 job with a steady paycheque and a good pension,” they never worked like that themselves.
Reasons why the climb is no longer as appealing
The career ladder has had a long life. All we have to do is search online to find countless articles teaching us how to climb it quickly and other articles advising us how to successfully survive the climb. Although it’s still a way of working that has provided solid careers, the ladder has come under scrutiny.
Randstad Canada predicts 35% of the Canadian workforce will be contingent by 2025. There’s also a change in how workers want to work. Many of us no longer want to put in the long hours it takes to climb to the top, not to mention the fact that not everyone wants to be a leader. In addition, we have learned how to define success in other ways, and with new workforce models allowing us to work differently and technology giving us the option of working from anywhere in the world, we now have interesting options.
Creating resilient, agile workers that adapt to change
My parents were the epitome of resilient, agile workers who were able to quickly adapt to changes in the farming industry in the 1980s. Resiliency was fostered through a willingness to diversify income streams through side hustles, working salaried jobs off the farm or starting additional businesses. Our family side hustles ranged from making pickled eggs and selling them in the local pub, to commercial ice fishing in -30-degree winter weather, food catering for local events and painting homes. At one point, my father took on a side hustle working with the local plumber and when the plumber left town, my dad saw an opportunity, went back to school in his 40s, and added plumbing and heating to his resume because the work fit around the farming season. It was this type of agile, entrepreneurial thinking that helped my family maintain their way of life.
Today, the changing nature of work is demanding that we develop a similar resilient, agile mindset. Whether it’s out of choice or out of necessity, workers across the globe are diversifying their income and working differently. A 2016 McKinsey Global Institute report, Independent Work: Choice, Necessity and the Gig Economy, outlines the growth in independent workers in the US and Europe. People are participating in the gig economy because they are either “financially strapped” and needing extra income or they are taking advantage of the opportunities to earn extra money.
Side hustles are also growing and are now classified as a subset of the gig economy. They are entrepreneurial in nature, a creative outlet and can also be a smart career strategy. A CBS Eye on Money segment called “Why Side Hustles are on the Rise” featured the growth in side hustles in America. Seen as a residual outcome of the former recession, side hustles are still on the rise with participants flexing entrepreneurial muscles or growing passion projects.
Highly skilled executives are also jumping off the ladder. Michael Greenspan, in his article for Harvard Business Review, How to Launch a Successful Portfolio Career, provides advice on how to move from the corporate ladder to a more organic portfolio career of consulting, contract work, writing and speaking, among other options. Income streaming has become not just an idyllic daydream but a realistic option.
The Tree Approach™
In my parents’ world of work, there wasn’t a career ladder with rigid rungs to climb. There was work to do, a living to make and agile was just something you became. Today, we’re expected to have the same approach. But does the career ladder support agility?
After many years of watching my family work unconventionally and working out of the box myself, I began to wonder how I became so highly adaptable and agile. Was it because, like my parents, I didn’t have a career ladder inside my head? What did I envision as a model for my career? I decided to capture how I saw, organized and managed my career. I put it to paper and it came out looking like a tree.
Over the past three years, I have piloted The Tree Approach™ and it has resonated with clients of varying occupational backgrounds. It is both a visual model and a process of seeing our work life in a new way. Unlike the career ladder that can be swept away in an economic downturn, The Tree Approach™ has us build capacity and resiliency by developing a strong root system. We then learn to explore new workforce trends and opportunities in varying economic conditions. We learn how to adopt broader strategies for managing our careers in a global workforce that is evolving because it provides us with a new framework for how we envision possibilities. The model also supports long-term sustainability by developing skills in strategizing our careers throughout changing seasons of our lives and changes in the evolving world of work.
Rather than seeking stability and security in a career ladder that can blow away in the wind, we create a solid tree with a root system that can weather storms and career strategy that can grow in any climate.
Gail Kastning is a Certified Career Strategist. She is a portfolio careerist who streams income from consulting, contracting, coaching, speaking, passive income and rental property. Her company is called PURPOSEFUL CAREERS.
This article covers several challenges mature workers face and how career pros can address them.
Career professionals have a broad range of tools for success when working with mature clients who have been in full-time management or administrative roles for 10+ years with the same employer.
Many of these workers are dedicated professionals who were known and respected in their recent workplace for their strong knowledge of the organization and its processes. Often you can hear them say, “I don’t know how to put this on the resume, but I just get things done. I’m very reliable.”
Mature workers who have not had to look for work in several years need help understanding ATS, networking, follow-up and ways of articulating their professional differentiators. The added challenges of post-COVID hiring may include higher competition, more agile businesses and more reliance on technology. In the current climate, mature workers may also need some assistance with highlighting their technical skills and their ability to work remotely.
Understanding the Agile, Contingent Workforce of Today
Competition is high, many roles are temporary, and businesses are trying to be agile and save resources. COVID-19 is introducing new remote ways to do business, use more technologies and delegate tasks to workers (in any location) who can be productive in a remote setting.
If your client was used to stability and long-term employment in their previous organization, they may first consider acknowledging the current situation to position themselves as a candidate who offers both stability and adaptability.
To support mature workers:
Prepare them to leverage their experience and years of dedication to previous employers while expressing their adaptability to most recent changes in hiring.
They can speed up their hiring process by being highly articulate about their measurable results, technical skills and soft skills – the combination that makes them stand out.
Train them to highlight their hard skills as well as demonstrate confidence, competence, resilience and strong communication. A candidate with a calm, executive presence is seen as a reliable employee able to handle challenges.
Articulate their value for them: focus on their ability to build consensus at all levels of the organization while listening to employer’s needs and solving problems.
Help your client identify their top 3-5 differentiators that make them competitive.
You may recommend that they write down a list of their top 10-15 strengths and pick 3-5 from this list when applying for a specific role.
You can help them adopt a positive attitude of sharing, in concise terms, their unique professional value with a focus on employer’s needs.
You can emphasize the necessity to research a target company, follow up, reach the hiring manager and build their LinkedIn network.
Understanding the Achievement-Based Resume Structure
As with all other applicants, mature workers may focus too much on job duties in their resumes.
To support your clients:
Explain how the resume logic evolved with a focus on readability (documents must be easy to skim) and measurable results (‘problem – action – result’ format).
Train mature workers to think in terms of how they solve problems and what outcomes they deliver (vs. process and experience).
Ask specific questions or develop questionnaires to help them articulate results.
Encourage them to prepare for interviews following the same achievement-based approach and think in terms of how they can help employers save money, make money, improve operations or address difficulties.
Understanding Current Job Application Cycles
Submitting a resume alone is not enough. Many mature workers may favour a resume spray approach where they send applications to 50+ open positions online, without prior knowledge of companies. Help them understand a job search strategy as a more focused, yet varied effort.
To support your clients:
Help them inform their immediate network (service providers, community organizations, extended family, former colleagues or clients, religious, sports or recreational affiliations, etc.) that they are looking for a new role.
Encourage your clients to create a list of 20 target employers and research them, follow them on social media, identify decision-makers and connect with them on LinkedIn.
Provide your clients with examples of networking messages that are brief, clear and authentic.
Help your clients understand the full cycle of the job application process:
customizing the application for each specific role
building relationships while interviewing (for future opportunities)
“closing the sale” after in-person interviews with some form of 30-60-90-day plan or a list of their action items for the first month if they were to be hired.
Inspire your clients to be proactive at every stage of the application vs. waiting for a response. Help them understand that an online job application puts them in the pool of 100-200 other applicants and an interview invitation puts them in a pool of 2-6 other competitions. What will they do to keep standing out?
Throughout the process of working with mature workers, remind yourself of where they are coming from and how this informs their current motivation, approaches or challenges. By showing your understanding and acknowledgement of their current state, you can help them adopt new ways of looking for work faster, while finding the best approach for each individual.
Tanya Mykhaylychenko is a resume writer with a background in university teaching and IT staffing. She is a member of Editors Canada and Career Professionals of Canada.
Labour markets across the world were already experiencing profound shifts and changes before the onset of COVID-19 – a process which has since accelerated. With young people especially vulnerable to unemployment in the changing world order, it is critical that they receive the best possible career support. Parents and carers of these young people also need support from career professionals, so that they can maximize their ability to help.
Aninternational study, undertaken from 2019 to 2020 in the UK, found that parental engagement in career education and support is moving away from passive forms of involvement and information giving, to creating spaces for active engagement, collaboration and communication among parents, carers and educational institutions. What does this research tell us about how we can adapt our practice to best integrate parents and carers into career development support? This article summarizes some key findings and discusses implications for practice.
Learning from others
Increasingly, the careers community is being expected to justify its practice by basing it on robust evidence of what works. This study revealed that, unfortunately, formal, large-scale, longitudinal evaluations of the integration of parents and carers in career practice have not yet been conducted. However, the study has brought together a range of experiential evidence from which we can learn about various practices.
Where and how are parents/carers integrated into career development activities to support young people? In Canada, the Explore your Horizons intervention provided high school students with enhanced career planning and information about the costs and benefits of post-secondary programs. The program was delivered through voluntary, after-school workshops beginning in Grade 10 for students and their parents. It was designed to enhance career education in the school by helping students improve their knowledge of the role of post-secondary education and provide guidance to their parents on how to support them through this process. A combination of interventions (workshops, financial aid, career guidance, resilience training) was found to be most effective. Significantly, there was an increase in high school graduation rates and post-secondary education enrolment among underrepresented students, including those from low-income families.
“Parents and carers of these young people also need support from career professionals, so that they can maximize their ability to help.”
In the UK, the Brilliant Club also aims to increase the number of young people from under-represented backgrounds to progress to higher education. It is a structured program of funded activities for young people that have been designed to develop the career aspirations of academically able young learners. Some schools have adapted these activities to include parents and families. As a result of engagement in the program, young people were reported to have greater engagement in the school’s curriculum and their parents/carers had gained a shared sense of achievement. Practitioners working on the program recognized that it was useful to have LMI knowledge about future opportunities in order to challenge ideas and dated information that some parents/carers had about particular educational pathways.
Further examples of interventions and activities from Australia, Czechia, France, Hong Kong, Netherlands, the US and the UK are presented in the report.
The research evidence helps us to crystallize what we know, and what we need to know, about successful parent/carer engagement in career programs. Specifically, strategic leadership and management support emerge as key factors. Parental involvement in the design of career engagement activities is also important, as well as targeted, personalized communication to parents/carers. Training for staff in schools and colleges in how best to communicate with and engage parents/careers was considered valuable and needed.
Additionally, mixed programs (both online and face-to-face) that involve a range of activities and events are more likely to succeed in engaging parents/carers. Programs, where parents/carers and young people have a shared careers-related experience, are a good way of enabling a conversation about educational and career pathways. Finally, ongoing monitoring and development for sustaining improvement are essential. National policies and strategies that identify how the education system could engage parent/carers were found in Denmark, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. Such policies typically facilitate career support, rather than making it mandatory.
The study highlights challenges to parent/carer engagement in career support. For example, the timing of events often conflicts with parents’ working hours. There are also issues around the general lack of time, space and resources available in educational institutions. Despite difficulties, details of initiatives in various countries and promising practices can be found in the research and practice reports linked to this study. The strongest messages from the study are:
Using technology, since this offers ways of communicating, disseminating and enabling access to information for parents/carers.
Redesigning existing activities, such as careers fairs and careers open days, to involve parents, wherever possible.
Creating parent-friendly environments with activities to draw parents/carers into schools and colleges, such as breakfast clubs and coffee mornings.
Designing new activities in the community and in collaboration with other schools and colleges that engage parents/carers, employers and the local community to build parental knowledge and skills.
Creating a space and opportunity for shared conversations between parents/carers and young people through careers workshops and personal guidance sessions, which can be a good way of parent/carers’ learning about careers and starting a dialogue with their young people about their educational and career pathways.
Undoubtedly, parent/carer engagement in careers is important, with a need for them to be “career aspirants” (i.e. supporters of education and career pathways and providers of accurate information). It is also important to remember that they are likely to have different expectations and needs at different points in their young people’s career development, so there is a challenge in how to communicate information ensuring it is of interest and relevant.
The study has evidenced that parents/carers have the single-most powerful impact on a young person’s career development, values, attitudes and self-concepts. Career professionals need to understand how to maximize their influence as a positive force. Even before the onset of COVID, some governments were interested in finding out what policies and resources ensure that career practice maximizes opportunities to integrate parents/carers into career development programs. Pilot programs are needed to build a stronger evidence base on which to take careers practice forward.
JENNY BIMROSE AND SALLY-ANNE BARNES With over 40 years’ experience in higher education, researching, managing and teaching at postgraduate level, Professor Jenny Bimrose has extensive international experience of research management and consultancy. Her ongoing research relates to the effective use of labour market information in career guidance practice, supporting the use of ICT by professionals in careers and employment practice, and the role of careers guidance in the career biographies of people making transitions into and through the labour market. | Dr Sally-Anne Barnes is Reader at the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick managing and working on a range of projects in the careers field. Her international research projects have investigated the transformation of careers and the labour market, plus how individuals engage with lifelong guidance and learning across the life course, navigate the labour market and the narratives around these transitions and decisions.
When you are unaware of self-limiting beliefs, your most fitting career choice will likely remain out of reach.
BY ANDREA S. KRAMER AND ALTON B. HARRIS5 MINUTE READ
We normally think of stereotypes as preconceived ideas we have about other people because of their gender, race, domestic situation, or other social identity.
However, we also have stereotypes about ourselves because of our own social identities. Thus, we are likely to unconsciously hold assumptions about our own skills, available opportunities, and appropriate goals. These assumptions are the result of the gender stereotypes we have internalized throughout our lives. Unfortunately, these stereotype-driven assumptions frequently foster negative preconceptions about our abilities and prospects, creating what we refer to as self-limiting biases. For example, as a woman, you tell yourself you are not good at math, or computer science is not an appropriate pursuit for you, or negotiation would not fit your abilities. And as a man, you might think you are not good at emotional expression, or nursing is not an appropriate pursuit, or you would be a poor human resources manager.
Negative assumptions like these can cause you to restrict the type of activities you pursue, circumscribe the possibilities you believe are open to you, and make you anxious and uncertain when faced with new tasks or ones about which you doubt your ability.
Take one well-documented phenomenon: Men typically apply for jobs when they meet approximately 60% of the stated job criteria, but women typically won’t apply until they feel they meet 100% of the criteria.
Women’s hesitancy in such situations is due, in part, to uncomfortable feelings associated with hirers scrutinizing their abilities; they feel more comfortable when the requested abilities are precisely the ones they possess. For the same reason, women often choose career assignments and positions that involve less risk, lower visibility, fewer challenges, and less responsibility than those chosen by their male colleagues—all situations which reflect instances of self-limiting bias.
The concept of “stereotype threat” is often the trigger for self-limiting bias. For example, a stereotype threat is at play if a woman becomes anxious or uncertain about her abilities when expected to perform a task around which there are strong male stereotypes—say, one calling for leadership, competition, or self-promotion. Likewise, stereotype threat might cause a woman to be uncomfortable and apprehensive in a situation in which gender is highly salient—say, negotiating against a man, leading a team composed primarily of men, or being one of only a few women in a large meeting (whether virtual or in person). And stereotype threat is likely to be the primary cause when a woman believes—unconsciously—that her gender takes her out of running for certain career pursuits (roles in engineering, investment banking, or construction come to mind), which are not “right” for her like other roles (such as careers in teaching, publishing, and fashion) may be.
Another example, if a woman believes women are not particularly skilled negotiators but adequate administrators, she is less likely to volunteer to work on a major merger or acquisition over offering to, perhaps, develop a new employee training system.
SELF-LIMITING BIAS AND GENDER SEGREGATION
The substantial gender segregation among job types in America is frequently attributed to the “demand side” of the process, such as employers’ decisions about whom they will hire, welcome into the fold, and later advance in the company.
There is some recent evidence, however, that “supply-side” factors play a role. That is, women’s and men’s personal decisions about where they want to work and what they want to work at contribute to this segregation. For example, 80% of social workers are women but only 15% of computer programmers are. Unquestionably. this is not entirely the result of demand-side factors. Past research studies appear to bear this conclusion out. Women MBA graduates were found to be far less likely to apply for jobs in finance and consulting than were comparably credentialed men. The researchers concluded that the women’s choices were due in large part to their concluding finance and consulting were not “appropriate” for them because of the strong male stereotypes associated with these pursuits.
COMBATTING SELF-LIMITING BIAS
We are pointing out the existence of extreme gender career segregation not to suggest that some career pursuits are better than others but to alert you to the need to think carefully about whom you are and whom you want to be before making serious career choices. You should be certain these career choices are not being inappropriately limited by internalized stereotypes and misgivings about your abilities simply because of your gender. To keep you from unnecessarily limiting your career choices and advancement opportunities, here are some helpful techniques to take on.
Do a self-analysis. First of all, it is essential to understand when and why you experience threats around stereotypes. If you can recognize the presence of stereotype threat, you will realize the anxiety you are experiencing has nothing to do with your lack of ability and is more about your personal preconceptions. In this way, you will transform your anxiety from self-doubt to something more akin to stage fright, which can become a source of energy, heightened awareness, and improved performance.
Take differences out. A second thing you can do to combat self-limiting bias is to view situations in which gender is highly salient through a nongendered lens. Don’t think, “I am the only woman in this meeting,” but something like, “I am one of only two MBAs in this meeting” or “I am the most experienced person for this job.” In other words, in these situations, think about your strengths, background, and potential—not your gender.
Humor yourself. Finally, keep in mind that a sense of humor is always a useful coping method to self-limiting bias. By bringing humor to difficult, unfamiliar, or just plain uncomfortable situations, you can diminish your negative emotional reactions and increase your performance capabilities.Using humor to cope with self-limiting bias is not about laughing the situation off, but rather cultivating an attitude that sees gender stereotypes not just as discriminatory and limiting, but slightly ridiculous, too. For there is something truly laughable about anyone believing in the 21st century that women are poor negotiators, lack ambition, or cannot be effective leaders. When you can see the absurdity of gender stereotypes, around your own gender and those of the opposite, you are far better able to reimagine uncomfortable and stressful choices as opportunities not dangers.
By being aware of your own internalized stereotypes, as well as how to fight these problematic limitations, you can unlock more activities you want to pursue, reduce personal anxiety, and discover more about yourself.
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