Stop Pussyfooting Around


Imagine what public reaction might be if when commenting about the President's plan to create new jobs, corporate CEOs would say, "We prefer not to hire the unemployed because they are unqualified and deserve to be jobless."  Ouch!

While employers are wise not to make comments like this in public, UCLA researchers have confirmed this is how they think in private. From the employer's point of view, the most desirable recruits are the currently employed. Among the least desirable are the long-term unemployed, which represent about half of the total US jobless. Are these people truly unqualified?

According to reports published by the Pew Research Center on the psychological effects of long-term unemployment, employers may be correct. Just because a person has impressive credentials, this alone does not mean he or she is qualified to perform well. After months of struggling with rejections, neglect, loneliness and discourteous treatment, the unemployed lose hope and suffer from increased sadness, depression and ill health. Their diminished self-esteem contributes to their reduced self-motivation, optimism and resilience to persevere and perform well; hence their lack of qualification, undesirability and prolonged unemployment.

This is not a new revelation. The media have been talking about the damaging effects of long-term unemployment for years, which raises an important question. If our government knows the unemployed are suffering to the point their performance is impaired (as evidenced by how many have stopped looking), what is being done to systematically address the psychological effects of long-term unemployment so the jobless are able to compete more effectively for fewer jobs?

The answer to that question is, very little to nothing; otherwise, we would not be in this mess or discussing this persistent problem. Nor does the President's new job plan address this matter, except to provide a tax incentive to employers that hire who they suspect are unqualified. That should go over well, as should this. The new jobs bill makes it illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of their employment status. We will see how that flies. The truth is, despite all the hype about helping the jobless, state budgets used to assist the unemployed are shrinking, and so are their programs and staff. If you ask jobseekers, they will tell you we are doing less as the problems become worse. Here is the point: Creating new jobs and extending unemployment benefits has not and does not directly address the psychological needs of the unemployed; nor does making it illegal to discriminate against people because they are jobless. Once the government concludes those efforts, the jobless will still be hurting emotionally, and employers will still perceive them as undesirable. We are treating the symptoms rather than curing the problem.

Here are the limitations of the training now provided to the unemployed:

  • State governments and academic institutions do a good job developing people's skills required to look for jobs, their occupational and job search skills, but do nothing to develop the mental skills people rely on to persevere and perform well until they can find jobs. In the past, we could squeak by without that specialized training, but not during the worst job market since the Great Depression.
  • Employers do not make hiring decisions based on a person's occupational or job search skills. Those basic skills are required for consideration. To qualify for hire, jobseekers must possess the necessary mental skills to establish relationships and achieve consistently good results despite their circumstances. Employers refer to this as having the right fit and chemistry. Interviewers assume, if people lack those mental skills when searching for jobs, they will lack those skills after starting a job. There is no business justification to hire them.

My mission involves bringing this deficit in mental skills training to the attention of the Military, the Department of Labor, the President's Council on Jobs, state governments, state workforce organizations, and to academic institutions and non-profits. While these entities are not entirely oblivious to this skills gap, they are not taking action to close the gap either.

As my old boss used to say, we are pussyfooting around - fixing the same problems every year we thought we fixed the year before. As a nation, we are teaching people how to look for jobs, but ignoring the mental skills they rely on to persevere until they can find jobs. As their search for work continues unsuccessfully, and their optimism and performance deteriorate, we then ask employers to create jobs and hire them in a non-discriminatory manner, explaining we lack funding to develop the skills employers prefer. It is time we stop pussyfooting around.

The training to develop a jobseeker's mental skills already exists, and Illinois is the first state to make it widely available to all their residents. I developed that improved training and if you think your state should provide it, I would like you to send me an email.

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Jeff Garton Jeff Garton is a best-selling career author, organization consultant, career coach and speaker. He specialized in Human Resources for the Philip Morris Companies where he led the global staffing functions for Kraft Foods and the Miller Brewing Company.

Jeff is noted for pioneering the field of Employment Mindset to achieve Career Contentment. These topics show you how to have and enjoy a meaningful career despite challenges and circumstances that can't always be made satisfying. His groundbreaking research, published works, and innovative training programs are helping struggling workers and the unemployed rise above challenges posed by the stagnant economy and difficult job market. His efforts to increase people's hope, optimism, and resilience have been featured on Fox Business, ABC Sunday Morning, NPR Radio, the Wall Street Journal, Modern Medicine, Chief Executive Magazine, and Chief Learning Officer Magazine.

In addition to servicing his corporate clients, Jeff is on a mission to expand the existing job search training currently being provided to returning veterans and their spouses by the Department of Labor's One Stop Career Centers. His Employment Mindset training goes beyond the same old employment tips and tools used to find a job, and teaches you how to fulfill an employer's unpublished expectations related to right fit and chemistry; things that if you don't know, you don't get the interview or job offer.

Jeff lives in Chicago with his wife and two teenage sons. You can visit his website at and his Facebook page at If you would like more information about Employment Mindset training, or would like to voice your support for veterans to receive this new training, send an email to:

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