Starting today through November 14, 2010, job seekers can visit the Monster.com Facebook page and post questions to the Obama Administration regarding America's employment climate. The intention is that questions that garner a lot of comments or rack up the "Likes" will be answered by the White House via video responses posted online. Mashable announced this news recently and the comments are already flowing. As with any high-profile partnership between the White House and say, anybody, questions abound. Most important among them, will this sort of forum truly benefit most out of work Americans
In October 2010, the number of unemployed persons remained at 14.8 million. The unemployment rate hovered at 9.6 percent and has been essentially unchanged since May according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Broken down by race, the unemployment rate of African-Americans is almost three times the rate of whites. A comparison of unemployment by education level in 2009 indicates that the higher degree of formal education you possess, your rate of unemployment decreases sharply. Does the Facebook demographic address those most in need of answers? How might the choice of venue skew the conversation?
While Monster.com is synonymous with job hunting, it accounts for only a small percentage of job search success. As AOL Jobs reported recently, the majority of jobseekers find employment via networking online. Add the fact that online recruiting is transitioning away from "The Big Three" job boards according to the TechCrunch article earlier this year on Monster's acquisition of Yahoo! HotJobs and it makes you wonder if this new initiative between the White House and Monster.com will reach the people it is most looking to reach?
A cursory review of the Monster's Facebook page less than 24 hours into this initiative reveals that people want to know about the obvious and blame rather than seek solutions (I paraphrase from some common questions):
- Is the unemployment rate really at 9.7% or more like 20% (translated -- why/is the government lying to us)?
- Why don't you extend unemployment compensation benefits again?
- It's the Republicans/Democrats/Tea Party fault, right?
That said there are some excellent and pointed questions that lead to a bigger conversation such as:
- I'm over the age of 50, and while technically it is illegal to discriminate based on age, why are so many of us in this age group unable to get hired?
- Can you talk about the offshoring of many jobs (including -- who knew? -- nursing)?
- What are the 99ers to do now? (This refers to people out of work 99 weeks who will face unemployment benefits ending.)
My quick review begs the question, is there any value in crowd-sourcing job-related questions or does this just create another avenue to vent and leave so many important questions unanswered? Jory De Jardins taught us how to do crowd-sourcing right earlier this year.
This was a whole new way for me to think of engaging communities and crowdsourcing, a practice that involves acting on the public input. It can often be abused when companies reach out to the public for ideas in an attempt to gain attention and not really to build on the pulse of their customers.
I know what I found in my own personal life -- and often that of my clients -- is that the crowd mentality is part of what leads us to career-despair in the first place. That "you should..." burden that leaves people breathless, clueless, and searching outside themselves for answers that can only truly be found on the inside. The Innovation Leadership Network has this to say:
Crowds can be useful, but also dangerous. Nassim Nicholas Taleb says that crowdsourcing should be avoided in situations where the potential payoffs are very complex, and when we don’t know what the outcome probability distribution looks like.
I would consider millions of individuals of all races, income levels, and skills to be complex, wouldn't you? So, do you think this tactic engages the right people and actually results in any action based on this input? I certainly don't have the answer to this question, but it is certainly worth starting a dialogue about.
That leaves us with the overall conundrum -- is this move by the White House a smart tactic? Is partnering with Monster.com a meaningful move in the effort to create more jobs or just window dressing? Will this latest experiment in social media by America's most tech-savvy administration to date move the country forward toward solving the problems of unemployment?
I suppose we will all have to stay tuned to find out what really happens, but in the meanwhile, would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. The dialogue is one worth having and it can start right here ...
Paula Gregorowicz is a career and business coach for women. She helps you discover what you most want to do with your life and cultivate the confidence to make that a reality through a savvy career transition or starting a businesses. Get your copy of the free eCourse 5 Steps to Turn Your Fear into Freedom for free.
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