The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
Everyone knows that in any business, the customer is always right. Figure out what the customer wants, and make sure he gets it. In the job-search business, many of my customers know exactly what they want. They want to call me and say, “I need a job. Do you know of any openings?” They want me to say, “Sure. ABC Co. is looking. Here’s the number, give them a call, and tell them I sent you.” They’ll make the call, get the job, and live happily ever after.
This scenario may inhabit the minds and may shape the expectations of many Jewish job hunters. After all, the Rambam says that giving someone a job is the highest form of tzedakah. And haven’t we all heard so many beautiful stories of kind businessmen who gave an unfortunate person a chance? (Even Louis Armstrong and Elvis!) There are so many business owners and professionals in our community. So here’s a mission for my Pathways to Parnassa: go around to all the Jewish businessmen, make a list of all the jobs they need filled, and create a “job bank.” Then let the job hunters call up, and make shidduchim! Even if it won’t solve the whole problem, it will help some.
So why not? It is a good idea. It will help some people. There are efforts under way to build such a job bank in the Far Rockaway- Five Towns area. But even if we build the best job bank in the world, it would provide only a small number of jobs, many of them requiring low skills and offering low pay. And as much as it might help, it can also keep people from finding jobs. This can happen in two ways.
The most obvious way that a job bank can hurt a job hunter is simply in the numbers. Let’s imagine that there are a thousand businesses operating in this area (I have no idea what the real number is), and all of them agree to list their openings in our job bank. On any given day, how many of those businesses are actually looking to fill an opening? Studies show that most small businesses hire only a few people each year—and that includes the low-paying jobs that are rarely filled by members of our community. (Should that change? Good question, but not one I can answer.) If there would be 50 jobs listed, that would be a lot. The odds that one will fit what each job hunter is looking for? Not great. Not even good. So discouraged, beaten-down job hunters will come to a place that “gets people jobs!” and they will get . . . nothing.
Promising results that can’t be delivered hurts people badly, but this job-bank idea can do something that is much worse: It fools people into thinking that this is the way to find a job. That jobs are like holes waiting to be filled by pegs. That getting a job depends on someone “giving you a chance,” or “seeing your potential.” While these things happen in storybooks, and maybe once in a while for real, waiting for them is like waiting for Godot (an imaginary character in a play; they are waiting for him to avoid admitting that they are really doing nothing).
Many people who want jobs are really “job waiters.” They send out résumés, answer want ads, visit people who might “give them a job.” Then they wait for . . . nothing. A real job hunter doesn’t let a minute pass without doing something that will bring him closer to the right job. Let’s be hunters. v
Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.