According to Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, every two day society creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.
By simply typing in a few key words and clicking the mouse, you have access to targeted job postings on online job boards, resume templates, interview coaching videos, posted networking events and career fairs.
Using LinkedIn, you can more effectively network with the hiring manager, have instant access to job tweets on Twitter, or watch a video on YouTube about interviewing skills.
Indeed, the challenge is not one of scarcity, but information overload. And personally, I’d rather have the latter and not the former.
Schmidt continues saying,
“The real issue is user-generated content,” Schmidt said. He noted that pictures, instant messages, and tweets all add to this.
That’s all good, right! I love UGC. It means topping command-and-control organizations that don’t get the “power of us”.
The Employment Center
As an Information Manager, my mind works a little different than some others.
I walk into my local employment center, see thousands of pieces of paper in the brochure rack organized by topic, but can’t find an easy-to-use “one-stop shop” online for the job seeker.
One paper is titled “Employment Agencies” and has contact information for two dozen centers. That’s great…but not enough.
I want to know what is happening at each of these centers today. Are they sponsoring a career fair, providing resume assistance or holding a regularly networking meeting.
There are no links I can click on. No search box to us. Not even a Web site address is listed for each of those centers. They may have one, but they aren’t listed.
Yes, there are MANY sites giving advice, counsel, tips for the job seeker. But they exist for each agency, organization and group trying to solve unemployment.
We need a COMMUNITY. We need a “one-stop” shop where all of this information exists.
Forgive me if I sound a little bold. But this post is as much about our being accountable to change what we are doing as it is about how we present information.
It even means judging the effectiveness our employment center, challenging assumptions about presentation, and learning more about what the possibilities are.
Why be hard on this problem? Because unemployment may be the greatest national risk we have. It may be the greatest challenge for families today and our families of tomorrow.
We have to rethink how we help people in the job search, be successful in their careers – or at least find opportunities to bring home a dollar at the end of the day.
If this is a “jobless” recovery, how do we get people back to work?
That’s an important question when you consider that some are losing their homes, marriages are breaking up, and some are doing things even more drastic.
For that reason, I am going to be really hard on how we solve the information overload problem – or opportunity.
Because people’s lives are at stake. And in a Web 2.0 world, we are now all accountable. My job is now your job. And your job is my job. Collectively, we need to all own this problem.
So what is my thesis?
The possibilities to present, organize, share and use this information go way beyond paper. It is also at the heart of the unemployment problem.
I believe that as long as someone – anywhere – has need of another person’s labors or skills, then there is a market for the worker.
We just need to connect more effectively the employer and the job seeker, whether that is for full-time, part-time or contract labor. It doesn’t matter.
When I see reams of unorganized paper in the form of brochures, pamplets, etc. it’s somewhat offensive to me because the job seeker does not have the time to sort through all of this!
They deserve better, especially if they are paying for it in taxes, time and effort. The job seekers time is ticking faster than anyone else’s clock.
And so being efficient in organizing that content is paramount to him or her.
But wait…you might argue that the 65 year-old senior citizen needs a job and doesn’t use the Internet. Therefore, we need to provide it for them.
But do we? If Uncle Mark can’t retire even though he’s reached so-called retirement age, and has worked around computers, shouldn’t we help Mark create a Gmail account, show him how to search the web, and fill out an online application.
(Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking worker who may hardly know how to get online. But I also don’t want to leave Mark. And we are effectively doing that if we don’t give Mark the best user experience in his job search that he deserves).
To be fair, the employment center I am talking about is free to the public and does provide a free computer for the job seeker to use. The provide career workshops that are very good, and even offer regular, face-to-face networking meetings.
I myself would concede that even the best online experience will probably never replace the importance of face-to-face interactions, the need for networking, etc. that ultimately gets the job seeker the job.
I’m not arguing against any of that.
I’m mostly observing that there is a LOT of paper in the center.
And it’s hard for the average person to assimilate and – forget the Internet! – you can feel overwhelmed looking at the mounds of paper hanging on the wall.
But I digress.
My beef is not with Mark, the employment center or even the need for paper. It is about creating the right user-experience – whether that is online or at their “brick and mortar” place.
Paper is still something tangible and can be easily taken with you. But if we take Schmidt at his word, the paper titled “Helpful Websites” is now outdated as soon as it’s printed.
At the center, I glanced at another brochure entitled “Surviving Unemployment” and found it contained very practical advice. But when I take it home, it likely be filed away somewhere or lost in the pile of coupons that came that day in the mail or I may even lose it somewhere in the bill folder.
So how does my online experience compare with my onsite experience?
With Google, I can search the magnificent Web on “how to survice unemployment” or type in “job websites” to get more links that I need or care to use.
And with gas prices at nearly $4/gallon, we need to demand a better user experience. Let’s take the paper on the shelves and get our information architect to create a social network for our customers. Best of all…they are almost all Free!
Once I register on many of these job sites online, I can create a target profile on a career job board and get notification of new jobs specific to my skills, experience and interests
I don’t have to go hunt it down.
That’s so old school.
I get that people some people can get even more lost online than they can in the center.
And so to be clear, I am not suggesting spamming the job seeker with even more information, but rather asking that we rethink how our best approach at presenting that information.
Fortunately, technology has outpaced our ability to keep up. And so we just need to solve the problem of how best to present it so that its useful.
The point is that we need to take a careful look at how we are going to manage, organize and search for this information so that it’s easily accessible when it is needed.
Google, iPADS, Facebook, RSS Feeds, Facebook Communities, Mobile Phones – social networks – are forcing us to ask these questions and are themselves providing the solutions.
These are smart phones because they provide targeted, personalize content that can filter out much of the undesired contant we are talking about.
I’m not naive enough not to know that this is already a big industry. Businesses like Adobe are already helping companies know about your browing history, preferences, etc.
It’s called Web analytics and “cookies” that gather this information are keeping track of your keystrokes right now so they can be analyzed and reported to marketers anxious to know all about you.
To be clear, I am not suggesting we need to divulge more of our personal lives to businesses – or the government – to play in this information age.
But if we can balance these security concerns with providing instant, personalized content, then we have arrived at the sweet spot, I believe.
You information architects, user interface designers and social media strategists will have to show us a better way.
Oh wait…that’s what I am. All right, try this out for size. I created it this morning from all those pages I saw on the board!
I just wanted some practice. I think the secret lies in a Facebook-like approach to content sharing.
What do you think?