The Boxy Market: Time for a Shiny New Box?

Apparently most people agree.  The labor market right now is “boxier” than it has ever been and companies, for the most part, are looking for highly specialized workers who can come in and solve problems with a minimal amount of ramp-up time and training.  In fact, if you haven’t already checked them out, you might want to click here to read some of comments my last posting attracted.  As always, feel free to weigh in with your own observations, too, and help deepen the dialogue!

Today, however, let’s examine this topic from a slightly different standpoint.  As exasperating as it can be from a job seeker’s perspective to feel “boxed in” by the market, many companies are struggling with this issue, too, and are looking to recruit key people to come in and tackle certain problems — but they may not know exactly what to call these folks in today’s market.  Or how to find them.

Remember, the biggest bottleneck in the economy right now isn’t the lack of jobs.  It’s the gap between what companies feel they need, skill- and talent-wise, and what the current labor pool has to offer.  It’s not a demand problem, in other words, as much as it’s a supply problem.  Doubt me on this?  As evidence, the vast majority of the job hunters I chat with believe there are only about 3,000 to 10,000 open positions in Washington State right now, at most.  And yet, when I ask them to run a simple search on a site like, their jaw drops to discover that there are over 100,000 active job postings right now in this state alone!  Click here to see for yourself.  And sure, we could chip away at this number by agreeing that some percentage of these listings (5%? 10%? 20%?) are duplicates or perhaps not “real” jobs, but mere resume-fishing on the part of employers.  But to be fair, we’d then have to ALSO acknowledge that only a small fraction of all jobs ever get advertised.  So if there are over 100,000 posted positions on one website alone, how many actual jobs are there open in Washington right now, including the unadvertised ones companies are filling via recruiting firms or by word-of-mouth?

At any rate, that’s not really the main point of this post.  I just wanted to underscore that there are lots of new business needs that have emerged and that are “still in search of a name” so to speak, which makes it tough for employers to find and recruit appropriate candidates.  Try the following examples on for size, which I’ve rounded up in just a quick sweep of some of the local company websites I cover each month when compiling leads for my newsletter:

Customer Success Manager (Tableau Software)
Director, Knowledge Process Outsourcing (Russell Investments)
Customer Evidence Marketing Consultant (Projectline)
Programmer/Writer (Microsoft, Expedia, Edifecs)
Customer Care Development Coach (Clearwire)
Project Manager, Integrated Planning (Kforce)
Experience Designer (Adobe)
Manager, Business Analysis, Global Good (Intellectual Ventures)
Head of Earned Media (ZAAZ)
Consultant, First Sale Appraisement (Expeditors)
Office Planning Purchasing Coordinator (Nordstrom)
Sr. Statistician, Lifestage Planning & Traffic Analytics (Amazon)
Mobile Terminal Acceptance Test Manager (T-Mobile)
System Epic Organizational Readiness Lead (Providence)
Coding Compliance Educator (Catholic Community Services)
Change Control Specialist (Simplion Technologies)
Distribution Requirements Planner (Honeywell)
Analyst II, Indirect Branding (T-Mobile)
Global Employment Brand Manager (Starbucks)
Director, Green Building Portfolio Optimization (Paladino & Co.)

Now perhaps some of these jobs have been around for decades and I just haven’t heard of them.  But if I’ve never come across a single person who does any of above things for a living, after 18 years as a career coach, I reckon it’s highly unlikely there are tons of people who fit these “boxes” just running around out there on the street.  How about you?  Have you ever met somebody who did any of these roles, specifically, for a living?  Do you have teenage children at home saying things like “Dad, I know YOU wanted to be an astronaut — but I just can’t wait to be a ‘Customer Care Development Coach’ when I grow up!” or “Mom, what classes do I need to take in school to become a ‘Coding Compliance Educator’ someday?”

To be fair, there are definitely some newfangled-sounding jobs out there that represent a change in name only.  For example, you’ll see lots of companies out there looking for a “Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET)” — which is basically just a fancy new name for “software tester” that was invented my Microsoft (best I can tell) to make the job sound sexier than it really is.  You’ll also notice that “telemarketers” now tend to be called “inside sales professionals” and that “business analysts” are often now referred to as “business intelligence” specialists.  Yes, I realize there are some subtle distinctions here and there, but my point is that these types of careers aren’t necessarily brand-new ones the world has never seen before.  This makes them a bit different than those occupations (e.g. web analytics, online community manager, life coach) which have only come into existence (in a significant way) since the turn of the millennium.

The takeaway?  Pay attention to these changes in the market, since new boxes are opening up every day that represent new ways for people to make a living.  While some traditional career paths have fallen on hard times, or gone away completely, entirely new occupational niches are getting generated, every day, based on changes in market demand and the inevitable rise of new technologies and methodologies for getting things done.  And if you reinvent yourself into one of these new pockets, where there appears to be strong demand but little competition, it might be just the career booster rocket you need to get things back on track!

P.S.  One last thing — if you’re interested in the topic of this post, you might also enjoy the article you’ll find here called “10 Jobs that Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago” that was recently posted on Yahoo! Finance.  Make sure to read some of the comments below it, too, to enjoy some of the spicy debate that always takes place around this issue!


7 Responses to “The Boxy Market: Time for a Shiny New Box?”

  1. Devon: Thanks for your input and you’d think that, wouldn’t you? And definitely there is some cross-training that goes on in most larger organizations, but I still get the sense that the bulk of employers out there, in the small-to-mid-sized range, just don’t think they can afford the time/cost of retraining internal employees in these situations — preferring to cut “obsolete” people loose and try to rehire the exact skills they need from the outside. That’s the best I can tell, at least, from the outside looking in, given the cuts in training budgets reported at most companies. I agree, seems really silly and short-sighted, when they’ve likely already got folks on the payroll who would be eager to learn the new skills needed…

  2. Interesting post, can’t help but think about the possibility of sourcing talent that already exists in an organizations by enabling employees to shift projects or positions flexibly to gain the right skills for these newly emerging positions. Doesn’t that seem like a great way to go? I mean, these newer niche positions are most likely going to be filled by people with a range of experience that they can pull from to show their readiness, so doesn’t it make sense to groom the talent already existing in orgs? I think this could help with employee empowerment and motivation as well as reduce churn and would no longer require the resources necessary for external recruiting. What do you think?

  3. Cathy, I believe you are correct in that there are pre-selected candidates some % of the time. What is that % of the total postings? Who knows, there’s no way to validate that. My theory is that with larger companies, there’s a greater pool of people to pull from for promotion from within, and that’s a good thing, right? If that theory is correct, then small and medium-sized companies who are seeking employees are probably more “legitimate” since they need to infusion of skill sets that they don’t have in-house.

  4. Interesting article. I can’t help wondering how many of those job postings are genuine and how many already have a candidate selected, but are advertising to comply with EEO and other regulatory measures. It’s an old trick: write a job ad that’s so detailed and specific that only one person can meet this need.

    Job hunters need to maintain active networking and also look into ways to start their own businesses.

  5. Didn’t we use to call this type of required skill and talent: “…key people to come in and tackle certain problems” CONSULTANTS? LOL! This out-of-the-box thinker and doer is willing to take on whatever title they want to give me! Just give me the problems to solve!

  6. Wow, I recognize a few of those jobs (like Distribution Requirements Planner) but I have to agree Matt, some of these are incredibly niche positions.

    Jack of all trades, master of none need not apply.


  1. Job Market Gets Boxier » - Career Planning for Midcareer Professionals - March 14, 2011

    […] Matt Youngquist, a Seattle-based career counselor, just posted an interesting article about the changing job market. He points out that the job market is “boxier,” with employers seeking specific skills for jobs that are hard to define. You can read his post here. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: