Last Updated Jul 7, 2010 6:15 AM EDT
Here in this suburb of Cleveland, supervisors at Ben Venue Laboratories, a contract drug maker for pharmaceutical companies, have reviewed 3,600 job applications this year and found only 47 people to hire at $13 to $15 an hour, or about $31,000 a year.Yes, it's not the super VP job you were hoping for, but honestly, most of us aren't ready to be super VPs anyway.
Math is one of those skills that a lot of people lack. In fact, working with numbers in general tends to scare people. I often get e-mails from people asking me how to "break into HR." Well, I "broke in" by being able to do statistics.
I had a master's degree in political science, with a strong emphasis in statistics. Since you never see a "Help wanted: Political Scientist" sign in the window, I knew I needed to look outside my field of study. What I really wanted to be was a trainer. I knew that trainers often work in Human Resources departments, but how in in the heck was I going to get a job in HR?
Well, first, I went to a temp agency and asked to work in an HR department. "I'll do anything!" I said, and I meant it. If the temp agency had sent me to wash windows in an HR department, I would have done it. Instead, they placed me as an admin (I can type!), and for 6 months in a couple of different assignments I worked as an HR admin. Then, I saw a job posting. Job title? HR Metrics Specialist.
What on earth does an HR Metrics Specialist do? Well, I didn't know, but one of the qualifications was the ability to do statistics. That, I had. So, I applied, interviewed and was hired. My boss told me flat out that the only reason they had hired me is that I appeared to be the only person in the universe with a modicum of HR experience and the ability to do statistics.
Now, remember what I wanted to do? Training. What's my job in? Statistics. But, it was the right department and I got the knowledge, skills, and background necessary so that I eventually moved into a position that allowed me to do training.
The ability to do statistics landed me a job. Your ability to do a different unpopular skill may land you a job. If you already have an "unpopular" skill start looking for a job that utilizes that skill, even if it's not your dream job. Dreams are great. A job that pays you money is even better.
If you don't have one of these unpopular skills, do your best to gain them. If you don't know what is needed in your area, go to Monster.com and Craiglist and look through all the available positions in your area. See what jobs are available and then seek out those skills.
Because sometimes it isn't about who you know, it's about what you know.
Photo by Benjamin Chun, Flickr cc 2.0