March can be the highest point in the young lives of graduating college students. It is the month when they happily march up the stage with their proud parents. On the way down the stage steps, they daydream of starting a high-paying job and fulfilling their wildest ambitions. After all, these are the reasons for all the hard work they put in over the last few years.
But then reality sinks in: there are two hurdles to overcome before their dreams become reality: choosing and applying for a job. These are very important steps that are often taken too lightly by most applicants. In fact, this is the time to deeply reflect the career one wants to establish and not just what’s available.
In screening candidates for sales positions, I noticed that some applicants have no idea of the job they are applying for. Many times, these applicants do not even know what kind of careers they want. When questioned, they respond: “whatever vacant position is available” or “any position that fits my qualifications.” This disconnection often results in these same employees having very short and unproductive stints with the company.
In the mid-2000s, a large number of students pursued nursing degrees only to find out upon graduation that the demand for nurses was almost exhausted. Unable to find nursing jobs abroad and unsatisfied with local compensation, these graduates began applying for jobs far from their field. Some of these graduates applied and were accepted in our company. While I was looking for business graduates, we had a hard time finding the right applicants. As a result, even if we conducted two weeks of rigorous sales training, our new hires struggled with the concepts taught to them and, in the end, most of them still failed to perform satisfactorily. This is a classic example of a job mismatch.
Arne L. Kalleberg 2008 article “The Mismatched Worker: When People Don’t Fit Their Jobs” discusses the importance of identifying a mismatch. He believes that when there is a mismatch or lack of fit, a variety of difficulties are likely to result for workers and their families as well as for employers and society. Here are some of the types of mismatches:
• Skills and qualifications — being overqualified or underqualified. Overqualified means having a bachelor’s or master’s degree when it’s not required for the position. Underqualified means one does not have the skills and experience to fulfill the duties and responsibilities set for the job.
• Geographical or spatial location — happens when people are unable to go to work due to their inability to transfer to a different location and being assigned to a job with differences in culture.
• Overworking and underworking — overworking happens when an employee works more than the desired time, multitasking and preferring to work more than is required. Underworking is when the person works fewer hours, not maximizing the working hours needed for the job.
• Inadequate earnings — applies to those who receive below minimum wage or when companies do not pay for government-mandated benefits. Ironically, even some highly paid managers feel that they do not earn as much as they deserve.
• Conflicts between work and family — this happens when home-related fatigue and frustrations affect work performance and vice versa.
These mismatches have negative consequences for both employees and their organizations. Employees who are mismatched with their jobs are usually highly stressed and unproductive. Often, they have no choice but to remain in their jobs due to financial needs. I often hear colleagues and friends that they feel underpaid and undervalued for multitasking. When they can no longer stand their situations, they end up resigning in the hopes of finding a job that is a better fit. Mismatches increase the hiring and training expenses of companies that encounter high turnover. The competitive advantage of these organizations may also be reduced because mismatched employees are not the best performers.
I think companies should find ways to avoid staffing their employees to mismatched jobs. By doing so, they will ultimately avoid high employee turnovers and even ensure a happier and more productive workforce. The government can also work to reduce “bad jobs.” Policies that encourage businesses to create jobs that require higher skill levels, provide living wages, and allow workers to have more flexibility over their working time will go a long way in reducing these mismatches.
So, to those entering the workforce soon, congratulations on your graduation. I hope you heed Steve Jobs’ advice: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
Faye Lorraine Lumanas is an MBA student of the De La Salle University Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. This article was written as part of the requirements of the course Strategic Human Resource Management.