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Job Boards vs. 'People Searching'

June 12, 2009

(Alice Itty manages the PND job board. This is her first post for PhilanTopic.)

Up-trend-arrow I came across a blog post by Dan Schawbel recently that resonated with me. Schwabel, a Gen Y marketing professional and author of the Brazen Careerist blog, takes a dim view of the usefulness of online job boards. Instead, he favors an unplugged approach he calls "people searching." A "people searcher" methodically identifies the top companies or organizations she wants to work for, finds people who are employed at those companies, and networks like crazy until she gets a job offer. Schawbel's post spells out the ten steps a jobseeker should take to get the process rolling.

Okay, I'll admit it, after reading the post I was a little nervous. I've spent the last eight years of my professional life posting jobs (among other responsibilities) to the PND job board, and from where I sit there's still a place for a service like ours.

Sure, if you want to stand out from the crowd -- especially in these recessionary times -- you have to schmooze and network and, like Blanche DuBois, rely on the kindness of friends and acquaintances, if not strangers. But for the newly unemployed, many of whom are overwhelmed by the prospect of having to find another job, online boards are a convenient and comfortable place to start their search.

They're also a handy, if completely unscientific, barometer of what's going on in the economy. I've been tracking the number of submissions to the PND job board for almost eight years and while I hesitate to call our board a proxy for the nonprofit economy, I do think the numbers have an interesting story to tell. Submissions had grown steadily over the last few years, with 2007 being a banner year for the board, with just over 6,200 jobs jobs submitted. But submissions started to tail off in December of 2007, just as the mainstream media was suggesting the economy had slipped into recession. The number of submissions continued to decline in the first half of 2008, and then, coincident with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, things fell off the table, with the number of jobs submitted during the last three months of the year down 25 percent, 50 percent, and 44 percent, respectively, compared to the previous year.

I'm not going to say the worst is behind us, but the number of jobs submitted to the board has been trending slightly higher since March and suggests that the "green shoots" everyone is talking about may not be a mirage. Who knows, maybe the nonprofit sector -- which, as a recent report suggests, has become the largest private employer in New York City, adding more than 50,000 jobs to the local economy between 2000 and 2007 while the rest of the city’s private economy lost jobs -- may lead us out of the funk we've been in. Not likely, but given massive spending by the government, the growing needs of so many people, and the generosity of Americans, I wouldn't say it's impossible.

In the meantime, if you work at a nonprofit with a job to fill, the PND job board is a great place to start. Postings, which stay on the site for two months (unless you instruct us otherwise), are free for all domestic nonprofit and educational organizations, and will even feature your logo if you ask.

-- Alice Itty

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Posted by Bruce Trachtenberg  |   June 12, 2009 at 05:55 PM

Interesting post. Here's another data point...for the past several months I've seen a major drop in jobs submitted for posting to the Communications Network job board. Recently there's been a slight uptick, but up until now, most have been associate level positions. But, now I'm seeing openings for more senior candidates -- not many department heads -- but it's a trend upward. Maybe people are looking to the future.

Hope so.

Posted by Rob Johnston  |   June 13, 2009 at 11:03 AM

Great post, Alice. Would it be possible to show the listing progress graphically? I watch the weekly jobs posted number in the Job Bulletin and can imagine a graph showing weekly or monthly postings over the last few years.

Posted by Alice   |   June 13, 2009 at 02:27 PM

Rob, thanks for the kind words. Let me speak with Emily and Mitch to see if we can come up with something.

Posted by Alice  |   June 13, 2009 at 02:30 PM

Hi Bruce,
I'm noticing a similar trend in the kinds of job we're receiving, too. Let's hope things will continue to look up!


Posted by Laura Carter  |   June 15, 2009 at 11:43 AM

So, how many people out there know Blanche DuBois?
Some of us older folks do.
I think many nonprofits are restructuring. This is not a bad thing for the organization, even though it might be bad for some individuals. Different skills sets are also needed. I say learn or fall behind.

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