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The Natural Assets That Workforce and Career Development Programs Miss

Job-seekers have community connections (what we call familial and developmental connections: family members, neighbors, former teachers, church members, etc.) that could be beneficial to their long-term economic mobility. Unfortunately, the occupations of many of these potential community career boosters remain unknown. Unfortunately, many workforce and mentoring programs place little effort in helping individuals strategically connect to these important sources of labor market information and career development support. Furthermore, these community assets are the ones to whom job seekers remain connected well after they have exited from program rosters.

In our five years of training hundreds of career development professionals, it’s surprising that 80% secured their current job through a connection but don’t have a curriculum or system to help the job seekers they serve to do the same. Job-seekers, like them, already know the people who will help them get a job. So how is your staff helping them knock on the door?

In the case of asset-based youth development programs, why not start with the assets young people have in their own back pockets? Those assets are their social capital.

Here’s a question we want and honestly answer: “How much time does your program spend helping job seekers identify the individuals they know who can help them build a bridge to future economic success?”

Many job seekers are directly or indirectly connected to company presidents and even local elected officials. In most cases, job seekers are less than one hop away from an influential person who can make a significant difference in their career. Our observations agree with the Small World Experiment in 1967, done by American psychologist Stanley Milgram (later known as the Six Degrees of Separation theory). This theory states that everyone and everything are six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world. In the cities where we work, it is more like job seekers are just one family dinner away.

We are not saying that building social capital is easy. First, job-seekers must know their network, and then the social capital building process can begin. It will be hard work, but so is filling out one hundred online applications and not getting a callback. The traditional employment application process insidiously infiltrates job seekers’ self-esteem while empowering corporate giants with data sets to further discriminate against populations that have already faced way too much discrimination in their lives.

It’s time to teach social capital building by modeling it. How did you get your job?

If you are interested in learning more about social capital framework, join us for a free Social Capital Webinar on:

When: Jul 12, 2022 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this meeting: