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Liquidity in Job Markets

For the past month or so, I have been  looking at job postings in my field of specialization – Geotechnical Engineering – across the US and Canada. During my searches, I noticed some general trends that the companies exhibit when it relates to the expectations and/or qualifications of the candidates they want. Most are what is to be anticipated for the corresponding position. But of all the different expectations listed, one particular aspect has many interesting collateral impacts for the overall job market. And that is the requirement of Experience.


In general, I noticed the following breakup in the job postings (I do not have hard numbers, but a constant exposure to the postings will pretty much confirm this):

  • Senior Geotechnical Engineer (40% of available positions): 10-15+ years of experience.
  • Intermediate Geotechnical Engineer (30-35% of available positions): 5-10 years of experience.
  • Junior/Entry Level Geotechnical Engineer (25-30% of available positions): 0-3 years of experience.

At first glance, the above description appears to be rather innocuous. A direct correlation between seniority of position and expected level of experience from the candidate is fairly obvious and definitely warranted. But this does not provide the complete picture. What needs to be looked at is that about 70% of jobs in the market are only for candidates who have experience in the range of 5-15 years or more. So what does this imply?

First, we have to understand where the labor supply – all experience levels – comes from and where they are currently and where they will be in the future. In the field of Geotechnical Engineering, I can think of a few hundred people graduating with a Master’s degree every year in the US, and a Master’s degree is pretty much a requirement for a career in Geotechnical Engineering. So that means there is a constant supply of maybe 200-400 eligible candidates every year for the Junior/Entry Level positions. For the sake of discussion, let us assume that all these graduates get an entry level job. (From my own experiences in trying to hire entry level candidates for my company, I can say that the demand exceeds supply. So this assumption is valid). And let us also assume that most, if not all, of the demand for the entry level/junior Geotech positions is fulfilled. So far, so good.

But this is where the fun starts. Because you see, unlike the constant supply of eligible graduates for Junior/Entry level positions, there is absolutely no such supply for the Intermediate and Senior level positions. The people graduating from colleges are unemployed and actively looking for entry level jobs. Companies are also actively looking to fill their junior/entry level positions. So there is a constant match between demand and supply for the entry level jobs.

But there is no such connection available between eligible candidates and the Intermediate/Senior positions. The ‘eligible’ candidates for these positions are typically already employed and lack any incentives to change jobs. The lack of incentive only increases with a person’s experience. That is, the longer a person spends time in a city or a company, they are unlikely to move away from either or both. People develop professional connections, drop roots in a community, buy houses, start a family and get settled in one place as they progress in their career.

If anything, the factors listed above only contribute to a ‘cost’ for the person if they were to consider changing companies and/or cities. And any company looking to hire for an Intermediate/Senior position will have to ‘compensate’ for that cost in some visible form – higher salary, higher position, faster career growth, better living/working conditions, etc. And it is not sufficient for the company seeking to hire the candidate to be just ‘better’ than the candidate’s current employer. They will have to be ‘significantly better’ since they will have to provide additional compensation for the ‘cost’ the candidate has to pay to change jobs.

All this points to a job market where the entry level positions are continuously filled and the intermediate/senior level positions are hard to fill. Most of the intermediate/senior level jobs typically stay open for a long time (several months). Anyone can login to any job platform and see this for themselves. In spite of this, one cursory look at the tone and content of the job posting requirements for intermediate and senior level positions reveals such a sense of idealism on part of the company seeking the candidates. There are typically such a large number of specific requirements listed for a candidate in these positions, one has to wonder exactly how successful are these companies in hiring people for this level?

And that is not even a rhetorical question from my side. I am genuinely interested to know what the success rate is for companies seeking to hire intermediate and senior level positions in a specific high skilled profession. What percentage of these positions actually get filled? How long are they typically open for? Do the recruiters ever relax their requirements? Do they promote someone from within the organization and/or give them additional responsibilities? Are the recruiters even aware of the nature of the job market? What do they do when they absolutely need someone?

Or in other words, exactly how liquid is the job market at the intermediate and senior positions for high skilled professions? 

These questions take me to yet more interesting aspects/impacts on the overall job market. In an illiquid job market, what does job creation even mean? Exactly how valuable is experience for a given role? How would/should one define skills shortage? And how should this be addressed? What should be the role of immigrants in such a situation?

These are questions I seek to address in future posts. Stay tuned.



Bliss Factor

It has been close to two months now, since I set foot here in America. Two months of experiencing something new and experiencing it first hand. And I like it here. Thats just it. I simply, like it here. Maybe its the small size of the town, or maybe its the nice climate, or maybe its the excitement of meeting new people. Perhaps, it may just be about how happy and contended I feel about my decision to come here. Whatever maybe the reason, I can, without any hesitation, say that I like it here



Perhaps I could attribute a major portion of my satisfaction to my program including the professors and the facilities that come along with it. Not to forget some very like minded classmates that I have been able to befriend. It is difficult to express the bliss I feel everytime I decide to study and find people around me actually encouraging me to spend time studying. This in contrast with all the mockery and ridicule I faced back in India during Undergrad while trying to do the same (And incidentally, unlike most of the other programs, I find that there is just one more Indian in my class). It really is something different to be in a position to decide to study at any point and actually be able to do it well. And the way ideas and concepts revealed themselves when I recently immersed myself in a topic for a few hours, reminded me of the long forgotten raw bliss, the experience of which was my only purpose in life. And now, when I realize that I really don’t have anything else on my mind and that  my greatest concern is about submitting my assignments on time, I am quite certain that this is the time when I can go back to fulfilling that purpose.

There have been a whole load of things that have definitely contributed to my bliss here. One of them, and inevitably I have to say, is alcohol. After discovering that Beer is cheaper than water here, my weekends have inevitably involved at least 2 l of Beer, the operative words being “at least”. The entire town just comes alive on Friday nights when every single person is likely to be found in some or the other pub/bar. If you want to see and appreciate the feminine beauty in this place, you need to necessarily visit downtown bars on a Friday night. Beer is really such an everyday concept that it is almost considered a taboo if you do NOT drink beer! And you will know you are in America when you find yourself drinking a whole load of beer and wine with all your professors in their home! In fact, that was part of the icebreaker arranged for everyone in my program and to which I had taken the Bhel Puri that I had prepared myself (Ellarigu Kadlepuri Thinnisdhe!!).

And then there is this whole new experience of seeing skin. You know it for a fact; you have been prepared for it; you have seen them in all Hollywood movies- but irrespective of all of that, when you see that extra piece of feminine skin in front of your own eyes, it is only then that you truly understand that you are indeed far, far away from home! Seriously speaking, sometimes you see some females wearing such clothes that you really wonder why they even need to wear whatever they are wearing. And everytime you feel you are getting used to it, there comes along a girl wearing a dress that makes you go “WTF??!!???” all over again. Not that I am complaining, but its just the fact I have seen more skin here in the past 2 months than I had seen in my entire life previously.

Technology and infrastructure take whole new meaning in here. The fear of getting sued for millions of dollars has probably put everyone on the path to perfection. And so you will find internet connections of 7Mbps which basically means that I (FINALLY) get to watch 4 Champions League matches simultaneously! Pandora and MySpace become the two new sources of music that I have never gotten tired of exploring. Of course, with all this, the price we pay is the inability to download torrents without ending up in jail. But I think I will settle for that.

And with regard to my food, about which I had cribbed so much last time around, I have to say that my culinary skills have vastly and very quickly improved. I find it extremely easy and nice to cook twice a day. And make no mistake here. I am not talking about bland stuff like rasam or Upma. I am talking serious cooking like Sambhar with different vegetables, different gravies, dal palak, dal, Akki Rotti, Veg Pulao, Peas Pulao, Shavige bath, Brinjal and Capsicum Bath, egg curry etc. I somehow am pleasantly surprised myself that I am able to cook everything with such ease.

And so, on the whole, I have to say that, contrary to my expectations,  I really don’t have anything to crib about here. And, having been at the receiving end of many plans-in-life-going-wrong, I am not setting any long term goals nor am I making any plans as to where I will be when. I am just going with the flow, letting the system take me wherever it is supposed to take me and all I am concerning myself with are my assignments and tests. Everything else seems to either fade away or just fall into place. Such a certainty in having made the perfect decision comes but very rarely……

And I am going to a METALLICA concert on October 17. LIFE IS GOOD…..FINALLY!