While the job market is actually doing pretty decently these days, on a macro level, make no mistake about it — there are still plenty of folks struggling to find gainful employment.  In particular, there are certain types of candidates that generally have to fight through an extra degree of difficulty when it comes to landing interviews and job offers. Older workers and executives, for example, frequently experience longer-than-average transition times due to “overqualified” concerns and other factors.  The same can be said for military veterans transitioning to the private sector.  Or people with disabilities.  Or folks who have been unemployed for long periods of time, voluntarily and involuntarily, including parents returning to the workforce after taking a number of years off to focus on their family.

In dealing with these constituencies every day in my coaching practice, I can assure you that many don’t feel the current job market is a very robust, friendly, or equal-opportunity place at all — no matter what the statistics say.  In fact, most are shocked to discover how fickle the majority of companies have come to be and how little prior successes and career experience seem to count if you don’t  fit the “perfect mold” in terms of recent skills, qualifications, and experience.

Luckily, not everybody is throwing their hands up in surrender around these realities.  Certain organizations, and individuals, are starting to proactively combat some of the closed-minded thinking that’s preventing many individuals from making a living — as well as, ironically, preventing many companies from acquiring the talent they need to flourish and grow.

My latest inspiration on this front is a local Seattle individual named Mike Kelly, to whom I was recently introduced.  While I’ve only chatted with Mike briefly on the phone, to date, I came away with tremendous respect for what he is accomplishing with his non-profit organization StepNW.  In short, having witnessed numerous Microsoft layoffs taking place at the exact time local startups seemed to be chronically complaining about a lack of talented personnel to hire, he got to wondering why these startups weren’t actively seeking to hire the former Microsofties or other displaced workers from large local technology enterprises.

His discovery?  Nobody was facilitating the right introductions between these communities, for starters.  But beyond that, he also observed that a certain amount of bias taking place in terms of the startup community assuming, erroneously, that many folks from the bigger companies wouldn’t be interested in working for a small, entrepreneurial firm — or that they didn’t have the flexibility, skills or strengths needed to add value.  So he decided to attack this problem by forming an organization dedicated exclusively to getting these two communities talking together, catalyzing what he hoped would be some win/win outcomes and strong net job growth.

To date, it sounds like his venture is gaining tremendous traction — and for what it’s worth, here’s a quick description of what StepNW is all about:

“StepNW is made up of members from the startup and tech community who decided to help unite the Pacific Northwest tech community and it’s talented workforce. We learned that while experienced people can have a hard time finding work, there are lots of solid startups who are having a hard time finding the right expertise. But there was nothing to link these two groups effectively. We want to help people caught in layoffs find jobs and we want the startup community to thrive.”

Still wondering how this model might work?  Or what the “catch” might be?  Or how to get involved in it, if you yourself are a displaced professional from the enterprise tech world or a startup founder seeking talent?  If so, you’ll find all of these questions answered, and more, by the FAQ section of the StepNW website, which I’ve linked here.

I could go on and on at how impressed I am by the innovation being shown here, and the commitment Mike and his partners are making to break down some job-killing stereotypes, but I think the organization’s website largely speaks for itself — and would encourage anybody interested to check it out, along with the many ongoing events and resources it contains.  Let’s hope we see some more fresh thinking and leadership sprout up along these lines, in the years to come, designed to support some of the other populations out there who are getting short shrift in today’s market…