The Employment Opportunities List

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23.4 Percent

For a while now, I have been looking for a statistic on the unemployment rate of HR Professionals in the GTA.

No one seemed to have one, and then I got this idea.  I’ll use LinkedIn to figure this out.  After all, my LinkedIn connections represent a fair cross section of those in the profession.

Using my LinkedIn barometer, it turns out that 23.4% of my HR connections are unemployed.

I am not deluding myself. I am sure the pundits will have a field day with how I came up with this calculation.  My belief is that they will say that the calculation is flawed and the result is that unemployment is overstated.

In the interest of transparency, let me explain how I made this calculation.  I couldn’t just press a few buttons.  I had to make the calculation the old-fashioned way.  I found a blank piece of paper and made two columns, employed and unemployed.  I then went into my LinkedIn contacts and started tallying.

I made the calculation on January 6, 2011.

A person was counted in the employed column if he/she was in the HR field, lived in the GTA, and had an HR job listed in the current employment field.  A person was counted in the unemployed field if he/she was in the HR field, lived in the GTA, and did not have an HR job listed in the current employment field.   I had to sometimes make a judgement call on this.  For example, if I personally knew that the individual was unemployed and had not updated their LinkedIn, I would count them in the unemployed column.  Also, independent contractors were counted as employed, even if it may be the case that they did not have a gig right at the moment.   I counted people who are in the search field or payroll as being in the HR field.

The group size is 542 HR professionals.

There are those who might say that this is an overrepresentation on the basis that people who are looking for employment are more likely to be using LinkedIn.

To those individuals, I say this.  I have been using LinkedIn for six years.  I’ve been connecting to people all along.  My connections aren’t all recent, nor are most out there actively seeking employment.  There is a steady flow of updates all the time and I know people convert from unemployed to employed, and vice versa, regularly. I believe my connections are a fair representation of HR Professionals at all points in their careers.

In addition, we all know that it is more difficult to find employment in a bad economy when we are unemployed, therefore, there is a real potential that the calculation of unemployed is also under-calculated because people don’t always immediately change their employment status (or tell me that they are looking).

There are also those who might say that this is an over-representation on the basis that I have connected with lots of people on LinkedIn who are IEPs (internationally educated professionals).  There are reputable statistics from Stats Can that show that IEPs have had a more difficult time finding employment. While it may be true that some of my connections are IEPs, it should be noted that as a demographic they make up a portion of our field, and their challenges should not be discounted.

If you have some time, you should try this exercise yourself.  You might be very surprised as what you learn.  Personally, I was shocked.  I generally have some level of connection with my connections on LinkedIn.  They aren’t strangers to me. I was overwhelmed by the level of underemployment.  I was astounded at the number of people I know who were in Director positions four years ago that are now doing Generalist-level work.  Or, even more profound, I’m bowled over by the number of people working for the government or the not-for-profit sector.  I mean no disrespect when I comment about working for the government, but if HR is a hub of business, then having large portions of our profession working in the government is not a good sign of the health of our economy or our profession.

If there was a good news element to the research, it was this…  Many people I know who were out for awhile have found jobs.

The real question is, if unemployment is so high among our kind, what can we do about it?

Yep, I’m pointing the finger at ALL of us. If we are the great people I think we are, then we can come up with some solutions.  We have to pay attention.

Do we:

  • Admit we have a problem?
  • Improve our co-ops and mentoring programs to give new entrants better experience?
  • Paint a realistic picture for new entrants into the profession as to employment prospects?
  • Create better awareness in the industry on the value of HR in the workplace, especially at senior levels?
  • Lobby industry on the value of IEPs in the Canadian workplace?
  • Lobby for smaller government and privatization of key services?
  • Build upon the power of social media, Linkedin (even The EO List) and encourage everyone to do their part to pay-it-forward?
  • A combination of any of the above?

We can’t play a part in solving the problem unless we are prepared to have some dialogue about this.  This is after all OUR problem.

Back to the pundits—whether the number is 18% or 32%, does it really matter?  As long as it is bigger than in other professions, it is a problem.

What is your take?


  1. Hi Bonni,

    Happy New Year!

    Excellent article! I was surprised by the high number, but being one of your unemployed connections, I think it is totally accurate.
    I have been looking for work for 5 months now, after finishing a contract in the Public Sector. I have been to 12 interviews so far, but no offers yet. I think there are a lot of HR professionals looking for work right now. So it all comes down to the “fit”.

    A nice thing to do for the profession, would be to get back to the candidates, especially if they have been to one or two interviews. You will be surprised how many HR professionals have told me that they will get back to me “at the end of the week”, and I am still waiting to hear from them. So it will be nice, if we all take the courtesy to let candidates know that they are not the chosen one.

    One interesting article would be “How much does it cost to look for a job”.


  2. Bonni, you are always so proactive – always on the leading edge of the HR field. I also suspect that your numbers are spot on.

    Through my work at Graham Management Group and Career Professionals of Canada, I have found that the HR field is quite saturated. At GMG, many of my executive clients are considering transitioning out of positions into the HR field.

    In addition to the high unemployment rate due to the economy, we still have a great number of students taking HR programs in college and university.

    At CPC, we’re finding that many HR professionals are hoping to transfer their skills into career coaching, leadership coaching, and similar roles. I imagine that this is due to the high numbers of unemployed.

    In response to some of your thought-provoking questions, you have taken the first step in identifying the issue. I believe that it is critical that we paint a realistic picture for new entrants as to employment prospects. In parallel, we need to raise the understanding of the value of HR in the workplace especially at the executive level.

    Bonni, by creating the EO List, expanding to this exceptional blog, and by raising this issue you are already taking a much-needed step in helping the Canadian HR industry as a whole.

    Your number one fan,


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