Vacation in the Sun, But Get a Job in the Snow!

Vacation in the Sun, But Get a Job in the Snow!

The Hidden Trend in Employment

The job search process is daunting to say the least. As a job seeker there is almost no feedback on how you're doing as you fire hundreds of resumes into the aether. You feel like you're constantly trying to either pile the right keywords into your resume, or your eyes are glassing over as you play a similar keyword kabuki dance on job board sites. Everyone has advice on how to stand out or what the one 'secret' is to break through the noise. Well, it turns out you can turn the odds in your favor by simply heading for the cold.

Look a the simple heat map below that shows unemployment rates by state. It's not glaringly obvious, but there does seem to be a pattern. If you look closely you can see there is a north-south trend where the further south seems to have the higher unemployment. 


May 2012 Unemployment Rate by State (click to enlarge)

But delving deeper into the data shows that the trend is not one of geography, but of temperature. The chart below illustrates how unemployment rates in the US vary by the average annual temperature of the state. In the analysis below each dot represents a state and the blue trend line shows how the data correlates. What it tells us is that unemployment rates can vary by over 2.5 percentage points (or 30% of the current national average) by just moving from a warm state to a cold one. 


State Unemployment Rate as a Function of Average Temperature (click to enlarge)

How Can This Help Me?

What this means for your job search is both simple and powerful -- refocus your job search to colder climates. It sounds simple, but there are some important things you need to factor into this change in strategy:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the culture in these regions. You are going to have to interview and, hopefully, work with these people, so it will show great initiative if you can speak and act like them. People favor different sports in colder climates versus warmer, so learn the colloquialisms of cold weather sports like hockey and competitive ice fishing. Those that live in the cold also favor different food and drink. As a rule of thumb consider substituting a portion of fruit or vegatables with a fried meat or beer-boiled-sausage, as well as learning the many advantages of root vegatables.
  2. Target high potential industries. The industry focus in colder climates is shifted compared to warmer. For example if you're a pool boy at a Miami resort you may find limited lateral opportunities, but there are thriving taxedermy and brewery industries to explore.
  3. Prepare yourself for the change. Even the simplest adjustments can make your transition more successful. Consider adapting your wardrobe by purchasing coats and hats in the summer when prices are lower. Another help will be to start spending less time in the sun to allow your body time to adjust to the decrease in vitamin D.

Is This For Real?

Of course not, but it is eerily similar to the vacuous recommendations on so many 'job' sites. The analysis above is an example of confusing correlation with causality. Just because there is a correlation in the data doesn't mean there is an underlying causal link.

When some expert looks at pool of resumes and finds that 'the majority of candidates that get highered included references in their resumes', it does not mean that including references in a resume caused them to be hired. We all see recommendations like this all the time: keep your resume to one page; don't limit your resume to one page; always wear [insert random fashion hint here] to your interview; include a career objective; don't include a career objective; and the list goes on. This doesn't mean that these authors are not well intentioned, but these kind of gimic tips will not help your job search.

The Search for Meaningful Employment

Looking for a job is a balance of immediate needs and solid strategy. The immediate need is to get a job and pay the bills. The reality is that there is no magic trick or special formula. Activitiy and hard work will get you the next job and it may take a while depending on your industry and specific circumstances. Talk with people, go to interviews and try to keep a positive attitude.

Since there is no secret to short circuiting the immediate need, it makes focusing your job search all the more important. Said another way, if it's going to take hard work and a lot of time to find any job, then it's all the more important that you find the right one. That is why job boards and resume 'blasters' fail, because they don't help you focus your search on positions that fit you. What you want to do, what role you enjoy playing in an organization, what type of environment you want to work in, are all questions that are worthy of your deep attention. When you understand the answers to these questions, then focus on all your activity on those positions and opportunities that fit that goal. 

There are any number of ways to get started and one of the career-focused personality assessments would be a great first step. Unfortunately, personality assessments are far to easy to invent than rigorously develop, so make sure to work with an assessment company that has a long track record and rigorous scientific and academic backing. Remember the first step in finding meaningful employment is finding out what is meaningful to you.


 This is a subject I've grown to become passionate about. So much so in fact that I and my like-minded friends have founded a new service for career seekers and employers that is solely focused on helping people make this process of finding meaningful employment easier. If this article has struck a cord, I encourage you to take a look at The Hilo Project, or alternatively this brief concept exploration that was the genesis of the service.

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