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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Unemployed? Try Brushing up on Your Math Skills

You need a job. Try getting one that requires unpopular skills. Because sometimes it really is about what know.

Unemployed? Try Brushing up on Your Math Skills.


Lise F said...

I'll agree with this. The ability to do statistics is very much in demand. My first job out of college was as a research assistant at a university, where I received tuition remission, and so took a two-semester graduate level statistics course. That one course basically led me to a career in market research, where I remained for several years. When I was laid off from that job last year, several freelance research jobs got me through a tough time.

Now I work in web development, which is where my passion really lies, and I think at this point in my life I'd rather spork my own eyes out than open SPSS again, but I can say that I got a lot of mileage out of that one skill.

Suzanne Lucas said...


I'm so with you on that SPSS thing. It's been a long time since I've used that program and I hope to never have to do so again.

Interestingly enough, my husband and I have matching degrees and he took his statistics and went into Market Research as well.

It's much more lucrative than HR. You made a good choice.

Unknown said...

Evil Hr Lady,
This triggered a post over on my work blog. Thanks.

HR needs more statistics and numerate people.

class factotum said...

I tutored math to Algebra II students in Miami years ago. They didn't even know their times tables and certainly were not ready for quadratic equations and factoring polynomials. They couldn't make change in their heads and couldn't tell me (quickly) what the equivalent of 2/8 was in fourths.

I would ask them what kind of job they expected to get if they couldn't do math. They didn't seem to think it was necessary.

My first year in business school, which required calculus as an entry requirement, we had problems that required graphing a line. You know, y=ax+c or whatever that formula is.

There were people who couldn't do it, even though that is 8th grade math. A friend and I, who were both bored at the teacher explaining how to graph the line, noted that not only could we do it but we could also optimize using calculus. We were both English majors.

I guess it's good job security to be one of the few people who can do math. But it's frustrating when your grocery store checker cannot.

Anonymous said...


If your husband works in market research, then I think you know that those of us who really can do math want to get paid oh, about twice what that company is offering.

One of the perks to being an applied math major ;)

(And in this case, "wants" really do live up to reality.)

Charles said...

Evil, your point about unpopular job skills is well founded. However, I have a problem with the following:

"reviewed 3,600 job applications this year and found only 47 people to hire at $13 to $15 an hour, or about $31,000 a year."

I think it is quite possible that they could find plenty of people with the required skills but the pay is low, really low. While the $15/hour is a little more than $31 grand a year. The $13/hour is much less; about $4,000 less. And that is gross income; after taxes I have to wonder (even in the Cleveland area) is it a living wage? It certainly wouldn't be in many areas of the US.

Suzanne Lucas said...

Charles, average household income in Cleveland in 2007 was $26k, so yea, this is a good job. And they weren't requiring calculus, just 9th grade math skills.

Since they had so many people apply, it's evident to me that people were willing to work for that amount of pay.

What is wrong is that there are that many adults that can't do 9th grade math.

Harris Silverman said...

It's certainly true that having an in-demand skill is very helpful in landing a job, and anything to do with math and statistics will put you ahead of most other people. One thing to watch out for though is that jobs and skills that are in demand now might not be in a few years' time. Once a skill is identified as being needed, a lot of people get into it, and then there's a glut; or else the job market changes, industries retrench, and that skill is no longer as much in demand. So, if you're looking to learn a new skill, be sure it's something that doesn't take too long to master, or it could be out of demand by the time you're qualified. Think months rather than years.

Also, bear in mind that transferrable skills are much more useful over the life of your career than ones that are specific to one job or industry.

Harris Silverman