Job seekers who have encountered an artificial barrier to getting a job or promotion will tell you it’s not something you can see or touch, but something you feel. Similarly, you may have constructed your own artificial barriers preventing or restricting you from getting a job or a promotion without realizing it. Some of these barriers on the corporate side have become so offensive and egregious over time that society has demanded laws to punish the offenders. Others lurk quietly beneath job-seeking efforts and are harder to identify.
The Little Engine that Can't
Sometimes you are your own worst enemy. Think of the kid who hates gym class because she thinks she’s uncoordinated and that her peers are watching and waiting for her to do poorly. She has set herself up to perform below her ability, erecting an artificial barrier of self-doubt -- simultaneously creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Job-related examples include being haunted by past mistakes, or a fear of appearing too aggressive to your co-workers or managers. The common denominator is that these barriers have no relation to any job or to your inherent ability to perform or get that job.
Crash Through the Glass
Let's assume you’re a valuable employee who has devoted years to your employer and have felt rewarded and valued in return for your contributions -- until you reach a certain level. For some reason, you keep getting passed over for a promotion that would seat you at the executive table. Until then, you probably had no misgivings about your how your company viewed women in high-level positions. This inability of women -- and minorities -- to break through into powerful upper management positions is referred to as The Glass Ceiling. It gained enough attention to warrant the U.S. Department of Labor establishing the Glass Ceiling Commission in 1991 to study the issue and make recommendations. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 prohibits gender and other forms of discrimination. The situation has improved, but that doesn’t mean its nonexistent.
Mom as Manager
Women with children have multitasking skills worthy of admiration and marvel. Yet, children can trigger an artificial barrier to employment, and it’s even more troublesome for single mothers or those with special-needs children. You may have problems finding quality, affordable child care. You need to coordinate after-school pick-up and getting the kids to extracurricular activities -- or else arrange for after-school care if they are not old enough to stay home alone. Additionally, employers who know about these challenges may harbor tacit reservations about your abilities to give your job the attention it requires. Concerns and challenges children impose are artificial barriers because they have no direct relation to mom’s job qualifications.
Tell Me What You Did Last Summer
You may have a logical or unavoidable reason for having an employment gap on your resume, yet such a break from the workforce is an example of an artificial employment barrier. Perhaps you went back to school, made a career change, stayed home with children, recovered from an illness or were seeking work after a layoff -- to some employers, any gap in employment dates raises a fictitious red flag. Be prepared to explain the gap in a non-defensive manner, highlighting how you kept your skills fresh and stayed up-to-date on news, processes or technology in your industry.
- Poynter.org: 10 Ways We Limit Our Success & How to Overcome Those Artificial Barriers
- United States Department of Labor, Veteran Workforce Investment Program (VWIP) -- Glossary
- Iseek.org: Barriers to Employment
- Employment and Labor Law; Patrick J. Cihon, James Ottavio Castagnera
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Forbes: Glass Ceiling or Glass Cage? Breaking Through the Biggest Barrier Holding Women Back
- U.S. Department of Labor, Federal Glass Ceiling Commission: A Solid Investment: Making Full Use of the Nation’s Human Capital
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images