Long-term unemployment can be a detriment to getting a job. According to a recent Economist article, almost half of unemployed workers have been off the job for more than six months. Employers can perceive a candidate's skills are out-of-date or worse that if he was a worthwhile employee he'd still be employed.
Long-term unemployment is a perception problem for the job seeker too.
Many who I've spoken with have lost confidence in their employability, dropping resumes wherever and whenever they can, saying, "I'll take anything." Unfortunately, employers won't take "any employee" so it's a self-fulfilling prophecy when the candidate doesn't land a job.
Because of the "damaged goods" stigma that unemployment can carry, the long-term unemployed also stop networking with employed friends. Preferring instead people in similar circumstances, this type of networking creates further challenges, as employed colleagues are the ones more apt to be in a position to offer a job than those unemployed.
So what can you do to land a job in 2011 even if you haven't worked in 2010?
Make it clear if you were part of a mass-layoff - This lets a potential employer know that you lost your job through no fault of your own and that your layoff wasn't due to poor performance. Having solid references from your last job will reinforce that you are not "damaged goods."
Maintain or improve your skills & experience between jobs - Contact your previous employer and those in your network regarding freelance projects. This way you can keep current and bring in some extra money. For those on unemployment benefits, try volunteering for a non-profit organization using your skills. Garnering additional references from these experiences will demonstrate your skills are far from rusty.
To really raise the bar and get noticed...
Be in it for more than the paycheck – Employers can sense desperation. If a job is just a means to a paycheck, that can turn off to a hiring manager. Instead, take an authentic interest in the organization(s) you’re interviewing with by researching online, learning about the company history and goals, and talking to people who work there. Show that this is more than just a job to you and you'll show you’re more than just another candidate.
Start something – A project, a business, a nonprofit/charitable project - start something close to your heart that has the opportunity for real impact. Recently I was inspired to hear how one woman used her "free time" after a layoff to join the board of her homeowner's association. She took on a leadership role (a new responsibility for her) and has since doubled the association's reserve of funds despite a difficult economy. She's realized her natural talent for turning around mismanaged properties and is now applying for paid positions in her new field (at the same pay she was used to making in her prior career.) Show that you can create opportunity despite adversity and your ingenuity will impress employers who sorely need that trait in all employees these days.
Manage your resume - Don't forget to track your experience-building activities between jobs (paid and unpaid) whether freelance work, pro-bono projects, coursework, travel sabbaticals or even your own start-up. It will demonstrate a valued employable trait - using time wisely.
Oprah put it well, "Turn your wounds into wisdom."
Rather than seeing your unemployment as a steady decline in your employability, turn the tables and see it as a chance to use your time and talents for positive change. More than just pure optimism, taking smart actions like these will improve your confidence and the confidence employers have in hiring you in the New Year!
I believe people when they say they are turning over a new leaf. Even if according to goal consultancy Leadership IQ, 85% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned within just 90 days.
What I believe in is each person's desire to reach his/her goal and make that career or life change. Positive thinking helps (Thank you Norman Vincent Peale!) and so does setting goals that are SMART (Thank you researchers Locke and Latham!)
SMART goals are:
By way of example, your goal right now may be to "get out a boring, dead-end job." While it's good to move forward, this goal is not very SMART. Too many times people set resolutions that focus on what's wrong but that's demotivating.
Rather, SMART resolutions clarify your vision for the future (what you want the change to look like) which is much more inspiring. Using the SMART framework this goal becomes, "In the next six months, find a new career that I’m passionate about, that uses my strengths and allows me to work with interesting people.” Doesn't that sound like something you want to achieve!?
My goal this year is to work smarter not harder. Using the SMART framework, my new and improved goal becomes, "Starting January 1st, 2011 spend my 168 hours each week focused on activities that matter to my personal and professional goals." I'm motivated to make and keep this goal a priority.
"We spend Jan 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential." ~ Ellen Goodman
Seeing someone else overcome challenges and succeed can give us the courage to move go forward with our own goals despite obstacles. That's why I'm excited to share a shining example of layoff turned career success story with this guest post from my client Steve Hill.
Steve's layoff as an executive in the music industry came as a shock but turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After Soul Searching, Researching and Job Searching, Steve is now the proud owner of Hill Haus Woodworks, making beautiful custom furniture and hand-crafted accessories. Now he says he's pursuing a career that gives him satisfaction, fulfillment and joy. Find out how Steve made the career leap of a lifetime and how you can too! Read below for his real-life success story!
Q: How did you know it was time for a career change?
A: Well…honestly, the change came to me in the form of a downsizing/layoff. I hadn’t been happy in my ‘corporate’ role for some time but walking away from a six-figure job with two kids and a big house payment was a scary proposition. The lay-off, although a shock at first, turned into a blessing in disguise and forced me to take a hard look at what I really wanted to do next in my life. I really didn’t have any idea, but the prospect of sitting in a high-rise office again, meeting rooms, conference calls, and trading my days for dollars no longer had any appeal to me.
Q: What was the biggest help to you in finding the right career?
A: Working with an experienced coach was absolutely a critical step. It helped me to clarify my skills, passions, interests, and requirements. Maggie helped get me to the point where I was able to identify where these attributes intersected, and what types of industries and careers had their nexus at these points. By doing so I was able to narrow the field to a more manageable group of possibilities. Through discussions, exercises, and a fair amount of soul searching we were able to identify many of the ‘must haves’ that had previously been missing but are prerequisites to finding satisfaction and a sense of purpose in your work. By working with and talking to a coach, I was able to unplug much of the hardwiring in my head that had held me captive and open my mind to new ideas and possibilities that I would never have come to simply through self-analysis.
Q: Tell us about your new venture.
A: I have always liked working with my hands…building things. After the lay-off I began working with a contractor doing remodels and home repairs. I thought the work was very satisfying and enjoyed being able to look at the tangible results of my efforts at the end of every day. I thought ‘hmmmm….maybe I’ll start my own contracting business.’ After some more thought I realized the complexities and level of experience that it would require were maybe not exactly the best fit. My wife then asked me if I had ever thought of making furniture? I hadn’t, but the idea appealed to me and fit in well with the prerequisites I had identified with Maggie. I found a local school that offered an in-depth, concentrated, furniture making class for which I enrolled. I arrived at the school, smelled the aroma of sawdust and rough cut lumber and was immediately inspired. I am now the owner of Hill Haus Woodworks. From my website hillhauswoodworks.com, “Hill Haus Woodworks is the creation of Steve Hill, who designs and builds custom made furniture and handcrafted accessories. Hill Haus Woodworks incorporates classic woodworking techniques with simple lines, streamlined shapes, and an understated sophistication that provides timeless appeal and enduring style. The beauty and aesthetic harmony of design, together with high-quality materials and workmanship is an ideal balance of form, function and character.”
Q: Was it difficult to make the change?
A: It was only difficult in the sense of uncertainty that the change exacts from you. Not only the financial uncertainty but the whole idea of whether or not I’m going to be any good at it! I’d never made furniture before. Who was I to think somebody would want to buy an $800 coffee table from me? Turns out, I am very good at it and people do and have bought everything I’ve made.
Q: What advice do you have for others who know it's time to change but don't know where to start?
A: Think about what you’re trading in exchange for the position, the title, and the money. Is the trade really worth it? How do you want to spend your life? Giving away your days for dollars or spending time engaged in your life--pursuing the things that give you satisfaction, fulfillment, passion, and joy? As they say, do the thing you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.
Congratulations Steve and many thanks for sharing your inspiring story.
If you've got a career change success story, I'd love to hear about it. Comment below or call into my career advice radio show Fridays 4p ET/1p PT SIRIUS 112/XM 157 at 866-675-6675!