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 Employers can perceive a candidate’s skills are out-of-date or worse that if he was a worthwhile employee he’d still be employed.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!
(Photo courtesy of Mjcrodez.)