Developing Your Career

Developing Your Career

Conquering the Hurdle of Long-Term Unemployment

By Greg Simpson on January 14, 2014

While the unemployment rate has slowly decreased to 6.7 percent, it’s still a very tough job market for the long-term unemployed. The fact remains that organizations prefer to hire candidates who are currently employed or who have just recently become unemployed. Many employers have the misperception that the long-term unemployed may lack the energy, drive and enthusiasm required in today’s competitive workforce. Consequently, interest in a candidate begins to diminish after he or she has been unemployed more than six months, making an already-challenging search seemingly insurmountable.

As Annalyn Kurtz reports in her CNNMoney article, Long-term unemployed still face dim job prospects, “About 37% of the unemployed have been out of work for 27 weeks or more and their job prospects look increasingly dim.” In fact, Kurtz cites the Council of Economic Advisers’ estimate that a person unemployed for less than five weeks has a 31 percent chance of landing a job, while someone unemployed between 27 and 52 weeks has only a 12 percent chance. After a year, the odds drop further—to only 9 percent. There are currently 4 million long-term unemployed Americans.

If you’re one of the long-term unemployed, or you’re becoming concerned about the growing length of your unemployment, here are a few tactics that can help you counter the concerns a potential employer may have about hiring a candidate who’s been out of work for an extended period.

  • Show you’ve been productive. Employers want proactive candidates who are serious about working, so take some free, online classes, retool your skills, volunteer your professional services to a charitable organization, find consulting work, or help your local school as a tutor, coach or fundraiser. Include these on your resume to help close gaps and explain how you’ve been spending your time while unemployed.
  • Consider taking a lower position. Instead of holding out for a job comparable to the last position you held, adjust your expectations and find something that offers opportunities for advancement and will get you back in the workforce. Don’t let “perfect” become the enemy of “good.”
  • Accept a part-time position. Job seekers have found part-time seasonal work in tax preparation, retail, or office work through temporary agencies. You’ll be making new connections, so whatever the job, treat it with respect, do it to the best of your ability, show up on time, and stay positive.
  • Go where the jobs are. Certain regions of the country are experiencing job growth, while others are lagging behind. While you may ultimately need to consider relocation, start by expanding your targeted geographical area and considering a longer commute. Many organizations have vans and car pool registries that accommodate commuters.
  • Get involved. Work to improve something in the community by attending town council meetings, school and alumni events, or charitable fundraisers. Also attend job search-related events advertised by local colleges and state employment offices. Getting involved will build your skills, uncover new contacts, expand your network and give you a renewed sense of purpose.
  • Enhance your public speaking skills. Being confident and articulate when communicating your message is an important part of your job search. If you’re reluctant to participate at networking events, join Toastmasters International where, for a very nominal fee, you’ll enhance leadership, communication and public speaking skills in a no-pressure, highly supportive environment.
  • Consider more active techniques. Your approach to search will require that you are more direct as you compete with workers who have less down time but may use more passive techniques. If you feel you are well qualified, go directly to the source. Leverage networking contacts or contact the employer directly. Many employers are open to finding a diamond in the rough but you’ll need to move beyond the resume pile to be noticed.

If you’ve been unemployed longer than four months, you may need to change your approach and try some new strategies that will improve your skills and experience—and account for your time outside the traditional workforce. Remove your internal obstacles by changing a “Yes, but …” mindset to “Yes, I’ll try that.” As psychiatrist and author Viktor E. Frankl explains, “When we are no longer able to change a situation—we are challenged to change ourselves.”

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