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 What to Do When Long-Term Unemployed

By Joe Stein

For many Western New York Job Seekers the reality is sobering, as generally the longer a person is out of work, the more difficult it is to find new employment.  The news of people on unemployment has constantly been in the headlines. There has been so much discussion in Washington around Unemployment Benefits and the extension of payments for those out of work for a lengthy period of time.  Currently, the nation is facing one of the highest rates of long-term (six months or more) unemployment that it has ever had to face.

 

So, what is someone to do when the unemployment rate is as high as it is, and there are no signs of it significantly dropping anytime soon? What are the concerns of Hiring Managers when faced with someone who has been out of work six months or more, and what can you do about it? 

 

Let’s examine some of the common perceptions or issues and provide some strategy tips to combat them:

 

·        You Have Been Enjoying the Time Off - I don’t wish to offend any of the readers out there, but this is a real perception held by some.  I can tell you that many times I have interviewed less savvy Job Seekers about their gap in time and have been told “I needed some time off”, “I took the summer off”, or “I had saved up some money”.  Unless you have had a serious family emergency, these (and all the related ones not listed) are not appropriate answers.  So, if this is the real reason you were out, you will need to come up with something different.  For most, however, this is not the reason, so stress how challenging being out has been and how you can’t wait to get back to work.  State how eager you are to get back to work and that you have not lost that competitive edge (especially if you are seeking a position such as Sales where that is so important).

 

·        Don’t Sound/Act Desperate – This is often a difficult one for the Job Seeker that is out for an extended period of time.  You, however, don’t want to sound desperate because that will rarely relate to your best effort in an interview.  Nerves will usually cause you to answer questions either by rambling, or without a full explanation.  Desperation may also cause you to limit yourself when it comes to compensation if/when it is time to consider an offer by the prospective employer.

 

·        Stay Positive – It is quite easy to get discouraged when you have not landed the position you want over a period of time.  In fact, the government has a name for it - “disenfranchised” workers. Regardless of how long you have been out, continue to do your networking and actively search the job boards and newspapers for new openings and leads.  Being able to shake off rejection and continuing to focus on landing a new job will be a key to staying positive.

 

·        You Are Not Current – A lot can happen in 6+ months, especially if you are in a field such as Information Technology, where systems can change rather rapidly.  A key is to make sure that you stay current with whatever is happening in your area of expertise. Whether it is how to repair a certain machine or being able to speak to what is happening in a particular industry, keep up to date.  If you have the ability to seek out additional training during your time out via a local school or state agency, then by all means consider the opportunity. A documented history of being able to learn is also crucial to display, so even if you do not currently know something, you will convince the Hiring Manager of your ability pick it up rather rapidly.

 

·        Don’t Be Apologetic – Unless you have been out because you have not wanted to work, refrain from being apologetic about your absence.  You have been out due to the economy… so have a lot of other people.  Recruiters are much less likely to hold this against you if you have a legitimate story to tell about your absence (i.e., company closing, contract lost, etc.).  Another point is that so many professionals are automatically labeling themselves as a consultant to explain their absence.  Don’t do this unless you have actually gone into business for yourself and landed real customers/accounts.  It just causes a Hiring Manager to question your credibility if you can’t factually respond with actual consulting experiences.

 

·        Take Advantage of the Time – Besides potentially picking up some training, try to use the time to get into overall better physical fitness.  Studies have shown that appearance does play a role in positively shaping the opinion of a Hiring Manager.  There is also the added benefit of helping to relieve some Job Search stress along with some overall better health.

 

With 2011 upon us, many Job Seekers in Western New York have been faced with an even further extended period of unemployment.  Considering the tips above may assist you in finding the new position you desire.