Many people lost their jobs during the recession for reasons that were unrelated to personal skills and performance. Nevertheless, many hiring managers cling to the wrong-headed notion that long term unemployed persons are unemployed or layed off because they were less than adequate or under performers in their previous positions. Therefore, it is important for unemployed persons to pursue strategies that ensure that they remain strong job candidates for prospective new employers.
An article by Eilene Zimmerman entitled “Out of Work but Staying a Strong Candidate” offers some good advice for the unemployed. First, unemployed persons may have to reconsider the way in which they network to look for new job opportunities. To that point, people in your old network may feel guilty that they are employed and you don’t have a job. Because of this, they may feel sorry for your or see you as injured or defeated and possibly avoid interacting with you or including you at industry events. To obviate this, it is a good idea when networking with them to offer an article or blog post that may be temporal and relevant to your industry or mentioning a professional opportunity that they may not know about. Also, it is a good idea to stay abreast of important and current things happening in your industry (or an industry that you are interested in breaking into). This shows people that you are still engaged and interested in other professional opportunities that may exist. Finally, maintain your membership in professional societies (even though you may not be flush with cash) and consider volunteering on committees in these organizations. This shows other industry professionals that you are active and engaged. Also, professional association members frequently hear about or learn of unadvertised jobs or career opportunities within an industry.
There is no question that losing your job can be devastating and emotionally distressing. However, just because you are unemployed, it doesn’t mean that your standing or stature in your industry needs to be negatively impacted. To that end, keep your certifications, professional credentials and licenses up to date and participate in other activities that make use of your professional skills. Finding part-time or contract work in your industry is also a plus as is volunteering or doing unpaid work for charitable organizations.
Another popular strategy is to start your own consulting firm. While your previous employer may have layed you off to cut costs, it does not mean that they will not considering hiring you as a consultant (they don’t have to pay benefits, bonuses or contribute to a 401K and can write off your services as 1099 work). Landing one or two small gigs may be able to tide you over until you find a new fulltime position.
Most unemployed people are rightly-concerned about the employment gap that will appear on their CV or resume. Unfortunately, there is no real way to hide it! One way to manage an employment gap is to add a Summary of Qualifications or Profile section to your resume. This section can be placed at the beginning of the resume (underneath your name and contact information) and should be crafted to extol your skills and qualifications for individual jobs. This means that every time you apply for a new position, the Summary of Qualifications section must be tailored and optimized to show prospective employers why you and not the other 1,000 applicants ought to be considered for the job. Also, as suggested in Ms Zimmerman’s article, you can change the title of the section “work experience” to “experience” and describe any contract, part-time or volunteer work (which was unpaid) using the same language; which focused on your results, strategies used to get there and your contributions to the organization during your tenure.
Finally, and perhaps most important, unemployed persons must learn to deal with and come to terms about unemployment history during job interviews. Nobody likes admitting that they were fired or layed off but, as a rule of thumb, it is best to be as honest (as possible) because most industries and networks are small and job candidates who are less than truthful almost always get caught! For example, if you were part of a large layoff at your previous employer, then it is a good idea to explain the circumstances to the interviewer and also indicate that you were not layed off for performance reasons. Further, it is not a good idea to apply for or interview for any job that may be available at a particular company or organization. If you are overqualified or not the right fit for a job, many employers will not even consider you for the job because they fear that you will leave as soon as something more appropriate comes along. That said, it is important to only apply for jobs within your industry that represent a good fit with your skill sets and experience. If that fails to yield positive results, then you may want to consider a different industry; but recognize that you may need additional training to acquire the skills or experience even to be considered for entry level positions in that industry!
Until next time…
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!