In part one of this article, we looked at the plight of the long-term unemployed (LTU). Part two will look at five solutions for the LTU for finding work.
Find a support system
Isolation is a symptom of long-term unemployment which is hard to overcome. One of the people who contributed to this article, Doug, described the support he received from family and friends, some friends he developed during his job search:
“I am fortunate in that way. I also have a strong base of family and friends that kept me motivated. Many of these friends I never knew until I got laid off. I met them through job clubs and networking groups and consider myself lucky to have found them. They truly understood what I was going through.”
Ofer Sharone, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, created a program at MIT, which matches volunteer coaches with the LTU to provide them support and advice. One of the many benefits the members of the group receive is being with other LTU who are in the same situation.
Bob, interviewed by Sharone, stated, “When you’re let go, you get discouraged, frustrated, disappointed, feel like a failure,” but Bob explained that the support he received helped him recognize “the positive things that I’ve done in my career and has helped me see that focus, keeping me aligned with what I can offer an organization, rather than what it was that I wasn’t able to offer.”
Most people understand the importance of networking, but many people are reluctant, if not terrified of doing it. For the LTU, networking outlets can lose their appeal, as the forums are attended by the same people. I’ve attended networking events as a visitor or presenter, where I’ve seen people who seem to have been there a year ago. This is not due to a lack of effort on their part. They may have been victims of the LTU stigma.
The quickest way to earn a job is by being referred to a position by someone who is known and trusted by the employer. This is easier said than done; and for someone who has been out of work for more than 27 weeks, finding people to refer them can be a tall order. It is, therefore, essential that the LTU are able to promote themselves to people who are in a position to recommend them.
David never gave up on networking the two years he was out of work. “My landing was through networking,” he said. “Someone knew someone looking for my skill set – more importantly, that someone specifically recommended me. That built up, eventually, to a full-time position that, alas, was a finite one.”
Create a powerful résumé and LinkedIn profile
While the aforementioned solutions are important, a well-crafted résumé and LinkedIn profile are paramount to avoiding the “black hole” syndrome. Foremost a résumé needs to be tailored to each position for which one applies.
Secondly, the résumé and LinkedIn profile have to express one’s value through measurable accomplishments. All too many LTU insist on listing duty statements that lack quantified results. They’re very proud of what they’ve done, but neglect to demonstrate how well they’ve performed their duties.
It’s important that the older (50 and over) LTU do not exceed 15 years of work experience on their resume for the mere fact that it ages them. The goal of the resume is to get them to the interview. Once there, they can sell the benefits they offer as older workers.
Lastly, the résumé must get past applicant tracking systems (ATS), which approximately 98% of large-sized companies are using, more than 60% of mid-sized companies employ, and some small companies are outsourcing.
Having a strong LinkedIn campaign is also a key requirement for the LTU. Some sources state that between 87-94% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent. Further, Approximately 40% of employers will immediately reject candidates if they don’t have a LinkedIn presence.
Perform well in interviews
As stated earlier, there is a bias against the long-term unemployed. Interviewers might be wondering why one has been out of work for six months. What’s wrong with them? Sharone acknowledges that in an interview this bias exists:
“We have age discrimination laws that reflect our belief that it is not okay for an employer to assume that just because you are 50-years-old, you’re not qualified or skilled anymore. I think the same thinking should drive policies that say we don’t think it’s a good idea for employers to make an assumption that just because you’ve been unemployed for six months, you’re not good or skilled.”
In all likelihood the LTU will be asked why they’ve been out of work for so long—many of my clients are asked this. A successful response to this question will rely on their honesty and conviction in their ability to succeed in the role they’ll be assuming. One of my clients, who had been out of work for more than two years, decided that saying she had retired was the best route to go.
Read this compilation of the stages of a successful interview.
As difficult as it may be to work for free, volunteering can be the best way to land a job. The reasons are simple: LTU are in a better place to network, they develop new skills, and it’s great fodder for their résumé.
What’s important when volunteering is to choose the right situation. Sure, volunteering at an animal shelter is great for the soul, but it isn’t the best place for a software engineer. A software engineer would be better off volunteering at an organization—most likely a nonprofit—where she can use and sharpen the skills she has. The best case scenario is finding a gig where one can learn new skills.
Treat yourself well
The final suggestion I have for the LTU is taking a break. Whereas some might think putting their job search in overdrive is the way to success, taking their foot of the gas pedal every once in awhile will help them maintain their sanity. My contributor, Doug, told me once when I asked how his week had gone that he took it off. My initial thought was, “The whole week?”
But it dawned on me that it was a good move on his part. The LTU can not underestimate the importance of physical and emotional wellness. Perhaps they should look at the job search more like a marathon than sprint. In the end, Doug landed a job. When it comes down to it, that’s the endgame.
This post originally appeared in Jobscan.co.
Very much appreciate your thoughtful and empathetic article!