Tag Archives: volunteer

The plight of the long-term unemployed; how to overcome it: part 2

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.

unemployed

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.”

Network

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.

Volunteer

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.

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6 job-search methods to use to stay sane

insanity

I think Albert Einstein said it best:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Yet, as career advisors, we see this practice all the time. And usually it’s the people who are struggling to land their next job that are doing exactly this. They tell me they’ve been using Indeed.com and sometimes Monster.com or LinkedIn…exclusively.

Have you been networking? I ask them. No, that doesn’t work for me, they say. And so they continue using the job boards to distribute their resume, and they wait. Weeks pass and when I see them next, I ask how their search is going. Not so good they tell me.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that my clients abandon the job boards. Plenty of people land interviews and eventually a position. It just takes them longer. What I am suggesting is that my clients use other means of looking for work.

Use Different Methods to Look for Work 

But before we go further with my suggestions for looking for work, you must know what you want to do, as well as where you’d like to work. I find this to be a challenge for some job seekers, who give me a blank stare when I ask them these questions.

Most know what they want to do but aren’t quite sure where they’d like to work. They don’t have a target company list of even 15 companies, let alone 10. Without this list, networking will be extremely difficult, as you won’t know exactly who to approach.

1. Networking has always proved to be the best way to look for work. Spreading the word in your community and asking your friends, neighbors, relatives, etc. to keep their ears open is a start.

Attend networking groups a couple of times a week. Search on Meetup.com to see if there are smaller events might be more to your liking, particularly if you’re more introverted and prefer the intimacy smaller groups provide.

Supplement your in-person networking with LinkedIn. Make initial contact online and then follow up with a phone call. Ask to meet your LinkedIn connections for coffee, or talking on the phone and Skype-ing may be the way your connections want to go.

2. Reach out to recruiters or staffing agencies. Recruiters have a pipeline of their own of employers that are looking to fill positions. They may work directly with employers or assist internal recruiters at large corporations.

Their job is to present the best candidates to extremely busy hiring managers. They are loyal to said hiring managers because the employer pays their salaries. Make no mistake; recruiters work for the employers, not you.

Therefore, it’s important that your marketing campaign is strong. Your resume and LinkedIn profile must be powerful. As well, you must sell yourself in phone interviews conducted by recruiters. If you can impress the recruiters, you’re one step closer to the face-to-face interview.

3. Leverage your alumni association. Your college, and perhaps your high school, has a vast network of alumni who are more than willing to help you. Why? Because you share something very important in common; you went to the same school.

In addition to a vast network, there are a number of services your alumni association offers: networking events, career advice, mentoring opportunities, informational meetings, and possibly job fairs.

Not all college alumni associations offer these services, but for those that do you should take advantage of as many of them as possible.

4. Knock on companies’ doors, if possible. Some of my clients who are in the trades benefit more from simply going to work-sites and talking with foremen to see if they need any help. Resumes are rarely needed, but confidence matters a great deal.

This doesn’t mean others can’t “knock on companies’ doors.” What I mean by this is sending an introduction of yourself to the companies for which you’d like to work. (Remember that company list?) These are called networking emails and can be very useful in asking for informational meetings.

Some believe these can be more valuable than cover letters, and I’m inclined to agree. This is a great step for those who like to write, as opposed to speaking on the phone. In other words, introverts. The goal is to penetrate the Hidden Job Market.

5. Volunteer in your area of expertise. Volunteering is a good idea for a number of reasons. One, you put yourself in a position to network with people who are currently working and may have ideas or contacts who can be of use.

Two, it keeps you active; you’re not spending all your time sitting at home behind your computer. There’s something about getting out of the house and getting into a routine that’s very cathartic. It gives you a sense of achievement.

Finally, you can enhance the skills you have or develop new ones. For example, you’re a web developer that needs more experience in PHP language. So you volunteer to develop a non-profit’s website. This is also great fodder for your resume.

6. Applying online. With all the negative talk about job boards, there has to be something said about doing it effectively. One way to do it wrong is to simply leave your resume on Monster, Dice, Simply Hired, etc., and wait for the calls to come rolling in.

Similarly, to apply for advertised positions on the company’s website—which is purported to produce better results—will not be enough. The fact is that the majority of job seekers are applying online for the 30% of jobs out there; so there’s a lot of competition.

Now, to do it correctly requires 1) a resume that is optimized for the advertised positions, 2) applying for positions you’re qualified for, and 3) following up on the jobs for which you applied.

There are some barriers, though. For instance, you would have to tailor each resume to the particular jobs. And often you cannot reach the decision maker at the companies. This said, people have told me they’ve landed interviews by applying online.


To use only one method of looking for work would not be productive. If, for instance, you were to network alone—which garners a 70% success rate by some people’s measures—it would not be as successful as if you were to combine that with using job boards and contacting recruiters.

And if networking is not your forte, you may find the going slow. So use the methods of looking for work that you feel are most productive. Just don’t limit it to one method, particularly applying online.

Photo: Flickr, marccm

 

 

5 very good reasons to volunteer to find employment

Before the words leave my mouth, I can hear my workshop attendees thinking, “Why should I work for free?” I hear you. It sucks working hard and not getting paid for it; but read what I’ve got to say before you condemn volunteering to find work.

office worker

An articleVolunteering as a Pathway to Employment Report, praises the act of volunteering, claiming that one’s chance of obtaining employment is 27% higher than by not volunteering. The article points out Social and Human Capital—strengthening relationships and building skills—as two major outcomes of networking.

I elaborate on these assertions and offer three additional outcomes of volunteering: it creates a positive outlook, makes one feel productive, and closes gaps in employment on your résumé. So you naysayers, read on.

1. Volunteer to network for your next job. It opens potential doors because you’re in a place where you can do some real-time networking. Choose an organization or business in the industry in which you’d like to work.

If marketing is your forté, for example, approach an organization that needs a graphic artist or publicist to design some art for their website or write a press release or two.

This organization where you’ve managed to get your foot in the door can help you with leads at other companies, especially if you do a smashing job. The president or owner will want to help you because you’ve come across as competent and likeable. Who knows, you could possibly join the company if a position opens up…or is created.

2. Develop or enhance skills that will make you more marketable. You’ve had it in your head to start blogging but haven’t had the time to dedicate to it. The company who took you on as a volunteer in their marketing department not only can help you network; it can give you the opportunity to enhance your diverse writing skills.

Your approach to management might be to offer starting a blog for them, as the rest of the marketing department is up to their elbows in alligators. They gain a talented writer to write entries, and you learn the fine art of blogging.

Volunteer3

3. Volunteering is a great way to do a positive thing. You may consider choosing an organization where your efforts are meaningful in a big way.

A customer of mine said she volunteers at a soup kitchen because she has a soft spot in her heart for the less fortunate.

She’s a bookkeeper, so I suggested that she also offer to do the books for her church. While she’s helping the less fortunate at the soup kitchen, she could also keep her skills sharp through volunteering at her church.

4. Feel productive. Instead of sitting at home and watching The View, you can get back into work mode.

Do you remember work mode? It begins with getting up at 6:00 am, doing some exercise, leaving for a job from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, all the while feeling productive. When you get home from volunteering, you can watch those episodes of The View on DVR.

I tell my workshop attendees that one of the ways to stay sane during unemployment is by getting out of the house, and I repeat this three or four times until I know it’s embedded in their brains. As simple as it sounds, volunteering gets you out of the house.

5. Volunteering will pad your résumé and LinkedIn profile. Yes, employers look at gaps in your work history. When an employer asks about your three months of unemployment, you can proudly say you’ve been volunteering at Company A in their marketing division.

There you authored press releases, created their newest website designs, and started them on your way to a new blogging campaign. Of course you’ll indicate on your résumé, in parenthesis, that this experience was (Volunteer) work. Nonetheless, it was work.

There is concern among LinkedIn users about how to indicate they’re looking for work. Of four possible ways, I list volunteering as my preferred way to indicate you’re in the job hunt. Read the article if this is one of your concerns.


Any time you feel slighted for working without pay, remember why you’re doing it; to  network, develop or enhance new skills, do something positive, feel useful, and pad your résumé. If these five reasons aren’t enough, then by all means stay home and watch The View.

Photo: Flickr, Technical Resources