Here’s a trend we all hope will not catch on: Hiring managers refusing to consider unemployed people for an open position. In other words “Only currently employed need apply.” For the unemployed, this is a disturbing development. Perhaps negative media attention will keep this trend from spreading.
But it raises a great issue: What to do to overcome negative assumptions. A good strategy is to keep your skills sharp and up-to-date AND focus on creating meaningful relationship with the right people.
Job seeking takes a good chunk of time for most unemployed people. But consider some worthwhile activities that help you achieve these two important goals: 1.) filling that resume gap with new skills and accomplishments, and 2).connecting you with “insiders” who can be your advocates to overcome any pre-conceived notions, such as “only currently employed people are valuable”.
Internships. These are a great way to transition into a new field, network, learn new skills and build resume items. No longer the domain of college students, adults at all career phases are interning. These days, many internships are secured by approaching a company of interest and asking, rather than waiting for the company to advertise for interns. Put yourself in the play and demonstrate your value. This is an invaluable way to expose yourself to people who may help you get hired later on.
Volunteering. Of course the best reason to volunteer is to help others. But it can also be a way to learn new skills, network and create resume items. While there is nothing wrong with serving meals to the needy, you may build more career-related successes by volunteering at a higher level. Take leadership of a project or initiative, run a committee or even serve on a non-profit board. Here you will develop positive relationships and show your skills to people who may become great contacts in your job search. While your primary goal is always to serve a good cause, try to position yourself to build relationships, develop new skills and add items to your resume by taking on truly challenging high-level work.
Temping. Fill-in work, short-term work, agency work. Call it what you will, picking up work along the way avoids resume gaps and makes you look “employed”. This is an excellent way to get a foot in the door at a company, meeting insiders and people in a position to hire you or help you land a permanent job down the road.
Consulting, mentoring or teaching. It’s remarkable to think of the body of knowledge held by people who are currently unemployed. Don’t just sit on that great knowledge. Use it to mentor someone, and then list that mentoring or consulting on your resume. Keeping active in your field gives you the chance to develop important relationships that may pay off in your job search.
Learning. When you’re employed it seems there is never enough time for classes, certification and advanced learning. Turning your employment gap into an educational opportunity allows you to add new skills and shows potential employers you are a lifelong learner.
It seems unfair and unwise for companies to avoid quality people for open positions simply because they are not currently working. But don’t let this unfortunate policy get you down. Instead, be proactive about filling your time productively, keeping your resume robust and expanding your network.