Breaking Through Long Term Unemployment

Breaking Through Long Term Unemployment

Long term unemployment is a serious concern these days. Research shows the longer someone is out of work, the more difficult it is to find a new job.  Today, how three people struggled with long term unemployment, and the turning points that got each of them back to work.

Uncovering a Job Search Weakness

Carlin* was a successful mid-level sales rep when he was laid off in the economic downturn. Initially he believed his skills were versatile enough that he would quickly find new opportunities.  Carlin was well connected, confident in his job search skills and frustrated by the lack of results.  Troubleshooting his job search we realized:

  • He was finding job leads, thus his skills were in demand
  • His resume effectively communicated his value because he was getting invited to interviews
  • Following interviews, he was often told he was the runner up for the position

The diagnosis: Carlin was not interviewing effectively. He believed he had good communication skills and the ability to present himself well. But the fact that he was consistently being asked to interview then not getting hired said otherwise. Realizing his weak spot, then working to strengthen it, was the turning point for Carlin. After honing his interview skills he was soon back on the job.

Lesson learned:  Examine your job search step by step and figure out where it is stalling. Focus on repairing that point and observe the results.

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Demonstrate Productivity and Contemporary Skills

Sharon turned her layoff into an opportunity to enjoy some downtime and do things she hadn’t had time to do before. Living off of savings, she enjoyed extra time with her family and completed some home improvement projects.  By the time she was ready to return to work as a project manager, she found herself classified as “long term unemployed.”  She got no response when submitting her resume to open positions and was told by a recruiter that her skills were “dated”.  Sharon knew the world had not changed that much in the 14 months she had been off the job. The problem was one of perception. So she went to work developing new professional accomplishments:

  • She volunteered to manage a fundraising campaign at her son’s school and documented her success at managing a large team of volunteers and raising and impressive amount of money.
  • She took a course at a local community college to gain new certification in project management. Some of the course was review, given her experience, but she picked up some new techniques and got new certification to add to her resume.
  • She offered to mentor a recent college grad who was just learning the ropes in project management and documented her success and coaching and leading others.

Demonstrating fresh productivity on her resume was the turning point for Sharon. In the course of her new activities, she made a number of direct professional connections, including one who led her to the job she ultimately landed.

Lesson learned: Regardless of the length of your unemployment, be busy, productive, learning and growing.

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A Better Measure of Effective Job Search

Sandra was a driven job seeker who followed a meticulous routine of locating and applying for jobs found on job boards, industry bulletin boards, print sources, and Craig’s list.  She was determined not to be overly selective in what she applied for and, as the months went by, she resolved to apply for anything remotely related to her work experience as a network administrator. She even applied for retail positions, knowing the pay would be a substantial cut and most of her skills would not be used.  In the 15 months since being laid off, Sandra recited these statistics:  2,000+ jobs applied for, 12 phone interviews, 3 in-person interviews, zero offers.  Sandra’s job search was missing a key component: Networking!

  • She was sending out applications blind with no connection or insider edge.
  • She was focusing her time exclusively on locating and applying for open positions
  • She was measuring her productivity based on number of applications sent out.

Sandra’s turning point came when she changed her focus from advertized jobs to networking.  Calling herself a “computer nerd”, Sandra struggled to build a network of humans who would support her job search. She used her organizational and goal setting skills to push herself to grow her network.  Soon she started learning of hidden job opportunities as well as advertized jobs where she had an insider connection.  With the support of her network, Sandra found her rate of interviews going up, even though she was applying to far fewer jobs. Within two months of this change of focus, she was hired and back on the job.

Lesson learned: Network, network, network! It’s not how many jobs you apply to, it’s whether you are making connections that will help you find the right one.

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If you are part of the “long term unemployed” or supporting someone who is, there is a turning point that will change your job search and put you on the path to employment. Don’t give up hope. Instead focus on examining each aspect of your job search for weak spots and blind spots, leading you to your turning point.

Jobfully can help you discover your turning point. Visit the Jobfully Home Page to learn how our proven program of video coaching,, productivity tools and goal setting can lead you to success.

*Names have been changed to respect these individuals’ privacy.

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7 thoughts on “Breaking Through Long Term Unemployment

  1. Thank you Amy! I also appreciated your blog on this topic today. The issue of stale or dated skills also came up in your research, so it’s clearly an important one that job seekers need to pay attention to.

    Thanks for sharing the information.

  2. I left my professional, but low pay, education job in Sept. 2010 to take care of my ailing parents. Knew I was going to do this, so I started also volunteering for a local organization and gave myself a “title” and started doing activities that no one else had ever done. After the parental situation was stabilized, I found myself unable to get a job anywhere. Put the volunteer job down on my resume and never mentioned it was volunteer and surprisingly, a lot of employers didn’t ask. Don’t ask, so don’t tell!! Well, after 13 months, I finally got a job. It’s not the greatest – basically doing the job of three people (Office Mgr., web designer and communications), but at least it’s a start. Most of the jobs that are available out there are horrible. Employers know they have you over a barrel and can get anyone for any salary. My best advice is not to be too honest. I have never in my life had to do what I’ve done over the past year. But honesty is not the best policy. If you can pad your resume with skills, do it (but make sure you learn them quickly) and if you have to use others to vouch for employment that never existed, do it. In this society, honesty does not pay and if you have be a “fraud” then do it. Because you have to pay the bills and have to be able to eat. At least I didn’t resort to prostitution.

  3. Charla,

    Good to hear your story on how you successfully leveraged your volunteer work to overcome a significant employment gap and land a paid position.

    While it’s smart to not volunteer information that could diminish one’s candidacy, it’s not okay to use false information on one’s resume or during job interviews. Trust is the last thing you want to lose with a potential employer. No companies would hire people who they cannot trust.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. Best wishes for your new job.


  4. I was job hunting before and it’s extremely challenging when a skill you need to function is not available, reading this and what it provides sounds like solid work.

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