Getting a Job When You’ve been Unemployed for a Long Time

July 19, 2013

looking for a jobThere are some disturbing findings in the job market, particularly if you have been unemployed for a long time. A pair of studies have determined that the single worst attribute that a job seeker can have is to have been unemployed for more than six months. No other single factor has as much potential to disqualify you from the jobs you’re applying for.

If that describes your situation, read on . . . .

What Long-Term Unemployment Might be Telling You

There are several potential reasons why being out of work more than six months is hurting your job search. Some have to do with you, and some have to do with the job market in general.

You’re being screened out.

With most jobs now requiring that you apply online, being out of work may be coming up as a disqualifier. Employment sites – whether they are general job boards or employer-specific sites – use algorithms to screen out candidates. This helps human resources departments narrow the pool from hundreds of candidates to a small handful.

It is very likely that recent long-term unemployment is being given heavy weight in the sifting process. In short, if you are out of work more than six months, there’s a very good chance that your resume and application are being rejected without further review.

Your industry or career may be in long-term decline.

Many of the long-term unemployed are in that situation because either their industry or the career field is in decline. This could be because of falling demand, foreign competition, or technology that renders employees obsolete.

Your skills may not be what they need to be.

There’s no escaping the fact that technology is changing rapidly, making it very difficult for workers to keep up with the pace of constant change. This is especially true for older workers. It may be that your skill set has become uncompetitive in the industry or field that you were once employed in.

You need to get a job – any job – as soon as possible.

Whatever the reason for your long-term unemployment, the solution in each case is the same: you need to get a job as soon as possible. It’s a well-worn cliché that it’s easier to get a job if you already have a job. Changing your current employment status then, is obviously Job #1.

Getting Back into the Job Market After Long-Term Unemployment

Let’s camp on that last suggestion for a bit. There is no doubt that it is a certified catch-22 situation – you need a job in order to get a job, but you’ve been unable to get one so far, so how does it all work out?

If you have been out of work for much beyond six months, you may have go to back to square one. It might be best to assume that you are starting your career all over again. In a real way, and at least on a temporary basis, that may be exactly what’s playing out.

One of the mindsets that can be damaging in a job search is the overwhelming drive to get a full-time, permanent job with benefits. In some industries, and in some career fields, these types of positions becoming increasingly rare. This is one of those big picture issues where you really have to adjust your thinking in order to survive.

You may have to think in terms of getting a part-time job, a temporary job, or be ready to try contract work. At a minimum, having such a job will help you get past those annoying computer screening algorithms that have been the source of so much of your misery so far.

Once you land even a minimal job – say, a part-time situation – you can begin the job of rebuilding your career. You may find that the way back will look like a part-time job, followed by a temporary job, followed by a contract situation, and finally a full-time, permanent position. It’s not a pretty route back into employment, but options tend to thin out the longer you’re out of job.

Give Serious Consideration to Self-Employment

You may have to be prepared for the possibility that there may not be a full-time, permanent position at the end of the job-seeking rainbow. If that’s the case, or you think it might be, you might want to use your less-than-perfect succession of jobs (part-time, temporary, contract) to leverage yourself into your own business.

With jobs and the economy becoming so uncertain, this is the option for an increasing number of seasoned employees. If you can build a business while you’re trying to work your way back into full-time employment, the business option may become more important if it becomes increasingly clear that a full-time job isn’t in the cards.

Doing contract work is even a way to begin building a business. Any business that you build is more likely to succeed if it is based on skills you already have. When you take on a contract assignment, the employer effectively becomes your client. If you can begin working with several clients (contract situations) at the same time, you’ll be well on your way to having a business.

Inventory your skills, the ones that you are using for whatever work you’re doing right now, plus any other skills that you have in your repertoire, and start thinking about what you have to offer to the largest number of potential clients. The Internet is making self-employment more possible for more people than ever. Build a website dedicated to the services that you can provide, and work on how to market the site.

If you can successfully launch a business, your career troubles will be over.

What advice can you offer to someone who’s been unemployed for more than six months that might get them a steady paycheck?


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Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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