job search

Long-term unemployment and job search, Part 2: Taking action

In Part 1 last week, I highlighted recent studies that show we have a growing problem in the United States with both long-term adult unemployment (and potential employer discrimination against the long-term unemployed). Also that we have a growing problem with youth unemployment.

I’ve been unemployed for an extended period–7 months–in 2009. Part of that time was by choice (I chose to focus on studying for a professional certification), but at least 4 months of that time was active job search. I know how frustrating and desperate it can start to feel; what will people think when they see this employment gap on my resume? At what point do I cease to become relevant to prospective employers? Is moving out of state to an undesirable location in order to find work my only option? I was lucky–through my network I learned of an opportunity with a phenomenal organization, was able to apply my unique abilities, and worked for two of the most world-class leaders of my career. I was also extremely fortunate in that I had a lot of support from my personal and professional networks and had been very fiscally conservative (I thankfully avoided buying a house in 2006–not for lack of trying) so I wasn’t in dire straits financially.

I think about that period as I work to grow my network and skills in the hope that I don’t ever have to go through that again.

So what can we as employers do about this? One, don’t automatically disqualify someone just because they’ve been out of work for a period of time. Each resume is a unique story about someone–and it speaks to more than their career, as your personal and professional lives cannot be fully divorced. If a recruiter sees someone with great experience who has a long break in service on their resume–reach out and ask why.

Regarding youth unemployment? My advice is to get involved. Find a local program that works with high school non-completers or at-risk high school youth and see how you can help. I spent the better part of a decade working with such a program on a volunteer basis; we provided high school dropouts with essential skills, GED completion, and–if they met specific benchmarks–the opportunity to be sponsored into a technical/vocational training program at a local community college. There are programs like this in many communities; find one and volunteer. If you’re an employer, research how you can get involved in providing critical on the job training or co-op work experience for youth.

What if you’re a job seeker who is among the long-term unemployed? As I said above, I’ve been there. It’s easy to become discouraged–I know. Especially when relationship, family, financial, or other pressures start weighing on you. But you cannot lose sight of the end goal.  You cannot withdraw into yourself. You must maintain focus and a daily routine. Exercise (walking doesn’t cost anything!). Eat right. Get out of the house 5 days a week. Go to a work search center and talk with other job seekers. Use the free resources available to you.

Most of all–you cannot give up on yourself.



3 thoughts on “Long-term unemployment and job search, Part 2: Taking action

  1. Great advice!!! Remember meeting at Cherry Street coffee to “work”? 🙂

    Posted by Jen | May 28, 2013, 10:52 am
  2. I’ve been unemployed for what seems like forever (about 2 years). In spite of my job search activities, I cannot seem to catch a break. I’m older (44) and I feel as though employers have somehow found a way to read certain aspects of a person’s resume and calculate( algorithms if you will) approximate ages of applicants. They then use this data to qualify or disqualify candidates in many cases. Contrary to what the article says, I believe that the more alarming number of older long term unemployed is growing rapidly. True, thousands of young college graduates are entering a bleak job market but they have far more time to work in these job markets or even create their own jobs through entrepreneurial opportunities. I too am a somewhat recent college grad (2009) with a Bachelors of Science. I just happen to think that youth is more valued in our economy and job market. This in no ways means that I am not sympathetic to all my fellow unemployed.

    I do NOT get unemployment and have not received any unemployment benefits for at least 18 months. I also do not receive any type of government assistance. I live with a friend (God Bless) who has been more than gracious as they are not wealthy and live on a very average salary.

    What else can I do? I feel worthless and forgotten even though I have what I like to think of as a high self esteem and overall outgoing personality. This has not only become a fight for independence and economic freedom but a fight for my life and dignity. I don’t know if someone can quantify that in a statistic.

    I’d just like to say we are proudly older and that we are valuable! We matter and are not just stats on paper.
    Best Regards

    Posted by Arabellaspride | May 28, 2013, 3:45 pm
    • Howdy–Thanks for the comment.

      First off, I wouldn’t say you’re ‘older’! Mid-career workers can bring a great amount of energy and fresh ideas to a position while also having a lot of experience and skill. You mentioned that you recently graduated from college–was that a career transition? Or were you completing a degree in your current field? How much work experience do you have in your field? What’s the local labor market like for your profession versus in other areas of the country? How aggressively have you built your network? What have you been doing in a volunteer capacity?

      Posted by Jon J-B | May 29, 2013, 12:01 pm

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