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Explaining Long-term Unemployment
Friday, January 13, 2012
The job market is starting to look up after a long stagnant period. Despite things taking a turn for the better, there are still 5.6 million Americans who have been out of work longer than 6 months, and 3.9 million for more than a year.
When trying to get back into the workforce, making up for lost time is extremely difficult. Potential employers look at the gap with questions brewing in their minds. Knowing how to explain it will put the employer at ease and make a seemingly major problem nothing to worry about.
A proactive explanation is important. Recruiters and hiring managers will often assume that there's something flawed about you or some other negative reason for you lack of work. They'll expect you to hold yourself accountable and be able to give solid, valid reasons for the downtime. Don't get too nervous when they ask you about it or they'll see this as a bad sign. Owning up to it to some degree will show them a sense of integrity and responsibility.
While it may have been the cause, don't put all the blame on the economy. Even though the average length of unemployment in the U.S. is 10 months, it's no cop out for not making effort in finding any work. Instead of appearing unlucky, you come off as helpless and victimized. Employers are willing to give chances to people who go out of their way to earn it. Even admit to mistakes on your part, perhaps you lacked some qualifications. Honesty is always the best policy.
Confidence is key. Whether you were laid-off or terminated from a job, losing it can really hurt a person's confidence in their abilities. Trying to hide that fear or not dealing with it at all will translate in your body language and facial expressions. So even if you think you're doing well and saying all the right things, hiring managers will be able to see right through your mask. To help, find someone you trust or a professional that you can work throught your feelings and on ways of improving your job hunting approaches.
Insure the interviewer that you're not out of touch with the industry. Be able to explain the major obstacles, changes and trends that the industry is experiencing. The employer will see your commitment to the field and your unwavering interest in remaining in it. Emphasize other ways you were able to stay productive despite being unemployed like volunteer or freelance work. It will show that you've been making an effort to hone your skills and contribute in some way. Plus, this demonstrates your understanding of the value of spending time and engery as a way to continue personal growth.
Making light of the situation can work for some. There are certain people with the appropriate personalities who will be able to use humor when talking about long-term unemployment. But too much joking around can make you seem like you don't take unemployment seriously and they'll relate that to you not taking anything seriously. If you want to take a more informal approach to make good use of your time, start networking. Join groups on LinkedIn in your area of expertise and attend industry events to mingle with your peers. This is an effective way to show that you've stayed current even while being between jobs. Networking has become an important way of navigating through the job market.