Unemployed For a Long Time? Try This

Last Updated Jul 25, 2011 8:46 AM EDT

How long have you been unemployed? If you say more than a year, you're not alone. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that nearly one in three unemployed people have been out of work for more than a year.

And keep in mind, unemployment numbers don't include people who have given up, people who have accepted part time, low paying jobs, and people who have gone back to school. All told, the numbers are terrible. There is no magic fix, but there are some things you can change to do differently.
  1. Recognize that what you've been doing is not working. Now, this is not to say that they couldn't work and haven't worked for other people. But, for whatever reason, whatever you've been doing has not worked for you. Be willing to make some changes.
  2. Volunteer in a non-traditional fashion and include your work on your resume. It's not a bad thing to sort items at a thrift store, or paint walls at a center for at risk youth. In fact, these are excellent things to do. But, if you are looking for a job, you need relevant, current work on your resume. So, if you're an out of work HR person, volunteer to update the thrift store's employee handbook. If you're a journalist, offer to help a high school English teacher with a writing unit. If you're a statistician, volunteer to do a program effectiveness model for the center for at risk youth. Then put this on your resume.
  3. Pull all your resumes down off the job boards. This seems counter intuitive. But, the truth is, when recruiters search these boards, they have the option to pull up only "fresh" resumes. If yours has been up for a while, it's time to take it down for a few weeks. Then re-post it along with your new volunteer experience.
  4. Evaluate if jobs in your field will be available in the future. There are some jobs that are not coming back. It doesn't matter how good you are at a particular job, if no one needs that work done any more, you won't get rehired. If your field is a dead one, it's time for retraining.
  5. Figure out what jobs are available. Who is hiring? What skills do you need for those jobs? Are they vastly different from what you know? If you've been in finance but your area has a vast number of jobs open for plumbers and you think you could learn that skill, is it worth it to you to get the necessary training? What about moving? Unemployment is much lower in North Dakota than it is in California.
  6. Ask for informational interviews. This is not where you try to weasel a job interview out of someone. This is truly an informational interview. This is especially helpful after you've figured out what jobs are available. Ask someone (preferably through your networking, but sometimes cold calling works here) for 20 minutes of their time, either over the phone or in person. Say, "I've been working in finance for the past 7 years, but I'm looking for a big change. I know I'm not qualified to be a [insert career you are interested in] right now, but I would really appreciate it if you could tell me a little bit about the skills and qualifications needed to become a [whatever this person does]." If you are lucky enough to get one of these, ask questions and listen. This is not the time to sell yourself, this is the time to learn.
  7. Learn something new. Whatever it is you know, it isn't enough right now. You need to learn something new. This does not have to cost anything. For example, you can listen to lectures from MIT online, for free. Sure, you don't get credit, but you still get the knowledge.
  8. Don't be too picky. Liz Ryan writes of a woman who turned down a job interview because the proposed salary was $5000 below what she was looking for. The reality is, the high paying job that you once had may not be back for years. You may well need to compromise. Just as you can't expect to sell your house for what you paid in 2005, you can't expect a 2005 salary either.
  9. De-clutter online presence. Make sure you aren't tagged in any untoward photos on Facebook. (You can un-tag yourself, even if your friend posted the picture.) Update your LinkedIn and confirm that it does not have information you wouldn't want to bring up in a job interview. (For instance, don't post the books you are reading if they are political in nature, or are on how to better your marriage. Way too much information.) Ask yourself, "What would people think about me, if they examined my online presence?"
  10. Treat your job search like a full time job. For 8 hours every day, you should be doing something to further your job search. This can be expanding skills or setting up informational interviews. Ask yourself, "how will what I am about to do help me get a job?"
Finding a new job isn't easy. But making some changes may open up some new doors.

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Photo by aprilyandrandy, Flickr cc 2.0.

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