Can You Overcome The Stigma Of Unemployment? Yes
You've heard the statistics: Managers prefer to hire people who already have jobs. The long-term unemployed face steep odds. Some 5.4 million people have been out of work for more than six months, and after about a year of being out of work, their chances of getting a job drop to 1 in 10 per month.
If employers want candidates who already have jobs, and hardly anyone lands a position after being out of work for six months or more, you may wonder why you should even bother applying for jobs. Despite these grim statistics, you can battle the odds and the stigma of unemployment, even when you've been out of work for six months or more. Remember: If a new job has eluded you for months, it's possible your strategy and materials are holding you back.
Take a close look at the following to improve your chances to land a position:
1. Re-evaluate your pitch.
Most job seekers cannot articulate why someone should hire them in 30 seconds or less. If you cannot confidently tell a friend or associate what you do, why you're good at it and where you'd like to work, it could be preventing your progress. Take the time to plan what to say when someone asks about your job search. When you can articulate your pitch, it makes it easier for people to know how to help you land a job.
2. Examine your resume for errors, and key words.
Do you know that most companies will screen your resume using an applicant tracking system that scans your materials for keyword matches with the job description? If you're applying with an old-fashioned resume and not capturing those words, you have little chance of landing interviews. Similarly, if your resume is a laundry list of things you did without outlining your accomplishments and results, you're missing opportunities to impress hiring managers.
If you are applying for opportunities you are qualified to do and not landing any interviews, do not chalk it up to the tough economy or competitive market. Look carefully at your resume and application materials. Are there errors preventing you from making the cut? Do you make a clear connection between what you offer and what the employer wants? Is the resume about what you used to do, or is it about the reasons you are good for the next job? You have more control of this process than you think; make a point to change your approach and you could change your situation.
3. Avoid appearing desperate.
Maybe you are desperate, but there is no need for anyone else to know it. When everyone you know runs the other way because all you do at social events is ask people if they can help you get a job, desperation is preventing you from accessing possible opportunities.
If you apply for every position with the word "sales" in the title at one organization, including jobs you are overqualified for, hiring managers label you as desperate and unfocused, and move on to the next candidate. During your interview, if you answer the question, "Why are you interested in this job?" with, "I really just need something to pay the bills," even the most empathic hiring manager will cut the interview short.
It's very possible the statistics stacked against long-time job seekers are not the result of the fact that the person has been out of work for six months, but instead due to the natural tendency for these job seekers to start acting too desperate to appeal to hiring managers. Stay confident and focused on the positions you are qualified to earn and you'll have a much better chance to land your target job.
4. Do something new.
Have you really done everything you can to land a new job? Did you know networking contacts account for the vast majority of positions found? How much have you really tried to expand your network and demonstrate your expertise to people who don't already know you? Social media tools, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ offer tremendous opportunities to get the word out about you and to meet new people who may be willing to refer you to your next opportunity.
If you're uncomfortable meeting new people, start with Facebook and tap into your network of close contacts. Post updates to let your contacts and friends know about your expertise. For example, if you want to work in a retail fashion sales job, start reading magazines online and posting links to the latest fashion trends. Then, once you've established yourself as someone who comments on what to wear via a series of posts, ask your network for help: "I'm looking for a job selling women's clothing. If you know someone who works in any of these stores, I'd love an introduction." (Then, list three or four clothing stores.)
Do not get frustrated or let statistics influence your job search strategy. There are jobs out there, and if you are qualified, engage your network and submit top-notch materials, you have as much of a chance to land the job as anyone else, despite the tough job market.
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Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Business Success, Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.