Saturday, September 15, 2007

Help For The Long-Term Unemployed - Page 2

Author: Catey Hill

More than six months ago, Naomi Bishop was laid off from her job as a social media strategist when her former employer closed its Seattle office. She’s kept busy with freelance consulting work, but the months without full-time employment are starting to take a toll. “With each passing day, I worry that I am becoming less employable,” she says.

She’s right to worry. Prospective employers don’t like to see big gaps on a resume. Still, Bishop has plenty of company. The long-term unemployment rate hit an all-time high this year -- in May, 46% of unemployed people had been out of work for six months or more, according to the Labor Department. Today, 6.2 million (42%) of unemployed people fall into this group. During the recession in the early 1980s, only about 25% of the unemployed had been out of work for six months or more.

For job-seekers, long-term unemployment can have severe consequences. In addition to the impact on a worker’s ability earn and save money, being out of the workforce can impact job skills, increase the likelihood of unhappiness and anxiety, and heighten the probability that a worker will drop out of the workforce altogether, economists say.

“People who have been unemployed for a while have the hard task of staying upbeat and positive,” says Marc Dorio, an executive coach and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Career Advancement,” adding that "some employers might not view that long unemployment in the best light." Nonetheless, the long-term unemployed can still find a job if they know how and where to look, he says. Here’s what to do.

Fill in employment gaps

If you’ve been busy during your unemployment, show it. If you’re using relevant skills for volunteer work, or to build a blog or a house, put it on your resume. And if you haven’t been doing those things, what’s stopping you? Volunteer at an organization that might have work for you related to your field, says Phil Rosenberg, President of reCareered, a career coaching service and web site. Not only will it keep you sharp and motivated, it can give you a foot in the door if a job opens up there or be a valuable networking opportunity. At the very least, it’s good for your resume.

Cast a wider net

If you have been looking for months, it may be time to expand your job search. Apply for jobs even if you think you’re overqualified. Try new arenas for job postings -- and, both of which aggregate job listings, are helpful starting points. Find companies that you might want to work for and send a letter to the person who would be your boss if you worked there, Dorio says. Discuss how your skills and experience would benefit the company and ask the person to keep you in mind for future positions.

Reimagine your skills

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 51% of workers who had been laid off in the last year and landed new jobs said they found work in a different area than where they were previously employed. Unemployed workers who want to make a switch should look at industries or employers that are hiring and ask themselves how their skills might apply to these jobs, Dorio says.

Sign up with a temp agency

Employers are increasingly hiring for contract and temp work, career coaches say. Even if you would prefer a full-time job, you may want to consider a temporary or contract position. You can (and probably want to) keep looking for a full-time job, says Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach, but some temps and contractors eventually get hired into full-time positions.

Stay positive

Keeping your spirits up during a protracted job search can be a struggle, but it’s important to try. “It comes across in job interviews, talking to contacts and in your overall demeanor,” says Allison Nawoj a communications manager at CareerBuilder. For help, consider joining an online job search or unemployed support group or reaching out to your family and friends.

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