How do you get a job without a job? It may seem like a strange question, but those who have been out of work for several months have a hard time finding a job precisely because they have been out of work for several months.
This quote from the New York Times sums up the dilemma: “For many of these [unemployed] workers, the longer they stay out of work the worse their chances of finding work become — either because their skills become stale and dated, or because they are stigmatized by the giant hole in their resumes.” (“The Long-Term Unemployed,” The New York Times, April 2, 2010)
So what is a job seeker to do? I advise job seekers to do contract or temporary work so that they can stay current with their fields and be able to show employers that they have not been idle since their last permanent, full-time job.
Performing contract or temporary work makes it easy to explain what the job seeker has been doing on the resume and cover letter as well as in the interview. This type of work also has the added benefit of giving the job seeker some income. And another advantage is that it puts the job seeker in a better position to find out about openings. If a full-time position becomes available in the company where the job seeker is doing contract work, it is very likely that the job seeker will be offered the position since he or she is already a known entity to the company.
Temporary work covers virtually every field—from day laborers to chief executive officers. Quintessential Careers has some valuable resources for those considering temporary work on its website: http://www.quintcareers.com/temping_resources.html.
In addition to contract/temporary work, job hunters can highlight volunteer work on the resume. This is also considered experience. And again, it has the potential to turn into a full-time, paid position. But you have to be strategic when you volunteer in order to make it pay off. If you want a position as an HR manager, you don’t want to volunteer to just stuff envelopes. You want a volunteer position that will give you an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to a potential employer. That means that you need to research the company and be clear on what you are signing up for. Although you can sign up for advertised volunteer opportunities on sites like volunteermatch.org, you can also make a proposal to an organization to perform volunteer work based on your skill set and availability.
Yet another option is to participate in a professional association. By doing this you accomplish two purposes simultaneously. 1) You gain additional experience to put on your resume. 2) You open yourself up to networking opportunities that would otherwise not be available to you.
Most professional associations are begging for people to participate in committees. By joining a committee you raise your visibility amongst the membership. And you are able to demonstrate your work ethic as well as your abilities in your volunteer role. Other members will refer you to positions that they hear about if they are impressed by your work.
These are some practical steps to help you break out of the long-term unemployment cycle. You can fight back against the stigma of unemployment.
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