Have you ever suspected that employers are less interested in hiring you because you are not currently employed? You might be right. A survey of job postings conducted by the New York Times revealed that many advertisements openly specified that they would only consider hiring applicants who are currently employed, or recently laid off.
Even more troubling is that if these employers are openly discriminating against people who are unemployed, there are likely many more employers who will do the same thing without actually stating it.
If you have been out of work for a while, does this mean that you will never get hired? What can you do to make yourself more marketable to employers? How can you get back into the game? Here are some suggestions that may help:
Identify the skills that are in demand, and acquire them. Take a look at job advertisements to identify the skills that are currently in demand. Find training programs, and other opportunities that will give you a chance to develop these skills. If the courses are expensive, shop around, and be creative. There may be other ways to get these skills without spending so much money. Look at government programs, non-profit organizations, and professional associations to see if they offer this training. Also, look online for podcasts, webinars, and videos. Information that you find online can be just as useful, and most of it is free!
Join a professional association and participate. Professional associations give you the opportunity to network with people in your field. If you’re lucky, your networking efforts could even lead you to a job. Also, participating in professional associations can help you keep in touch with emerging trends. By using the right buzz words on your resume, and in the interview, you can show that you are not out of touch with the industry. If the membership fee for the professional association is too expensive for your budget, see if they have any events that are open to non-members. You may be able to get many of the benefits without paying the full membership fee.
Volunteer. Volunteering can be helpful in bridging your employment gap, but only if you are volunteering in your field, or gaining marketable skills. Volunteering in your industry can help you build your network, and expand on your profile. However, if your volunteer work is unrelated to your target job, then it is wasting valuable time that you could be using on your job search.
Be flexible. If you have been out of work for a long time, try to consider some other options. Would you be willing to try a slightly different position, or something in another field? Also, think about taking a part-time job. If what you are doing isn’t working, then it is a good idea to try a different strategy. Even if the position isn’t exactly what you are looking for, it is better for you to be back in the workforce. Remember, you can always move back to your target job at some point in the future.
Being unemployed is not pleasant. In addition to all of the misconceptions that employers may have about you, unemployment can also erode your confidence. Once you start to doubt yourself, it can be difficult to perform well in an interview. It is important that you stay positive, and that you work hard to disprove any assumptions that the employer may have made about you. Remember that we are all facing the same challenges. You can rise above them quickly by maintaining your confidence and by showing the employer that they would be lucky to have you on their team.
(Written by Karen Bivand)