In December, 13.1 million Americans were unemployed, and 5.6 million of those were long-term unemployed, meaning they had been without a job for more than 27 weeks, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures. The long-term unemployed accounted for more than 40 percent of all unemployed workers.
As the economy continues to drag, the group of people who have been without a job for weeks and months on end seems to continue growing. And it can seem like finding a job becomes more difficult the longer you remain without one. But it’s not hopeless.
If you’ve been without a job for a long time, here are five tips for breaking through and getting hired, according to Erin Peterson at Aon Hewitt, a global leader in human capital consulting and outsourcing solutions.
- Confront Bias. Yes, there is bias against the long-term unemployed. “The best way to deal with it is head on,” Peterson says. “Talk about what you’ve been doing to build your skills in the meantime, and be flexible. Hiring managers know it’s been hard for millions of people for over three years. They will cut you some slack if you don’t try to cover it up.”
- Consider Retraining. Taking classes or getting trained in a new area “absolutely works because [it] gives you new skills and new confidence, two key ingredients to being marketable,” Peterson says. She suggests targeting your retraining efforts by visiting job boards and USAjobs.gov and look for trends in open positions. “If you see one or two profiles that most companies or government agencies seem to always have available, go out and acquire those skills,” she says. “Remake yourself into what the market seeks and you may never be unemployed again.”
- Consider Volunteering. Try volunteering with a local charity as a way to keep busy while you’re looking for a job, and you never know what good things will come of it. “Let’s say an unemployed machinist loved dogs,” Peterson says. “While he was unemployed, he volunteered at the local dog shelter to help get their facility in shape. While volunteering, he met another volunteer with a need at her company for his skills and voila! She gets a referral bonus from her company for referring him, and he gets a job.”
- Get Creative. “Market yourself the way companies market their products; appropriately but with a flair that fits your personality,” Peterson says. “If you’re looking for a marketing job, send a hiring manager flowers with a CD of your portfolio attached. Also, use your contacts. [Being unemployed is] the perfect time to reach into all the areas of your life and connect with former colleagues, friends, and friends of friends on social media, and let them know you’re looking. Go find those long lost friends from high school and college and connect with them; you never know what you’ll find. The Germans have a great saying that is translated loosely as, ‘You always meet twice.’ And it’s true!”
- Keep up Your Professional Contacts. It may seem obvious, but “the worst thing you can do when you’re unemployed is to stay at home and isolate yourself,” Peterson says. “Join a support group for job seekers at a local church or synagogue. Volunteer and network, network, network.”