Guest Post: How to Keep Your “Unemployed” Status from Turning Managers Off


Job-300x299The first week that you started looking for a new position, hiring managers may not have even noticed that you were technically unemployed. And they certainly (hopefully) had the common sense not to hold this against you. But if you’ve been on the market for a few months—or years—now, things might be a bit different.

After about six months, it’s reasonable for hiring managers to question your employment gap. After all, they are making an important decision that should serve the best interests of the company. For the most part, this is nothing personal. It’s a just a necessary and reasonable aspect of due diligence. So how should you answer these questions, and how can you make sure that your unemployed status doesn’t create an unwelcome job search obstacle?

  1. First, although it may be difficult to hear, you need to do something—anything—that shows you aren’t sitting on the couch all day. Even if you’re collecting a small or irregular paycheck or doing work that is beneath your qualifications, you need to “work.” This may mean taking a part time job, offering your services for odd jobs, or looking for occasional (or regular) freelance work, consulting positions, or temp jobs.

You might even consider volunteering. Employers like to see this on your resume, and this kind of work will keep your hands active and your social skills sharp. This can also expose you to new experiences and contacts you’d otherwise miss. Just don’t give away your time to a company that could easily pay you but chooses not to.

2.  Don’t commit so much time to this this place-holding work that your search for more appropriate positions falls behind. If you have to put your dream job on the back burner for a while, do so, but control the hours you spend working on other things so that you still have enough time and energy to submit applications to more appropriate employers.

3.  If you’ve looked for part time or temporary work and haven’t found any opportunities, that’s okay. Just keep focusing your search on appropriate positions, but widen your definition of appropriate. Be flexible. Push the boundaries of what you want to do, what you can do, how you define your areas of interest and expertise, and the rigidity of your long term-goals. Keep your mind open. You never know when or where the right job might come your way.

4.  If you can afford to, take a course. Take plenty of courses. Steer clear of for-profit degree programs, and by all means read the fine print before you accept any educational debt, but do what you can to keep learning and growing. You can also consider joining a club, a team, an industry organization, or an open source programing project to stay connected to changes in your field.

LiveCareer, home to America’s #1 Resume Builder, connects job seekers of all experience levels and career categories to all the tools, resources and insider tips needed to win the job. Connect with us on Google+ and Youtube for even more tips and advice on all things career and resume-related.

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4 thoughts on “Guest Post: How to Keep Your “Unemployed” Status from Turning Managers Off

  1. I hope you don’t mind a hiring manager’s perspective.

    With the economy having been so weak for so long it’s not unusual to see gaps on a resume. Being currently unemployed is a challenge especially if there is a length of time because it raises a lot of questions. Depending on your field the length of time could be very important.

    For example, despite a weak economy, .NET developers are very much in demand. If someone has been out of work for 6 months it raises an immediate red flag. Why so long? What has prevented them from finding a job? Are they any good? These are just natural questions that race through my mind. Anything over 3 months does look suspect.

    A candidate needs to be ready to answer the questions that come with a lengthy period of unemployment before they ever walk into an interview. Being unprepared to talk about it can be an instant deal-breaker. There are many reasonable explanations of a long period of unemployment even if the candidate has not been taking courses or doing volunteer work.

    One thing that is absolutely essential, do not let your skills grow stale. A software developer who has not been keeping up-to-date can fall behind in as little as six months. That’s employed or not! I’m sure other industries have their own metrics. Regardless, while you are out of work make sure you stay up with trends. Read up, study, and practice. Be ready to answer questions about your industry’s current state and maybe even comment on upcoming changes.

    Also, do not despair. Extended periods of unemployment have hit a large swathe of the population. You are not alone! No matter how many rejections you’ve had to deal with, no matter how many resumes you’ve submitted with no response, no matter how many recruiters you’ve talked to you must remain confident that you are the right person for the job when you walk into an interview. Salespeople without confidence don’t close deals. You are selling yourself as a candidate. Never forget that.

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    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. IT is one of the industries where even a relatively short gap not only raises flags, but can cause a candidate to lose his/her edge in the market. We work hard at helping job seekers build the confidence to talk honestly about their period of unemployment, but stay focused on what they know they can contribute in the future.

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  2. Pingback: Guest Post: How to Keep Your “Unemployed” Status from Turning Managers Off « Career.BlogNotions - Thoughts from Industry Experts

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