Joblessness and Long-Term Unemployment
The topic of joblessness and long-term unemployment is potentially huge, and I realize that one blog post will not begin to cover it all. However, a teleconference I participated in today gave me some food for thought that I believe could be useful, so I wanted to share it.
What is the difference between joblessness and long-term unemployment?
As you can probably figure out, these two concepts are potentially different sides of the same coin. You could have been laid off two weeks or a month ago and be at least technically considered both jobless and unemployed. On the other hand, if you have been without a job for an extended period, such as a year or more, you would probably be considered–and consider yourself–as long-term unemployed. However, being unemployed for a relatively short period (which can even mean a few months to several months these days) doesn’t necessarily have as major an impact on you and on your job search as long-term unemployment can.
How can you change a jobless or long-term unemployed mindset?
To be blunt, this is not a snap to do, I can utter easy-for-me-to-say comments like “it’s all in your mind,” but that doesn’t make your task easy. It is not impossible, though, and I have a few tips to share based on the teleconference mentioned earlier and on some of my own observations from working with diverse clients.
- Focus on developing a mindset that views your jobless situation as a non-issue. In other words, refuse to let your unemployed status define who you are and what you are capable of–in your own mind and in the perceptions of others. Work on not letting the status sap the confidence you used to have, which was based on what you were able to achieve and contribute. Joblessness has nothing to do with the value you can bring to employers going forward.
- Communicate confidence without arrogance. You might not be Mohammed Ali, whose “I am the greatest” might sound arrogant if you didn’t know how great he actually was, but you do have value that could benefit the right employer, and you can communicate it appropriately without crossing the line into what I call “in your face arrogance.” By the way, I just read an article (American Lifestyle, Sept./Oct. 2012) about Carol Polis, the first female boxing judge in the world, and she asked Ali whether he was ever afraid when he stepped into the ring. His answer: “Anybody who tells you that they don’t have butterflies in their stomach, there is something wrong with them. Of course I have butterflies in my stomach.”
- Re-frame the questions you ask. For example, avoid questions such as “Are you hiring?” or “Are you looking for…?” Try instead to ask things like, “Do you need (or could you use) someone who…?” In that case, you want to complete the question with a valuable quality, talent, strong expertise, etc. that you can bring to the situation. If the company you approach isn’t hiring, ask, “Do you know someone else who might need…?” They might be able to refer you to other companies.
- Seek volunteer opportunities that can add something worthwhile to your resume and help erase the “I’m unemployed” impression that comes across if you don’t have anything current listed. The experience needs to be as substantial as possible (i.e., more than just answering phones a couple of hours a week for a charity) and preferably relevant to your desired direction, but it doesn’t have to be paid experience to count.
- Perhaps most important (to underscore the first item above), stop thinking of and describing yourself as a job seeker without a job. Fundamentally, that is not who you are.