Job search: Networking is key to ending long-term unemployment

Sending hundreds of résumés is no solution

Contributing columnistAugust 5, 2013 

Lenroy Jones

We have more and more companies hiring today than two years ago, but we have groups of unemployed continuing to struggle with unemployment.

Long term unemployment is a category of unemployed workers that include those who have been unemployed 27 weeks or longer. James Borbely, economist in the Division of Labor Force Statistics, Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics said, "the average time for someone to be unemployed is 36.6 weeks."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of long-term unemployed was 4.2 million in July. These individuals accounted for 37.0 percent of the unemployed, and this group has one of the most difficult jobs at finding employment.

I have read and heard for months that companies won't even look at résumés of the long-term unemployed.

The skeptics say that America's unemployment crisis might just be here to stay, so get use to it.

I say, enough!

One of the fundamental reasons that I believe the skeptics are incorrect is because Americans may get knocked down, but we get back up. If you fall into this grouping of unemployed this information is for you.

You might be stuck on listening to and believing the many myths that are out here. But whether it's a myth or not, you need to place it in perspective, and get on with your job search.

Here are a few examples of beliefs and myths about employers who will not hire the long-term unemployed with my responses:

■ Employers are thinking that you have obsolete skills, too rusty or no relevant skills today. After all, we have a technologically driven work environment that changes quickly; some have indicated every 18 months.

Response: You can influence and change this by signing up for additional training or education.

■ Many say that companies are unofficially interested in hiring only younger applicants and/or individuals already employed.

Response: If this is true, you have no control over this thinking. Influence and focus on what you can. Also, do you really want to work for a company that discriminates?

■ The employer is thinking that you are damaged goods and will only hurt the work environment.

Response: You know this isn't true, so why worry? However, if you do have existing challenges you should address them while you have this time.

I have noticed many people who struggle with long-term unemployment send out hundreds of resumes and complete an equal number of online applications with no results. Not even an interview or response from the company, and they continue on with this process. If it is not working, start doing it differently.

If you're at home waiting for an employer to contact you about employment, that is a problem because there are individuals knocking on doors and calling, or having someone contact the hiring manager on their behalf. They are getting the interview and the job. I have noticed more and more people contacting individuals that they know through a family member or friend, asking for assistance to be introduced to a possible employer.

The key to breaking your long-term unemployment drought starts with you, not the economy changing in your favor. Take an honest and serious self-assessment of your circumstances and decide that you will take some different steps in your job search.

Here are some suggestions to help get your started:

Prepare your response: Be prepared to answer the question, why have you been unemployed? Somehow, work in the answer during your conversation whether it's asked or not because in the back of the interviewer's mind they are wondering why you're in this predicament. Be bold and brief.

It's not the résumé: Stop focusing on your résumé and start networking and accepting help from family and friends because 75 to 85 percent of the jobs are secured through networking.

Resources matter: Use every available resource at your disposal, such as your alumni office, career services, the unemployment office, local libraries, church or synagogue, and any job placement agencies that you can access. If you are not consistently and effectively utilizing those resources, you are missing out on hundreds of opportunities to tap into job leads and connecting to resources that can help you.

Go into business: Create a position for yourself by starting your own business or partner with someone else. You can attend a workshop to learn about what you need to do to get started. There are numerous resources within the community to get you started on a business and some provide financial support, such as Community Ventures Corporation, University of Kentucky, and Eastern Kentucky University.

Get off the couch! It may be an easy statement to make, but it is more important than any other suggestions. Drop the hopelessness and helplessness prospective because it's not going to result in getting you closer to being gainfully employed. Build your resilience by surrounding yourself with people, places and things that motivate and inspire you.

Keep educating and re-educating yourself about the job search process until you secure that elusive job.

Since 2011, we have observed a long-term jobless rate that was more than in 1948, which is when the government started keeping records. We are witnessing a global economy and U.S. labor market that is still sluggish. My approach to this has been to view our situation as a new economy for the job search, and that requires you to take a new tactic and attitude.

I hope you join me in embracing our new economy and stay positive.

Lenroy Jones is the associate director at the University of Kentucky's James W. Stuckert Career Center. He holds a master's degree in college and university administration from Michigan State University. E-mail him at lenroy.jones@gmail.com, like him at Facebook.com/CareerDude or join him on LinkedIn.com.

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