Tips for keeping your job search going, even if you're long-term unemployed

Lenroy Jones
Lenroy Jones

Unemployment in the United States continues to decrease, which is good.

However, what concerns me the most is the people who fall into a category of the long-term unemployed. Many of these individuals have dropped out of the job hunt altogether.

Seeing long-term unemployment eradicated in America and the rest of the world would be priceless. It's inspiring to think that someday we could develop a formula to eliminate something that is tied to variables, such as our economy, skill set, education, personality, etc.

However, in the meantime, there are many men and women who find themselves in the category of long-term unemployed workers, defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as 27 weeks or longer. We clearly know that it takes longer today to secure employment once you have been confronted with a layoff or, worse yet, termination.

Unemployment insurance was created 80 years ago out of a need to have a safe haven for families during hard economic times. During my lifetime I've witnessed an extension of benefits that was an economic stimulus for people in need. However, the feds and most states no longer offer such allowances, which is unfortunate.

The U.S. Department of Labor, as well as employment research centers, have well documented this group as facing the most difficulties in gaining employment. Many companies won't even look at applications or résumés from the long-term unemployed. If you fall into this category more than once it can wreak havoc on your self-esteem and eventually, your overall well-being. You'll be faced with gaps throughout your résumé and left trying to explain to hiring managers how this occurred numerous times.

Here are a few suggestions to address long-term unemployment in today's economy with the hope you'll beat the odds and bounce back quickly:

■ Address the résumé gap. You should be able to account for all your time during your unemployment. Get out of the house and volunteer, attend a class or start a small business. Be creative in your daily routine. Whatever you do, get active and stay involved.

■ Get aggressive. Whatever you do, don't take a break while between jobs. You have to position yourself to bounce back quickly. I have never met anyone who deliberately desired to be in the group labeled long-term unemployed. Take time to be sad and/or angry, but understand that your full-time job is to find a new job. Get focused and stay dedicated to the goal of getting employed.

■ Network. This is the most critical strategy available to a job seeker, and it must be used immediately.

According to Merriam-Webster, networking is simply interacting with other people, exchanging information and developing contacts, especially to further one's career. You do want to be employed again, right? Then get networking with family, friends, high school or college alumni; former colleagues, and referrals via LinkedIn and other social media outlets.

■ Anticipate the important question. Be prepared to answer this question: Why have you been unemployed so long? If it doesn't come up during the interview somehow, work in the answer during your conversation because in the back of the interviewer's mind they are wondering why you're in this predicament.

Don't get defensive, but rather be prepared to discuss your volunteer work or projects that you've been working on since being out of work.

■ Consider job relocation. Depending on your location and how long you have conducted the job search, it might be time to consider expanding your job hunt into other markets. Take time to evaluate what it would take for you to relocate. This can be a difficult decision, but your delay can affect you financially and emotionally.

Whatever you do, don't focus on résumé submission or completing hundreds of applications to job openings. Think and develop an effective job-search process. If your current job search is not working, change it. If you are looking on the sideline of the job hunt, then it's time to get back in the game right now.