Legos. They’re a wonderful toy that’s entertained children for years. But have you ever looked at a pile of legos? They’re all similar to certain extent. Bricks that connect to another brick. Sure, there are different sizes and colors, but individually they’re not too significant. However, together they can build something great. So when you’re looking for a job, you’re essentially a lego brick.
Getting lost in the sea of lego pieces is a terrible fate that affects many Americans. Being unemployed for months is a terrible feeling and the longer you are unemployed, the more difficult it is to eventually get a job. You become insecure and scared.
This fear is real and is experienced by many Americans every year. However, this topic has really become a especially sensitive pain point in the past 6 years, since we’ve experienced some of the highest unemployment rates the US has experienced in the past 30 years. It’s lead to many millenials to move back home and forced many experienced professionals to work jobs that they’re over-qualified for. The lack of jobs and growing pool of qualified candidates has caused many to become a part of the ever stressful group of long-term unemployed Americans.
Unless you were one of the lucky few who get recruited from their current positions, most lose their jobs and then are forced to find new jobs. Naturally there will be a gap in their employment history. But once that gap starts to extend beyond six months (my definition) you dip into the ranks of the long-term unemployed. Once you get hit with this toxic label, getting a new job becomes increasingly difficult.
There are three major things that cause gaining unemployment after six months to be increasingly difficult. Confidence. Perception. Desperation.
Your confidence will really take a hit when you’re on the job hunt. It can even cause varying degrees of depression. I’ve seen it first hand. A friend loses his/her job. They apply and apply to every job they’re qualified for. They continually get shot down or ignored. This constant barrage of rejection will start to take its toll. Confidence in their skills dwindles.
Before you know it, your once vibrant friend has recoiled, removing them self from social circles, too down to even hang out. It’s hard to get a job when you don’t have confidence and the job hunt doesn’t offer many opportunities to increase your self-esteem.
Once you are unemployed for an extended period of time, potential employers start having a different perception of you. Why hasn’t anyone hired you? You begin to appear like old fish. Why pick the old, stinky fish, when there is newer, fresher fish?
It’s human nature. We want what everyone else wants. If no one wants it, whatever it is becomes less appealing. I’m not saying this is right, but it’s the reality. So no fault of your own, you become increasingly less attractive to a potential employer if you’ve been out of work for too long.
When people become unemployed for a really long time, they start to become desperate. Their salary expectations once started at $75,000 a year. Soon they’re applying for positions at $60,000 and then they’re praying to be considered for a $40,000 a year job. Hiring managers can smell this desperation and it raises red flags.
Everyone knows it’s easier to get a job while you have a job. So for the long-term unemployed, when they can’t get a job that fits their expectations, they lower them. Getting a job of any sorts will help them rebound. Both with their confidence and financially. You may be thankful for a $40,000 a year job over the possibility of losing unemployment, but once your confidence goes up, you’re going to want that $75,000 salary. That’s when you’ll start to look for a new job, which will now be easier since you have a job.
No one wants to be the pit stop of someone’s professional journey. Hiring is a draining process for the employer and training someone takes time and money. If the hiring manager thinks someone is over-qualified for a job and will bolt in 8 months, you’re probably going to be skipped as they look at the candidates they think will stay long-term.
The cherry on top of this bleak news is age. Good luck getting a job if you’re over 50 and unemployed for longer than six months. Another harsh truth (which is an entirely new blog post). So how can someone avoid the frustration and fear long-term unemployment brings?
Warren Buffet once said that you should never depend on just one source of income. I believe this is a philosophy that everyone should adopt. Since I’ve followed this advice, it has greatly reduced my stress and provided me more options. So while most are not fit to be an entrepreneur, everyone should be entrepreneurial. I’m fortunate enough to have side work that pays my bills. But even if you don’t have enough side work to pay all your bills, some extra income always helps.
In addition to finding more work, there are three things people should consider when they’re unemployed. Admittedly, two are universal rules, while the third can be limiting if you have a family.
You should always be networking. Especially if you have a job. You need time to build meaningful relationships. Plus it’s better to build them when you don’t need anything from them. Building a strong network of people who know you and can vouch on your behalf is the best way to get a job. The first thing I do when I look for a job is to email everyone I know. It’s a far more effective option for employment than applying cold to job boards. I would venture a guess that people who are unemployed for extended periods of time don’t have strong networks.
2. Add Value
Be proactive. If you want a job with a company, do something to get the job. People like seeing results. This will make you stand out. Bring the company a client, or make a valuable introduction. I always remember Kevin Rose telling the story how he got into Square’s venture round. Jack Dorsey first turned him down, but then offered him an opportunity to invest after Kevin made a video for Square that got people’s attention. Add value over the other Lego bricks.
I’ve never felt worried about opportunity during my job hunts because I live in Los Angeles. Being in a major, metropolitan area means there are many more job opportunities than if I were to live in the middle of Iowa. I know family changes things and moving is not always feasible. But if you’re having difficulties finding a job, perhaps it’s time to consider a new location. You can’t build a life without a job.
I’ve never been unemployed for an extended period of time. But I have been unemployed and it’s hell, so I can’t imagine what six months of unemployment feels like. I’ve had friend who were unemployed for a year. After a few months, I stopped seeing them. They were too embarrassed to go out. Their self-worth was shot. I don’t wish unemployment upon anyone. If you find yourself looking for a job, I hope you don’t just work the job boards but take my advice and get yourself out there. I guarantee your hunt will be shorter.