Although there are signs the economy is healing, there are still 15.3 million unemployed workers in America according to the most recent BLS data. Among those unemployed, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) continued to trend up, reaching 6.1 million in December 2009. That means 4-in-10 unemployed workers have been jobless for 6 months or longer.
In addition, about 2.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force last December, an increase of more than half a million from the previous year. Marginally attached persons are defined as those individuals who were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed, however, because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Have they simply given up?
“Unemployed people are facing some historic numbers and formidable competition. However, they need to pinpoint those areas they may be able to change, make a difference and increase their chances for success. Despite the odds, people are still landing jobs every day. Job seekers need to continually make adjustments, learn to run a focused campaign and never give up,” said Bob Wilson, managing partner of OI Partners-High Potential Inc. in Chicago.
If you are feeling the stress of long-term unemployment, here are some tips from Wilson and his colleagues at OI Partners:
Double-check your references: “Make sure that your references are telling potential employers what you think they are, and they are up to date on your skills and accomplishments. We suggest that our clients ‘groom’ their references constantly and determine in advance exactly what their references will say about them. Finally, use only those that will ‘sell’ you the best to potential employers,” Wilson says.
Be sure you are targeting the right industries: The health care industry has added 630,000 jobs since the recession began. Also, the financial services, manufacturing, and professional service industries are the most likely to re-hire people they have previously laid off, according to an OI Partners survey, indicating they may have cut back too deeply.
Increase your face-to-face contact: “Some long-term unemployed may be spending too much time looking for jobs and posting resumes online, and have not had enough face-to-face contact. Join networking groups, and increase your networking contacts by volunteering your services with civic, charitable, and religious groups. Continue attending professional association meetings, as well as finding out from your network what your target companies are doing in the marketplace,” Wilson says.
“You want to become knowledgeable in the areas of your interest. The often used term ‘networking’ is so very important. When you meet a contact and are able to tell your story, you don’t know who or how many that contact will be sharing your story with in the days and weeks to follow your meeting. That is why face time is key – be sure to keep your network up to date and informed. It is how jobs are being filled today,” Wilson adds.
Use social networking Web sites to identify contacts within targeted companies and possible jobs that have not been posted or advertised: Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter are particularly helpful for finding inside contacts. “Work these electronic networking media to identify fellow alumni, friends, and former colleagues who may be internal contacts who can be helpful in getting your resume reviewed,” Wilson says.
Focus on the immediate value you can bring to an employer: “You may not have clearly communicated to potential employers what you can do for them right now and within your first three months on the job. Be sure to clarify your value proposition, including a performance pledge and a timetable for achieving results,” Wilson says. ” Employers want to find people who can help with one of three things: increase revenue, decrease costs, or mitigate risk.”