How can I overcome the obstacles presented by years of unemployment/underemployment? – Neill
When you have long gaps between jobs (unemployment) or a series of part-time or short-term jobs with no clear career progression (underemployment), these gaps will slow the momentum to your next job. Employers see a gap as a great unknown and may not fill the void with positive assumptions. As a job seeker, don’t get defensive and don’t give up.
Instead, be prepared. Respond to potential objections as you present your background, skills, and motivation for that next job. You will need to anticipate these objections, and preventively answer. Start with these 5 questions that employers probably think about but won’t ask:
1 – Why should I interview you rather than other candidates without a gap?
This is a question that arises from the application phase, well before an official job interview. This underscores why responding to job postings when you have an obstacle in your path is a losing proposition. Sure, you might be able to convince employers to interview you with an exceptionally compelling cover letter, but many employers don’t read cover letters. By all means, attach a cover letter to your application (you can write cover letters quickly). When employers read it, it can help tremendously. But you can’t assume it will be read.
You’ll need a strategy to connect with your target employers beyond your unsolicited resume. This involves reaching out directly — tapping on friends for warm introductions or making your own introduction (i.e., a cold call). Make introductory links on LinkedIn, or maybe you can meet through a professional association or conference. Slowly deepen the relationship by focusing on a point of mutual interest, even helping the other person, long before you jump into what you need. Yes, it’s an investment of time and effort on your part, but if you’ve been unemployed or underemployed for so long, how many weeks do you have left to lay the groundwork for your network?
2 – If you’re so good, why didn’t anyone hire you?
When you get that job interview, the question of why you haven’t been hired yet is the elephant in the room. Whatever the interviewer asks you, your ultimate answer should allay any concerns about your qualifications. You have to sell your skills, expertise and personal qualities to such an extent that the employer feels lucky to have found you before someone else snaps you up.
Focusing on your skills neutralizes the negative effects of the gap. In the end, your discrepancy is inconsequential – the employer is hiring your ability to help them, not your life story – so don’t spend a lot of time explaining your discrepancy. Be concise and speak in a neutral voice, without frustration, anger or defensiveness. Whether you stopped working altogether or worked less than you would like, outline without too much detail – “I was dealing with a family issue”, “I was on a sabbatical”, “I was experiencing many different interests.” Always bring the conversation back to the employer and why the employer is hiring in the first place.
3 – Do you really want a job?
Even if you have done a good job selling your qualifications to the employer, they may question your motivation. If you’ve been able to survive this long without work or with less taxing work, why not just carry on as you were? Employers may see your discrepancy as something you deliberately chose, which challenges your work ethic.
Simply saying you have a strong work ethic won’t be enough, as past experience speaks louder than promises in the hiring process. However, you can make a persuasive argument that’s now a different time by redirecting the conversation back to the employer, what they need and why you’re so excited to help them. You’re not just excited about getting back to work, you’re excited about working there specifically.
4 — Why should I invest in you so that you can leave?
Focusing on your genuine interest in the employer you’re speaking with and not just any job not only deflects objections about your work ethic, but also addresses another employer reluctance to long-term gaps. term: you are looking for any job to boost your career and will leave at the first sign of a better offer. The employer may think you can help them, and they may believe you have the work ethic to stick with your career, but they fear being the rebound relationship.
If you’re interviewing for a job that isn’t suitable for the long term, be careful about making promises about how long you’ll stay. Instead, describe what you are going to accomplish. This does not guarantee that the employer will not still be upset if you leave before a full year, but you can at least indicate the specific contributions you have paid during your stay.
Plan your next career move, not just your next job
If your career hurdle is unemployment or underemployment, be careful about joining a company where you don’t want to stay. If you must undertake work strictly for the money, it is your bank account, not your career, and you can separate these jobs for the money from your overall work experience. (If these temporary jobs are somewhat career-related, group them as consultants or freelancers when including them in your profile or pitch, so there’s some continuity.) Otherwise, invest in clarifying of your long-term career goal, so that you are not only on the path to finding your next job, but also taking that next strategic step in your overall career.