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How to Get Hired After Being Unemployed Long-Term

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The economy is continuing its long, slow recovery from the massive financial crisis and recession just a few years ago, and the labor market is improving. But one problem above all can prevent you from getting a new job: If you’ve been out of work for six months or more, it makes it much harder to get hired. We’ve gathered a few ways to help you navigate this problem:

Network

Networking is an obvious answer to the question of how to find your next job, but it’s not a simple answer. There are many ways to network, and not all of them are right. First of all, because it doesn’t cost money and you can do it from your home office, use social media to your advantage. Build a professional Web presence on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Participate in discussions in industry groups to make yourself known. Follow the blogs of companies you are interested in and offer insightful comments where you can. And be the master of your SEO. If someone’s searching for you on the Internet, make yourself easy to find.

Then, get out of your house and meet people face to face. Reconnect with old contacts, and work on making new ones. But don’t be a “network jerk.” It’s not all about you. Networking is about building relationships and making connections. Don’t drain your network. Offer to help others and then they will find ways to help you.

Keep Your Skills Current

The thing about long-term unemployment that seems to bother hiring managers the most is the idea that your skills may have become rusty. You can fight this by finding and documenting ways to keep your skills current. Stay up-to-date on developments in your industry. Take classes that address skills you need for the job you want to get. Find projects to do that utilize the skill set you used on the job. Freelancing is another way you can maintain or improve your skills, with the added benefit of making some money. It’s also a great way to get new contacts for your network.

Make sure, when you’ve done all you can do to keep your skills fresh, that you document it. That way, when you’re interviewing, you can show the hiring manager what you’ve been doing during your unemployment to make yourself marketable. Maintaining the discipline and workload of someone with a regular schedule while you’re unemployed will not only help you be more hirable, it’ll also improve your outlook and mood.

Improve Your Job Search

If you’ve been looking for work for a long time, take a moment to step back and make sure you’re not wasting your time. Most likely, when you started looking, you were very particular about the jobs you applied for; then, as you remained unemployed and became more desperate, you may have started applying for anything and everything. Stop. Don’t waste your energy and time on jobs you aren’t qualified (or are overqualified) for. Keep your search targeted to jobs that match your skills and experience, especially if you’ve spent your unemployed time developing certain skills.

Improving your job search also means reevaluating the type of job you believe you have the skills for. It may be time to lower your expectations as far as your pay or job title are concerned. You should also consider whether or not relocating is an option. Over all and right away, improve your job search by increasing your discipline and staying positive. Desperation leads to bad choices.

Become an Expert at Interviewing

The one benefit of spending a long time looking for a job is the opportunity to become really good at interviewing. Every time you have an interview, you have a chance to learn. If certain questions make you stammer, take note and practice answers for future interviews. Prepare yourself with a well-thought-out response to the question of why you’ve been unemployed for so long. Make sure your answer is positive and focuses on what you’ve been doing and accomplishing during that time, while avoiding negative, angry, apologetic and bitter feelings.

Be ready to fill the résumé gap with experience that didn’t come from a full-time job. Practice interviewing with a friend or a career coach. Work on maintaining a positive attitude. And always make sure you are the most prepared candidate. Research the company and know very thoroughly how your skills can help improve their bottom line.

Volunteer

Volunteering is a simple and fulfilling way to do many of the things that will help you get hired even if you’ve been unemployed for a long period of time. And it has the added benefit of helping others during a time when you need to feel like your situation isn’t quite so dire and helpless. Volunteer to do the same kind of work you were once paid to do for an organization that can’t afford full-time help. This will help keep your skills fresh and current, and you might even learn some new things. Volunteer activities can go on a résumé just like paid experience. When you volunteer, you open up your network to people who can connect you with others and vouch for your skills and work ethic. Volunteering improves your confidence and keeps you active, so when you’re asked in an interview about what you’ve been doing, you can truthfully describe work you’ve done.

Last, but not least, it’s work that has a noble ring to it, which is very attractive to employers. When you volunteer to do certain kinds of work, you may find yourself on a new career path or with skills you never thought you had. You could end up opening yourself up to new opportunities and new passions.

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