March 19, 2013 – How can you drop back into the workforce after you have dropped out or been unemployed for a long time?
Even though the unemployment rate declined to 7.7% in February, 14.3% of the eligible workforce is either unemployed, not working at the full-time jobs they want, or have become discouraged and dropped out. Among them are 4.8 million long-term unemployed who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, comprising 4 in 10 unemployed people with their average unemployment lasting almost 37 weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Those who have dropped out of the workforce or are long-term unemployed need to be prepared to address questions about what they have been doing during this time. Their success in becoming re-employed will depend on how well they answer that question” said Patty Prosser, chair of OI Partners (www.oipartners.net), a leading global coaching and leadership development/consulting firm.
Some employers are reluctant to hire people who have not worked in a long while. “There is a concern that workers’ skills have become rusty and they have not kept their professional knowledge current,” Prosser added.
OI Partners has compiled the following strategies on how to address employment gaps with potential employers:
- Confront this head on. “Don’t wait for others to bring up the topic. Address it directly and outline the job-search strategy you have created and followed. Have a simple explanation for how you spent your time or disclose a particular accomplishment, then immediately ask a question. For example, say, ’I’ve been freelancing and working with companies on improving their marketing. How long has this job been open?’ Don’t be defensive. Rehearse this until you have it down pat,” Prosser said.
- Detail what work you have been doing. “Specify any freelancing, part-time, contract or consulting you have been performing, especially if it is relevant to the job opportunity. List any achievements and results you have accomplished,” added Prosser.
- Be aggressive about promoting your strengths. Provide examples from you career where you have demonstrated the skills the employer considers critical to succeeding in the job. Describe how your decision-making, problem-solving, leadership and motivational experience has realized results in similar situations as the position for which you are being considered.
- Explain whether a family issue is responsible for the gap. Clarify that after you lost your previous job, a family matter or health issue surfaced and you were fortunate to have the time to help resolve this long term problem. Now that it has been settled, you are back looking for the right position.
- Show how you have stayed relevant. “Keeping your skills fine-tuned and knowledge current is critical in today’s hiring environment where specificity is the name of the game. Companies want to hire employees who have tomorrow’s knowledge today,” said Prosser. Read trade journals and websites that will keep you informed about the latest news and trends. Bring up any courses you are taking and new certifications or a new software program you have learned.
- Report any volunteer work you have been performing. Discuss how you filled in and helped your community by donating your time. Highlight results achieved that are relevant to the opportunity and include references from contacts you have made while volunteering.
- Be more flexible in your expectations. Modify the compensation and job level you have been aiming for and consider whether relocating is an option.
- Get an independent review of your job-search campaign. Have people who know more about conducting a job search review your plan and tools such as your resume and 90-second “verbal resume.”
- Try to transfer your experience to similar job functions or industries, or to different industries. Skills that you have developed in marketing may be transferable to customer service. Explore opportunities in industries related to ones in which you have experience – consider the entire financial services industry including banks, brokerages, mortgage companies, credit unions, and financial planning, for example – or in completely new industries.