The Today show this week had a report that employers preferred hiring people who were employed or who’d only been out of work a short time. There was some discussion of how hateful this was for the long-term unemployed. In every recession since the late 1970s this has been true — but meaningless — for smart job hunters. Employers are always trolling for the perfect candidate — and end up hiring the less than perfect. If you have been out of work more than six months, here are some steps to make yourself more attractive on paper. If you’re adding 50 new contacts a week skip it.
1. Get part-time or project work. That can go first on your resume. Even if you’re being paid very little, or nothing, it shows you are not on vacation.
2. Speaking of which, don’t take a vacation in the first few months after you are laid off unless it was already planned.
3. Find a significant, skills-building volunteer opportunity that will look terrific on your resume not more than three months in duration.
4. Take career-related courses at a community college and ace them.
The tail on this tale: I’ve worked with dozens of clients who were seduced by generous severance pay and saw it as “free” money. It isn’t. Any whiff (a relaxed, tanned demeanor) that you’ve been having a great time instead of relentlessly job hunting can make an employer pass you over or a contact turn vague and passive. So when can you go on vacation? When you’ve accepted an offer and will start in two weeks.
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