Have you been out of Work for over four months? Be prepared for a lack of return calls, few interviews, and overt discrimination

By Jack J. Kelly

Have you been out of work for three to six months or longer? If so, if it makes you feel any better, you are not alone. It is one of the best kept secrets that a large number of people belong to this club. The unemployed, unfortunately, tend to keep quiet about their situation. One of the biggest challenges that happen to the long-term unemployed is that they tend to pull themselves out of important social and business settings.

In our culture, too often, people identify themselves with or are judged by others based upon their job, career, and earnings potential. When a person loses their job and is out of the workforce for a certain amount of time, it can become mentally, emotionally and physically draining and debilitating. One might feel that they have lost their identity, purpose, and daily structure. The unemployed person is beset by worries, anxiety, and fear. Understandably, they are concerned about their future, miss the social aspect of being in the office with other people, and feel a loss of self-worth.

Thoughts run through their mind on an endless loop, questioning:

How can I pay my mortgage?

Will I be able to cover my children’s college tuition?

How much do we need to cut back on household expenses?

How quickly will I drain my savings?

Will I ever find a new job?

Could I even find a new job earning what I did before?

Do I have to move my family to another city or state?

It does not help matters when people can’t wait to tell you (even after they find out you are out of work) how terrifically and amazingly well they are doing despite what you are going through. We all know someone like this; the guy who is quick to brag about his job and how financially well off and important he is. Also, of course, the braggart has to share stories about his new Porsche, exotic trips, incredibly attractive wife, and kids who are all attending Ivy League universities on full scholarships.

With this backdrop, it makes it even more awkward and uncomfortable when you are not working. Some people in this situation pull back due to the discomfort in having to deal with people. The jobless person stops meeting with old colleagues for coffee or a beer. They withdraw from social engagements. 

You can empathize why a person in-between jobs wants to avoid unpleasant situations in which they are assaulted with “How is your job search going?” and “I hope everything is okay”. Then they also hate that glance of pity or uncomfortable look of “Thank God it’s not me.” However, this is the worst possible thing to do. At this time, you must fight hard against the inertia holding you back. You absolutely have to get out there and make yourself known.

During the financial crisis and the time period following, it was generally accepted for people to be out of work for a fairly lengthy period of time. Fast forward to today, the mood and opinions have changed dramatically… and not in a generous way.

It is not an acceptable practice to discriminate against people for their color, race, religion, and age. Recently, New York City passed a new law that will not allow companies to ask a job applicant their salary history. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, “This is about fixing a broken history. This is about overcoming years and years of discrimination that held people back.” While there have been great strides forward to protect certain classes of people, companies tend not to view the long-term unemployed in this manner.

Like all types of discrimination, people rarely blatantly admit to their bias. They use code words or excuses. With long-term unemployment, the discrimination is out in the open. Hiring managers feel that if a person has been out of work for a long period of time, there has to be a problem. “Why didn’t someone pick this guy up by now?” It is the same mindset if you are dating and meet an eligible single man in his late 30’s or 40’s that hasn’t been married and still single. The guy is very good looking, polite and nice, so what’s wrong with him? Is he a psycho ax-murderer? This holds true with the long-term unemployed. Hiring managers ask what is wrong with them. There must be a problem! The guy has to be a mess, problem, or disaster. Thank you, but no thank you; I don’t want to take the risk.

Interestingly, also similar to dating, you tend to want what someone else has. If he has a girlfriend, then he is great. If he is single, what’s wrong? So it goes with hiring. If she is working at a good firm then she is desirable. If she is unemployed for a length of time, we are not interested.

There are ways to help deal with and combat this problem.

Do something, anything, to show that you have been actively engaged during the time off. Go back to school, write a book, do charity work, travel; something that fills the gap in employment and reflects that you are still viable.

Ensure your social media profiles reflect that you are still normal, alive, vital, and engaged.

Keep networking so that you are not forgotten by your peers.

Actively engage on LinkedIn.

Continue sending out resumes.

Open your vistas to other types of jobs that your skill set may cross over to.

Meet recruiters face-to-face so that they view you as a real person.

Update yours skills, particularly in the technology and social media space.

Volunteer in your community.

Consider a different career path.

Go to the gym.

Learn to let go of the anger and resentment.

Obtain new credentials.

Return to school.

Don’t give up!

I will not pretend that doing the above is easy or will open all the doors. It is more about building a successful mindset. In addition to this small list, you will need to do everything in your power to keep mentally, physically, and emotionally fit. You should also fill-up your day to keep a routine and have interesting items for your resume. Most importantly, you need to network your butt off and keep pushing and striving until you are back up and running with a great, new job.

The ultimate goal should be that you can look back on this time period and say, “It was the best thing that happened to me because look where I am now!”

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