If you have been out of work for a long period of time or just can’t seem to catch a break, I’d like to offer a scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners strategy to get a job.
With all of the headlines boasting about full employment, we’re led to believe that everything is fantastic in the job market. Lately, I’ve been speaking to a large number of smart and experienced professionals who have been out of work for a long period of time and those who just can’t find a job. Curiously, the age of the people who have been in between jobs for over six months skew to over 40 years old and earning north of $150k. It appears many of them fell victim to being replaced by less expensive people or their positions were relocated to lower cost states.
A common thread that the these downsized people share is that they have withdrawn from sight. Sadly, there are feelings of guilt, embarrassment and shame that accompany long-term unemployment. They pull back from social activities and avoid maintaining contact with their former colleagues. This, unfortunately, worsens the situation. Time passes and they become out of sight and out of mind. Others forget that the person is out of work and think that they’ve found something new. As time goes on, it becomes increasingly harder on them. Human resources and hiring managers begin to wonder aloud why nobody else has hired the person, especially since it’s such a strong job market. Something may be wrong with him; otherwise, a company would have hired the guy already—they say to their hiring managers.
When the person interviews, they tend to come across agitated, angry, resentful and irritated; it’s only natural. They’re out of work, eating into their savings and concerned about mortgage payments and college tuition bills for their children. Unrelenting fear of never finding another job at the same compensation level tortures them. They lament, “What will I do if I can’t find something?” It is not easy to start all over again at 45 or 55 years old. Consider how hard it is to maintain your composure with this sword of Damocles hanging over your head.
Those who are gainfully employed, desire to advance their career and are continually blocked and thwarted from getting a new job also feel the pain and anguish—albeit to a lesser degree.
Here is what you need to do if you find yourself in this position.
To put things into perspective, from what I’ve seen, anyone who has more than 10 years of work experience is likely to have been terminated, had their job relocated or pushed out the door at one point in time. It’s a very common occurrence, but nobody likes to talk about it. Steve Jobs, the cofounder and former CEO of Apple, was unceremoniously kicked out of his own company by his board of directors. A similar fate befell Jack Dorsey at Twitter, George Zimmer who founded Men’s Wearhouse and Travis Kalanick who started Uber. Nobody is immune from this happening to them. If it could happen to these luminaries, it could happen to anyone.
The first step is stop feeling like a victim and take back control of your life. Start by contacting everyone you know. It could be the kids you grew up with, your college roommate and former co-workers. Tell them about your situation and ask for their assistance. Find out if they have any job leads, advice, guidance or the ability to get you a foot in the door somewhere. This is not the time to be shy. You have to be upfront and impress upon them the importance of their help. It’s a numbers game and if you speak with enough people, something will connect.
Put together a list of the companies you’d like to work at, the specific divisions and search for the appropriate hiring managers and human resource professionals. Target these people, send your résumé to them and follow up with phone calls. If they don’t get back, relentlessly keep trying. Do the same with your network. If they really care about you, they’ll understand your plight and try to help. Even if you become a bother, a true friend will be empathetic. Some others won’t be and you’ll quickly know who is a dependable ally and who isn’t. With respect to the hiring managers and human resources, don’t relent until they offer an interview or specifically tell you to stop contacting them. At this point, you have nothing to lose. If a few bridges are burned, it may be worth it since the alternative is much worse.
Comprise a directory of all the recruiters in your space and contact them. Don’t get discouraged if they can’t help at first. Recruiters work on the jobs that they have. If they don’t possess any appropriate listings, they may not be able to help right away. Stay in close touch with them, as they could receive an appropriate job for you tomorrow or next month. Ask about other jobs that they are working on and supply names to them for the roles. It’s a little bit of “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine” approach. Recruiters are only paid by the their corporate clients if they place a person. Therefore, they have a strong financial motivation to work hard on your behalf—if you fit one of their roles.
When you interview, as hard as it may be, don’t let them see you sweat. You must put aside the anxiety and anger that you have toward your perceived injustices. Use the time off in your favor. For example, you could say, “I was given a package by my company due to a relocation of the position. It is disappointing, but I’m very excited about the chance to pursue new opportunities. If it were not for the layoff, I never would have become aware of this great position. I’m excited about this opportunity and believe that my background and experience is perfectly suited. Also, you don’t have to worry about a counteroffer or waiting weeks for me to start.” This way, you position yourself as positive, motivated and plant the seed that they’re better off hiring you instead of someone else who may get a counteroffer or can’t start for three or more weeks. You can help them by starting right away.
In addition to your aggressive proactive measures, start to think of a pivot. It is possible that the long-term nature of your unemployment may be due to factors outside of your control. It could be that your industry is in a downturn and there is an overall lack of hiring. There could be only a couple of companies in your area that are suitable for your background and they are just not hiring. New technology advancements could have made your job less needed. You should start thinking of a different career path, going back to school to learn something new or even possibly relocating. I understand that these are not your first choices, but you do need to pursue all options.
There are times that look bleak, but you need to be strong and take action. Get out there and push for job leads from everyone you know, actively connect with recruiters, target companies and aggressively follow up and consider new options. Most importantly, have faith and confidence in yourself and never give up.