How to Come Out of a Long-term Unemployment Funk

By LiveCareer

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If you have been sitting on the sidelines of the job market, now is the time to re-enter the game. Consider the numbers: job growth rose steadily in 2018, unemployment was below 4 percent for most of the year and employers increased wages substantially for the first time in a decade. The tight job market had employers offering better perks as well.

Even as employment opportunities remained high over the past several years, the number of people looking for work has not changed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 375,000 potential workers told the bureau they had stopped looking for work because they did not believe there were any jobs available for them. Other experts say that number is much higher.

But the robust job market isn’t the only reason long-term unemployed workers should consider re-entering the job market now. Some economists believe workers who have been affected by long-term unemployment need to get back to work to prevent a slowdown. That is, employers may curtail hiring and reign in expansion plans if they are unable to find qualified workers to fill positions.

Reporting for the Economic Policy Institute, economist Elise Gould explains that the percentage of prime-age workers (those 25-54 years old) in the labor force is lower than during past recoveries. Some, but not enough, of those workers are beginning to leave the sidelines and enter the labor force. In addition, uncertainties about trade and the current length of the recovery — nine years and still counting — mean that a slowdown may be right around the corner. If there was ever a time to jump back into the job market, now is it.

That said, re-entering the labor market after a long break can be daunting. The following steps can help you get started.

  1. Research your industry
    After a period of long-term unemployment, you’ll need to do some research to see how your industry has changed before you start sending out resumes. Take note of the keywords and competencies that companies are looking for in your area of expertise. You might discover that new roles have emerged that you would excel at and find interesting. New skills and certifications might be required in your former area of expertise. As you do your research, start making a list of companies you would like to work for and positions you think you could fill. Consider that you may need to take a slight step back due to your time on the sidelines.
  1. Evaluate and revise your resume
    Are there in-demand skills and experiences you possess that you have failed to include on your resume? Are there ways to reframe past achievements to make it clearer that you have the abilities employers in your field are looking for? Make sure to update your resume with any activities you’ve undertaken since you left the workforce. Have you taken on a volunteer role? Worked as a consultant or freelancer? Completed any certification courses? Add this to your resume to provide some more recent dates. 

    If you think you'll need a helping hand when it comes time to revamp your resume, consider putting a free resume builder to use, and get top-to-bottom assistance with the writing of all resume sections. 
  1. Network in person and online
    After a period of long-term unemployment, you may need to make some new contacts in your field. Get involved with local professional organizations that can provide opportunities for networking with people in your field. Volunteer to work on projects and committees. If an organization offers free or reasonably priced training and certification courses or webinars, take part.

    Contact former colleagues via LinkedIn and set up informal chats, lunches or coffee dates. While you are at it, make sure that you are linked on social networks with as many former colleagues, classmates and mentors as possible and get the word out that you’re ready to re-enter your field.
  1. Keep current
    In addition to courses and certifications, start reading industry journals, blogs, articles and books. Keep up to date and be ready to use that information in cover letters and interviews to show that you are still current. Citing industry articles can be great icebreakers at professional meet-ups.
  1. Find a job search buddy
    Consider not going through your re-entry job search alone. Check if there are re-entry Meetup groups near you, or get in touch with a former co-worker who you know has experienced similar long-term unemployment. Going through the tough task of re-entering the job market together will keep you both motivated.
  1. Stay on task
    Make a schedule that blocks out a certain amount of time every day to work on your job search, and stick to it. Resources specifically dedicated to helping workers relaunch their careers, such as iRelaunch, can help you stay focused and motivated. If you are adept at Excel, you can use it to track your applications. Several popular job search sites, such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn, contain built-in application and resume-tracking features. And others, including Huntr and JibberJobber, are designed solely for job-search tracking and organization.

    Come off the unemployment sideline with LiveCareer. In addition to our free resume builder, we also offer a cover letter builder to help you construct that other crucial job application document (in no time at all). You can also peruse our collections of free resume templates and cover letter templates, all of which are organized by industry or job title (or both). 

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