The Real Reason Long-Term Unemployed People Stay That Way

The self-sustaining nature of long-term unemployment continues to be problematic in the US, now in its fifth full year since the 2008 recession began. Unfortunately for people in this predicament, most professional advice has focused on being defensive by attempting to make employers understand that:

  • It wasn’t your fault you were let go, and
  • It’s not your fault you’ve been out of work so long

Bad move.

The truth is that employers don’t have a strong bias against the unemployed. Instead, they have a strong bias for the presently employed.

What’s the difference you ask? It is quite stark, actually. Employers are not focusing on what’s wrong with you, they are focusing on what’s right about those who are working. All the justifications you have for why you were laid off and continue to be unemployed are probably true, it’s just that they don’t care. They’re too busy paying attention to the cool success stories that the employed are building.

So, how do you combat the stigma of unemployment? Stop thinking about it. Instead:

  • Document your success stories: You may have a great track record, but you need to be able to articulate your successes with the details that most powerfully illustrate your fit to the role you want.
  • Keep making new success stories: Make new success stories that are relevant to the job you are hunting. This will probably be unpaid through volunteer work or pro bono consulting, but the payoff will be well worth it: beating out your competition for the job. Attempting to fill resume gaps with irrelevant paid work is not valuable.
  • Keep your focus: Your only mission is to prove you’re the best fit for the role and the organization, not to explain why you were let go. This begins with only pursuing opportunities where you really are the best fit. From there, stay on message with your success stories and proving yourself.

Find all you need for a successful job hunt here.

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