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Laid off or fired? You’re not alone (Part 4 of 4)

Eight experts offer advice on what to do when you’re let go

8684370_sThe economic downturn left millions out of work. Consequently being unemployed lost some of the stigma it once had. But, what happens when your laid off or fired and have been unemployed for six months or more?

Even in this economy potential employers are concerned when a candidate has been out of work for many monts.

When I first reached out to several career experts, my goal was to provide a few tips on what to do when you’re fired or the only one laid off. I got back so much good advice, that the article became a four-part series covering the broad topic of ‘what to do when you’re let go.’

In part one our experts discussed, the first three things you should do when you’re let go. Next, it was the biggest mistakes people make. Followed by how to answer the question, ‘Why did you leave your last position?’

In the final part of this series, our experts answer the question ‘What’s the best way to alleviate a potential employer’s concerns when you’ve been out of work six months or more?’ Here’s what they had to say.

Bruce A. Hurwitz, Ph.D. – President and CEO
Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, LTD.

The key is to be able to show prospective employers that you are not the type of person who remains idle. It’s not good enough to just look for a job – networking and applying for positions. What is important is to take classes to improve your skills, courses to broaden your horizons, accept any available jobs (temporary and short-term) to pay the bills (a sign of no ego), and accept professional consulting assignments. This is also the best way to find a new job because it will increase your network of business contacts.

Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, C.Ht.
Speaker/Author /Psychotherapy/Clinical Hypnosis

You can say that you always try to make lemonade out of lemons, and feel that that path ended to open up a better one. You’ve used the time off to enhance your health, rest, get crystal clear about your career goals, and/or retrain or enhance your skill sets. Further, many have tried to start their own home-based businesses and saw that it was just not for them. I would never endorse lying, however, many people have indeed made self-employment attempts such as this.

Frank G. Risalvato, CPC
Certified Personnel Consultant/ Recruiting Officer

You need to help put things in perspective for the hiring manager. For example, ‘While I have been out of work for six months ‘ I have a) sent 100 resumes out weekly, b) interviewed with three companies each month (nine total in three months) and c) had one offer but it was well below the level I believe I can secure’.

NEVER say ‘I took time off to watch my baby'(tax payers are paying for such things), or I took time to build an addition to the house, etc.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine
Partner, SixFigureStart’

Employers are concerned with gaps because they think the person:

  1. Is not hirable ‘ be a good candidate with good skills
  2. Is no longer current with their skills ‘ do something in addition to your job search (volunteer, temp) that keeps your skills fresh
  3. Is no longer current with their network or expertise ‘ stay abreast of news in your industry, attend professional association meetings so you stay in front of people
  4. Is disorganized, lazy, or can’t pull it together to finish their search in a reasonable time ‘ if you are none of those things in your presentation and communication, it will alleviate that concern

Cheryl Heisler
Lawternatives: Career Consulting for Lawyers Exploring Alternatives

Let interviewers know what you have been doing over the course of your search so that any lengthy “gaps” can be filled in. Smart uses of job search time can be anything from taking courses (for self-education or additional credentials) to extensive networking (to make certain that you are heading in a direction you will be excited about for the long term) to volunteering in a new industry to get the feel of it.

Demonstrate to your potential employer that you have been using your time proactively and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Richard S Deems, PhD
WorkLife Design

The best way is not to let it happen. Yes, we know it does. Yes, we know people take longer than six months who have been very active in their job search. But our experience has also been that people who take more than six months are often those who are doing nothing but sitting at home and restricting their job search to the internet.

The reports we read is that only about 35% of jobs are secured through either online posting, social media, or watching newspaper ads ‘ that suggests to us that only about 35% of a person’s job search time should be spent online, or using social media, or watching newspaper ads. The single most effective way to find a new job is by networking.

Jennifer Fishberg, Ed.M.
Owner, Career Karma

Stay active and productive — not only because of the way it will look on your resume, but because it will benefit you mentally, emotionally, and potentially financially. Use the contacts you have in your field to find freelance or consulting work, build a hobby into a business, or volunteer your time and expertise to an organization you care about.

If you’re interested in changing careers, take the opportunity to get a degree in another field. If you work in a field where technology is important (and who doesn’t these days?), take continuing education courses at your local community college, or seek out free and low-cost online training courses to stay current. Anything that builds your skills also helps to build your resume.

Charles Purdy
Senior Editor, Monster+HotJobs

Don’t try to hide the fact that you’ve been unemployed. I think the best way to alleviate concerns is to be’and to demonstrate in your cover letter and any interviews that you are’actively using your time away from the daily grind to make yourself more attractive to an employer.

Maintain a blog relevant to your industry, do volunteer work, seek out education–even if it’s self-education (simply reading new books in your field) or not directly related to your career but evidence of being someone who works on self-improvement (language classes, for instance). That way, you have an impressive answer ready when the interviewer asks what you’ve been doing with your time off.


About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.


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