How to get a job when you don't have a job

4 "known-to-work" ideas

By Lawrence M. Light,

The trend, for some time now, has been for employers (and recruiters) to want to go after those who already have a job before they'll consider hiring them for a new job.


The New York Times, in a recent article entitled "When Being Jobless is a Barrier to Finding a Job" formally identifies this practice and suggests that New York City may adopt a law to allow such applicants to sue the employers in question (eighteen other states seem to be close to adopting similar laws).


BUT, and a big BUT, we all know that it's hard to prove that such a practice exists and, if it surfaces, it would be a long battle for an individual worker to successfully pursue it.


From an employer's point of view, by the way, this thinking is completely justified. Their belief is that people who are employed are among the best candidates because, unlike those who have been unemployed for some time, they aren't dispirited ... are using their skills successfully ... aren't "rusty" ... and don't have outdated skills. So it follows that, given the terrible competition out there, when a job listing gets hundreds of responses, an employer can be as picky and choosy as he or she likes.


So ... what can you, as an individual, do about it, especially if you're one of those people who haven't been able to find, or get, a job for some time now?


This is the question I've been asked by clients regularly. It's not an easy question to answer, and it's not always easy to do what I'm suggesting. But I honestly believe, if you'll follow these suggestions through with me, you'll begin to understand what you, as someone who really wants to get back to work, can do when presenting yourself to a recruiter and/or a potential employer.

To prepare yourself, you have to be brutally frank with yourself, not always an easy thing to do. If you were an Olympics contender, a runner, but you hadn't run a race in a year, you know you'd have to work extra hard to get back in shape. Think of yourself in such a race, up against the best of the rest, and begin doing the following to make certain you're the one who will pull out ahead of the pack.


#1 SHOW NO GAPS ON YOUR RESUME. Many of my clients build "consulting" engagements around their skills. Do bookkeeping for a local business. Program for your local church. Teach a Sunday school class. Work at a friends' business. Take a part-time job and show achievements in it. Fill that time up seamlessly. One woman I worked with was an excellent highly paid sales person who took a year off to teach Pilates. She was afraid of the "gap". What she finally realized was there was no gap in what she's done because the Pilates gig meant she had to keep her clients satisfied, selling them regularly on coming to class and working out, and it was even more demanding than her prior sales position. So, because she "got" it, there was no gap, not in her mind. (She also networked very well -- more on that.) She got the job and was back earning the top dollar income she had before she left.


#2 NETWORK. Network, network, network! Learn how to do it. As my friend, an astute coach himself, says, "If you have a job opening, and you know about somebody out there who's a friend who can fill it, you'd be stupid not to call them (even if they're out of work)." Networking is one of the most valuable habits you can develop. The woman mentioned above also networked right back into the job, even though she'd been "off" for a year; the best employer in her field knew of her reputation and their employees still knew her because she had maintained contact with them. But, please, learn how to network correctly so you don't "burn" up your network.


#3 MAKE SURE YOUR SKILLS ARE ALL UP-TO-DATE. There's nothing so pathetic as a person who isn't up to date on the skills his or her profession demands. If it's computer skills, take a night course. If it has to do with being up to date on what's happening in your industry, networking can serve as a learning tool, believe it or not. Practice without pay, maybe by temping at a local merchant or "interning" at a non-profit. Nothing spells "being too old" as not being current. And show these current skills in your resume.


#3 FIND OUT WHAT'S SPECIAL ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN OFFER AN EMPLOYER. This can take some digging. I usually work with clients on this when writing or re-writing their resume. Every person has a special talent but are often much too close to it to recognize it or to verbalize it in their resume. Once you understand this, and can show it to the world, you can stand out in a crowd of applicants. NOTE: ... Whether or not you've been unemployed for sometime! It's important, mind you, not to let the length of your unemployment drag you down mentally (exactly as the Olympic runner can't let his/her morale slacken in training or the actual race.)


#4 FIND OUT WHAT 'PROBLEM" THE EMPLOYER HAS AND HOW YOU CAN HELP HIM/HER SOLVE IT. If you can learn how to "read" and deconstruct a job description, and you have networked enough to have inside knowledge of what's really happening in your field, you can often smoke out the real reason a given job has been posted for the public. By understanding this, you can present yourself (through your resume and cover letter and during an interview) as someone who can solve that problem. I'll never forget the HR group that hired someone I worked with; they did so strictly because he had experience dealing with unions (which they were deathly afraid of) and strikes (which he had settled); please note that he had taken ten -- yes, ten -- years off to run an antiques business before returning to HR!


We'd love to hear about your experiences, pro and con, in connection with this very unsettling subject. Please let us know in the space below. And, if you want more information about any of the subjects implied here, from "Powerhouse" Resumes, to Cover Letters, to Interviewing, to Networking you can Learn More Here