Throughout my life, both offline and online, I meet many people who — for lack of a better term — find themselves among the long-term unemployed. They might be working in some capacity, as a freelancer, for example, but they would much rather re-join the ranks of full-time employees. They can find themselves in this situation due to a layoff, recovery from health problems or because they followed a career path that has not worked out. Regardless of the reasons, there are several tips that can help the long-term unemployed get back to work full-time.
Sell your skills — and yourself
I am always fond of saying that job hunting — and your career in general — is the biggest and most important sales work you will ever have. Getting your next job requires selling yourself, but it also requires selling your skills. Yes, you must be personable and someone that colleagues wouldn’t mind seeing on a daily basis, but you also have to sell your most important skills to a company. This means telling great stories about times when your skills benefited you or your employers in the past. Nothing sells like a great story (make sure it is a true story, of course.) It quickly conveys the message that you are focused on results, not merely “showing up” each day.
Just like you hone the job descriptions on your resume, I want you to think deeply about the skill stories you can, and need, to tell when looking for a job. These are the stories that will bring the most impact to any interview or indeed, any conversation, you might have with a potential employer. Having these stories prepared is just as important as having ready answers for the typical interview “gotcha” questions that many interviewers ask. In some cases, these stories can short circuit those questions and lead you to have an actual conversation with the interviewer instead of a game of employment cat and mouse.
A conversation of equals
Too often, and in my own experience as well, we enter an interview feeling inferior. We feel and act as if we have come begging for a job. We are a supplicant coming on bended knee to our padrone. For me, this can kill an interview more quickly than anything else. You increase your chances for a successful interview by creating a “conversation of equals”.
Even if you have a hard time believing it yourself due to low confidence, you must project the image that hiring you is a win-win situation. Yes, the company has a job to offer, but you also have skills and knowledge that the company needs to accomplish their goals. When we approach an interview in a weak, fawning or obsequious manner, we damage our own credibility. We plant a seed in the interviewer’s mind that we are too weak to be considered for this very important position. It can seem counter-intuitive, as we are usually taught to be, quote, “respectful” of those interviewing us, but respect is one thing, debasing yourself in front of them is an entirely different matter. On your next interview, remember the phrase “a conversation of equals” as you walk through the door and it will help you bring the proper attitude to the meeting.
Create your own position
In this day of over-inflated (and impossible to fill) job descriptions, remember that you might be able to create your own position in a company. If you can fulfill a certain portion of the responsibilities listed in the job description there might be an opportunity for you to split the job into multiple positions. Those interviewing often need to hire someone quickly and if they could fulfill a major part of the job, they might be willing to work with you. If a job is available at all, it means that the company truly NEEDS that position filled. There is some sort of “pain” that the company needs to address and you could be the cure…at least for a portion of it. Don’t be afraid to take that approach in an interview.
For many long-term unemployed, the usual method of finding work is simply no longer working. You need to look at alternatives — new ways of being a solution to a particular problem, not just someone — among a hundred other someone’s — who can fill a seat from day to day. Discover the skills that make you unique and focus on those in any interaction with an employer.