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Finding a Job When You Are Unemployed

By Susan P. Joyce

Finding a Job When You Are Unemployed

Unfortunately, being unemployed is pretty common, often more than once in your career. Sometimes we have left a job voluntarily (not a good idea, usually). Sometimes the job ends because the employer shuts down all or part of their organization. Other times the job ends because of a disagreement with the manager.

Regardless of the reason, being unemployed creates a "gap" on the resume and LinkedIn Profile. That gap can make a job search more challenging.

5 Keys to Finding a New Job When Unemployed

Millions of people land new jobs every month, and they weren't all employed when they were hired. You can, too! This is how:


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1. You MUST focus your job search.

"Keeping your options open" and resisting being "pigeon-holed" are instincts that you need to fight, because, in this job market using the current technology, that instinct is deadly.

Applying for any/all jobs means you aren't choosy about what you apply for, and you probably apply without meeting the requirements about knowledge, skills, experience, or location.

Too many applications for jobs when you don't meeting the requirements can result in you being viewed as a "resume spammer." All applications for that employer, through that job board, or via that applicant tracking system, by resume spammers are ignored, even when the spammer is actually qualified.

You can't meet the requirements for every job open, and you probably wouldn't like to do every job that is available. So, figure out the job that is the best fit for your knowledge, skills, and experience. Focus is the key to success today!

Search through a site like Indeed, which is the largest collection of job postings in the world. Look for jobs where you meet most of the requirements. Focus on jobs you would like and would succeed at. Collect the following information:

  • What are the standard requirements?
  • What are the typical job titles used?
  • Which employers in your target location hire people doing that job?

Then, target those jobs with your resumes, LinkedIn Profile and other LinkedIn activities. Focus your networking and outreach toward that job with those target employers.

Today, a generic, keeping-my-options-open, don't-pigeon-hole-me job search is a recipe for failure. Because of today's technology, job seekers must be focused so they can bring all the elements of their job search together and present a consistent image online.

2. Get up-to-date with technology recruiters use.

Employers often compare an applicant's resume with their LinkedIn Profile to verify the "facts" on the resume. If you don't have a LinkedIn Profile, your application will probably be discarded. The assumption made is either that you are out-of-date with how business works today, or you are hiding something. (Read more about LinkedIn for Job Search.)

If you aren't actively involved with LinkedIn (the free membership is sufficient), with an up-to-date, keyword-rich Profile, you are going to be missed by recruiters looking for people with your skills and experience. Leverage the focus you have discovered in number 1, above, to attract employers to your LinkedIn Profile with the right keywords. (Read How to Be Found by Recruiters on LinkedIn and The 25 Best Keywords for Your Job Search for more information.)

LinkedIn is an excellent way to build out your network, too, by participating in relevant LinkedIn Groups (members can join 100 Groups) for the location, industry, profession, etc.

3. Don't do your job search in solitude!

Join a job club. Find one through your local church (where it may be held, without a requirement to belong to that church), local public library, local city hall, etc. Also check with a site like MeetUp.com for groups in your area.

With all of the rejection associated with job hunting for everyone but a very few lucky people, you need help understanding the whole job search process today. Successful job search today is radically different from successful job search in 2010 and earlier (see the importance of LinkedIn, in #2, above).

When you are in a group, you learn from each other, help each other, and have a good reason to get out of the house and away from your computer.

When you join a job club, you have the advantage of seeing that you are NOT the only smart, capable person who is struggling with your job search. You also have a larger local network, the advantage of hearing the news about a local employer who is expanding, being introduced to an employer or another member of your network, and getting other help with your job search.

You also have the advantage of helping others, sharing your expertise and network, and being valued for who you are and what you know.

(Read Finding Help for a Successful Job Search and Beating the Job Search Blues for more information.)


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4. Fill that gap!

Unfortunately, when many employers see a long employment gap on a resume, they assume you were sitting back watching TV and hitting the "Apply" button while you relaxed, snacked, and enjoyed not working. Very seldom true, and certainly not fair! However, that assumption is often made.

So you need to prove the assumption doesn't apply to you. And, you will find that being busy, with a purpose (described below) will feel right, too.

Particularly if you have been unemployed for six months or more, doing something constructive with your time will not only disprove the bad assumption that may be made, it will also improve your morale and the size of your network.

Best of all, this additional activity can lead directly to a good job:

  • Work part-time or temporary jobs.


    Working a temp job not only keeps you busy, it helps pay the bills, too. See Job-Hunt's Guide to Temporary Employment for ideas on how to do well in temporary jobs.
  • Take contract/freelance work.


    A contracting job can fill six months or more of your time, pay you well (or, at least, acceptably), and lead to either a permanent job or to more contracts (your choice). See Job-Hunt's Guide to Freelance or Contract Work for more information.
  • Volunteer with your favorite charity or political campaign.


    Work in your field or your target job, if possible. This can get you out of your house, build your network, and make you feel like the valued and useful part of society that you are. See How to Build Your Career Through Volunteering, [Political] Party Your Way to a New Job, and Volunteering to a Lifestyle-Friendly Career in Non-Profit.
  • Learn something relevant.


    Self-improvement, also known as Professional Development, is something we should all be doing anyway, whether or not we are unemployed. The speed of change in technology and, consequently, society is very high. Keeping up is not optional for your career, and it demonstrates that you are interested in improving and growing your skills and knowledge. It's also a great way to build your professional network.

(For more information, read 5 Options to Fill that Unemployment Gap and Overcoming the Unemployed Bias by recruiter Jeff Lipschultz.)

5. Leverage and expand your network!

Many job seekers react negatively to the idea of networking, viewing it as "using people." However, good networking is not using people. If you are, in fact, using people, you are not networking well. If you only ask for favors without any reciprocity, that is using people, so don't do that.

Networking is mutual aid. How can I help you? How can you help me? The job clubs mentioned above are a perfect example of that.

Very few of your network members will be people who could hire you. But they may well know people who can hire you, and meeting new people is an excellent way to connect with your new job.

Employee referrals are most employers’ preferred method of hiring new employees, and being referred by an employee is extremely unlikely without networking.

Fortunately, good networking for job search really isn’t hard to do. Today, with most of us hiding behind computer screens, networking takes a little effort. Networking can even be fun!

Read How to Tap into Employee Referrals and Job-Hunt's free Guide to Job Search Networking for more details.

Handling Unemployment in Your Job Search

When you are unemployed, some common parts of a job search can provide obstacles for you, like handling your gap in employment in your resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Find solid advice here on navigating through that process:


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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Guide to Overcoming Unemployment:

Options While Unemployed:

Leveraging Social Networks for Job Search When Unemployed:

Succeeding in Job Interviews:


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Navigating the Job Search Process:

Resume Tips When Unemployed:

More Information and Options:


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